## Thursday, November 19, 2009

### Virtually everything is virtual, why not Excel Math?

People often ask me why we don't do our math curriculum electronically, so kids could just log on, solve their homework problems, and submit them.

Ah, where to start.

1. Technical Difficulties
Here is a typical page from Excel Math. I have copied and pasted into the Blogger Editor, and turned it blue for your viewing pleasure. What do you think?

I65H177F23E12G8,285D5,743244840168654321115861, 3 8 2  _________
2, 5 4 1  _________
3, 4 8 8  _________3.  3 x 5 =
4.  15 ÷ 3 =
5.  15 ÷ 5 =
6.  5 + 3 =5 4      5 9      3 94  x  (3 x 2) =(5 3, 5 1, 4 9, 4 7)(3 9, 4 5, 5 1, 5 7)35.34.33.32.x    72 4 0x    45 0 6Fill in the chart.Spider  Legs82264 6
+   2 1 21,0 0 0
3,0 0 0 3,0 0 0
2 0 5 + 1,0 8 0
8,2 8 52 0 x   1 4 03 5
6 + 2 4
6 54 x 6 = 2 41,0 8 02 0 53,0 0 03,0 0 01,0 0 01 4 0 miles5 books3 0 ÷ 6 = 53 224 5
68351 5671 2 - 5 = 78 eggs4 0 ÷ 5 = 81,6 8 05 95 4
- 4 5  94 5- 3 92,0 0 02,0 2 43 9
2,0 2 4 1,6 8 0 + 2,0 0 0 5,7 4 38 7 + 8 2 33 2 + 1 4 0 1 7 7

Not so good, is it? The flow leaves something to be desired.

We can't just paste into a page as if it were a novel. The layout or page composition is critical to conveying the meaning. The spatial relationships of the numbers cannot easily be represented in typical web browsers.

2. Size and orientation.
In effect, we (like many book publishers) sell real estate, not words. Our products are built the way they are due to the availability of paper, the size of kids' desks, the budgets of schools, etc. If we go to a different kind of paper, we have to re-compose everything. We did this to Kindergarten last year.

The same thing happens when you shift to the screen. Here is the same page, converted to a PNG file and positioned in your browser. I went ahead and turned on the answers for you.

It's too hard to read, you say? True. [Click the image for a larger view] If you have a giant screen like I do, it's not hard to read.

Of course if you want to see it on your iPhone it's a bit smaller. But still readable!

So we may need to put less on each screen than we do on each page, and then you can easily see and solve the problems.

That will give us a few more screenfuls. How many more? The overall Excel Math 7-grade product line includes about 1100 lessons plus tests and some other stuff, for a grand total (not counting Teacher Editions) of 2600 pages. From experience in doing a few of these page conversions, I think that this would result in approximately 55,000 screenfuls.

3. Price and Convenience
We are a low-price alternative to the big textbooks. We know the Lesson Sheets are used in a variety of math contexts - school classrooms, homes, back seat in the SUV, on the bleacher bench at soccer practice, etc.

It's not just the price of the product that our users think about, but the price of convenience, equipment and training and support.

4. Tactile Considerations
Not to be confused with tactical. We think kids need to feel numbers, write them, count things, manipulate stuff as they develop their sense of mathematics.

We have lots of other reasons too, but this is enough for now. Lots of other publishers do have math online, but we prefer ours on paper. Personally, I'd prefer virtual dirty dishes to virtual math.