In October of 2012, while completing his Master's degree , David Skaggs volunteered as a tutor at a Texas Elementary School. He was asked to tutor maths to a student who had recently changed school districts and like many students who experience a disruption in their early education, was falling behind.
You can imagine he wasn't terribly excited to do another round of maths just as the kids were getting out of school. To keep him engaged in the work, David turned to learning games. He tried everything from cards to iPad games, but nothing seemed to keep his interest for more than a few days.
David thinks he must have gone through a dozen math games before it hit him. It wasn't the strudent's lack of attention that made him lose interest. The math games were simply not designed to hold a child's attention for more than 10 minutes. Another fatal flaw in all the games was that they didn't make the concepts any easier to understand than regular paper and pencil problems.
While planning a lesson, David tried to think of something that would help the student envision numbers the way he did when doing arithmetic in his head.
You see, when doing basic maths, David imagines combinations of numbers with actual height value and then stacks those numbers to find the sum. He is obsessed with combining numbers to create 10, something that helps break down problems quickly. After examining these aspects, David realised that the skills involved in simplifying problems were all based on stacking numbers and understanding how they relate to each other.
Taking these concepts and applying them to a stacking game seemed to fit building blocks extremely well. David expressed his new found concept to the student's teacher who said that it sounded like a really great idea.
That’s when he began designing SumBlox.
In January of 2013,David began cutting SumBlox prototypes out of wood in his father's garage. He returned to Texas in March and went back to school with a few sets of SumBlox. To David, the most rewarding part of creating SumBlox was seeing his student's interest in the blocks and watching him work out fraction problems with genuine interest and curiosity. With the help of the Principal, SumBlox was tested in a couple of classrooms until the end of the school year, at which point she introduced David to a seasoned 4th grade teacher to help adapt his games into the curriculum.
After a year of hard work, SumBlox was launched on Kickstarter in October of 2014 endorsed by Keith Devlin and an article in Forbe’s magazine by Jordan Shapiro.
The rest is history.
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