THE BLOG
11/03/2014 02:42 pm ET Updated Jan 03, 2015

Online Algebra App KnowRe Raises $6.8 Million as Teachers Embrace Math Games

While the science is still out on how (and to what degree) gamification helps elementary and middle school students learn lessons, teachers are increasingly incorporating games into their classroom curriculum. This is particularly true of math games.

A recent survey by the Games and Publishing Council reveals that 74 percent of K-8 Teachers are using digital games as part of their regular instruction. Of those teachers, 71 percent are using math games, more than any other subject.

The study, which was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and organized by a trade group representing companies that presumably benefit from increased adoption of learning games by educators, called for an industry-wide taxonomy of educational games with a standard evaluation rubric. The survey results also showed that the biggest problem faced by teachers was the ability to discover quality games (whether they are apps, websites or computer games) filtered by subject, grade and potential to teach standards.

While this is the mission of appoLearning and Verizon Educational Tools, there is one new and recently capitalized online Algebra app that will soon be on every middle school and early high school math teacher's radar.

Getting to know KnowRe
Started in South Korea with recently expanded North American operations in New York City, KnowRe is a combination game and adaptive learning tool specifically focused on Pre-Algebra, Algebra, and Algebra 2 classes. Here's a video that shows how KnowRe works.

Algebra tutorials and lessons on KnowRe are aligned with Common Core Standards, and questions are personalized based on how quickly a student is picking up on a particular concept or lesson. Throughout, the teacher has a dashboard to monitor individual student progress. While all of these elements are standard for math learning applications online or native to mobile devices, KnowRe's approach to combining rigorous instruction with game-like characters, features, and rewards made it a quick hit.

After establishing itself in South Korea, which has a culture that exalts both gaming and tutoring, KnowRe immediately established itself in North America and last year was named a top instructional app by the New York City Department of Education. After raising $1.4 million from Softbank Ventures Korea to fund its move to the U.S., KnowRe earlier this month closed on an additional $6.8 million in funding.

Proceeds from the Series A round, which was again led by Softbank Ventures Korea and also included commitments from KTB Network Partners Fund, Partners Investment, and SparkLabs Global Ventures, will be used primarily for aggressive district-level sales and marketing in the U.S., South Korea, and other Asian markets, according co-founder and CEO David Joo.

Venture investments in edtech hold steady
The KnowRe deal came after the completion third quarter, when $315 million was invested in U.S.-based edtech companies, according to a survey by EdSurge. This was essentially flat compared to the $327 million invested in Q2.

Slightly over one-third of the 49 edtech companies that raised venture capital were for solutions targeted toward post-secondary students (specifically Massive Open Online Courses, student retention, and college prep). Other categories of investment included teacher needs, curriculum products and school operations.