12
Sep

# How a Math Algorithm Could Educate the Whole World — for Free | Po-Shen Loh

About three years ago I became the national
coach of the United States International Math Olympian Team. I was very happy for a day thinking this is
very interesting. But the next day I started to think that maybe
I should do something with this. And I decided that I wanted to focus not only
on training an elite group of students but trying to do as much as I could to boost the
baseline mathematics capability in this entire country. Unfortunately I had no money, no connections
and only one person. So the only thing I knew was mathematics,
algorithms and this probability and network theory. So after thinking for some time I actually
came to an idea which was based on using these core mathematical areas that I’d been working
with to actually build a solution for education that could be delivered for free on every
smart phone. This is actually the project I’m working on
right now called Expii. Our principle is that actually you could turn
that smart phone into a virtual tutor which automates what a person would get if they
hired a tutor. It wouldn’t be as good as a tutor, but it
could get very close. And if you could deliver a free almost tutor
on every smart phone in the United States you might solve equity problems, you might
be able to allow everyone, even if they live in a different ZIP Code, to be able to access
this tutor, which previously had only been accessible to people who are quite wealthy. Because today the cost of a tutor is in the
\$30 an hour, \$20 an hour, \$50 an hour depending on how you look at it. If you can reduce that to zero dollars an
hour you would actually open up this accessibility to everyone. If we realize that what we’re trying to build
is this virtual tutor then you actually, again, can start to conceptualize well knowledge
happens to be all of these concepts linked together in this network. Then the problem becomes if you have this
network how do you mathematically analyze where a person should go next? That can be done by using probability and
statistics to find new ways to measure how much each person understands about each concept. Statistics, because the way that one would
measure this is by asking them questions. The experience someone has is they indicate
what they want to learn and then the system starts to pitch questions at them, questions
that they would need to know how to answer in order to understand what they claim they
want to understand. As the questions come, based on people’s responses
to the questions, the system adjusts the difficulty of the questions and where the next questions
come from in the same way that a human tutor adjusts their line of questioning based on
whether a person is successful or not successful at the previous question. If the student reaches a point where they
are hopelessly confused, meaning they don’t know how to do this question at all, then
the system suggests that maybe they could read some explanations. As you can see it turns the lesson flow upside
down. It’s not that the class comes first and then
the homework and then the exam, the first thing that comes is the exam essentially followed
by these practice problems, which adapt to you, followed by the class for anything that
you don’t know. The idea is that this should cure boredom
at the high end and also cure confusion at the struggling end. I actually started this with a brilliant Carnegie
Mellon undergraduate student and then the two of us built this system together. But when you start with no resources you need
to think of ways to actually generate all of this content in a way which doesn’t cost
enormous amount of resources. And we took inspiration from Wikipedia. Our system aggregates all of the questions
and explanations that anyone in the world might want to contribute, uses voting like
a website called Quora in order to find out which content is strong, and uses statistics,
the algorithms, to figure out what questions are easy and difficult. So actually in the end it turns out that it
sucks in all of this content, it licenses it all with the creative commons license like
Wikipedia and then puts it all across on a platform that anyone with a smart phone can
use. So as we keep developing these mathematics
and algorithms our goal is actually to deliver free education to all of the world using a
system that self-organizes in the same way that mathematics self-organizes from its basic
assumptions.

• L6CK KEE says:

Wasting yr time w them

• Mr Music says:

In my experience you need motivation to learn as much as the tools to do it. All the apps in the world cannot compete with good motivation a tutor can give.

• The Magpie says:

This guy is an absolute champion. Educated, clear in his communication and wants to make the world a better place. This is where we should be spending money, not on subsidising industries that damage the environment.

• Tibor Pejic says:

I would very much like to see this app.

• Roy Wardenaar says:

I love smart people like him, giving everyone a chance to educate themselves for free

• FMFvideos says:

you have poop… IN YOUR TEETH!

• Truthseeker182 says:

Abundance. Once there exists a level playing field for every living creature on earth, then, and only then, will the best rise to the top. It makes me sad that in today's society only a very select few have the privileges in the resources to learn the most complex theorems and ideas known to man. If these resources were available to everyone, there's no doubt in my mind that some people living in low socioeconomic areas would blow away the people who are wealthy with their intelligence. They just need a chance.

• Jungle Jargon says:

You should vote on how "evolution" could find programming that's not there. Evolution is a superstitious myth.

• Benjamin Oien says:

This needs to be combined with the linked research to find specialized information and prevention the spread of popularly believed misinformation.

In an early doctor who episode, the group is kidnapped by cavemen. The elder fire maker recently died and their son is expected to be next in charge. The son tries to imitate his father, but cannot make fire. While out hunting, the cavemen discover the doctor making fire and kidnap him. The son wants the doctor to teach him how to make fire, one leader to another. The doctor has to explain that he's not the leader on account of his being able to make fire; all of his crew knows how to make fire. They have importance for other reasons. They explain how vital it is that all of the cave people are taught to make fire so that if another leader or anybody else dies, the skill will not be lost again.

• Abhilash Patel says:

So which app they are developing?

• Aaron H says:

This AI bot needs to talk to you and find out your interests before gauging your levels and suggesting careers in demand, then teaching all relevant material in addition to basic knowledge thereafter to achieve greatness. A school for every student. But eh.. Probably won't happen.

• Ricardo Biancovilli says:

The title of this video should be changed to "How a Math Algorithm Could Educate WHO WANTS TO BE EDUCATED IN the Whole World".
The coaching software created by this brilliant guy will work perfectly for those people who are motivated to learn.
I believe that the main reason why the great majority of people in the world does not learn things properly is not because they don't have the proper means but because the lack an inner drive to search for self improvement and learning.
I think that the best way to spread knowledge in a whole country or in the whole world must start by making people want to learn, in other words, by stimulating people to be curious.

• Keatrith Amakiir says:

Very clever!

• InfiniteCyclus says:

Hero! Great work and keep it up!

• Parakh Mody says:

I don't see how this is any different from adaptive practice problems or adaptive tests offered by educational technology companies like MH Education, Kaplan, Princeton Review etc.?
I've taken quite a few classes in my time in college which used these resources as a substitute for teaching in class; in other words, letting students teach themselves.

• Gee Willickers says:

Nothing innovative here.

• Zoscer Hanna says:

When and if you'd hit the chemistry subject, I'd pretty much like to join.

• ChispyReddit says:

I remember the first class of Grade 11Physics. We had a pop quiz which pretty much reviewed Grade 10 Math.. Most of the class did pretty well on it. I did terribly and took it as a bad sign of how well I'd do for the rest of the semester and dropped the course.

• Fredo Corleone says:

A free electronic tutor is a great idea, but it won't solve the real problem – most people seem to be stupid, lazy, and unmotivated. But for the 1 or 2% who are not, it could really help.

• Excessive Menace says:

ever noticed how your whole country is run by foriegners?

• ScotsFurian says:

Sounds great but what if you dont have a smart phone ! I dont ! Is it available cross platform ? For PC for instance ! Apple, Linux?

• icecreamman3232 says:

Great idea. As a math teacher I'd love to help. 🙂

• Cityj0hn says:

• Koroistro says:

Buuut what about this revolutionary thinking : tax the wealthy and use that money to develop an healthily funded public education which doesn't look where you come from and it pays attention at you as a person and not as a number to grind inside its underfunded cogs.

• Mats Edvardsen says:

isn't this overselling a quiz-app?..

• Gustavo Ribeiro says:

Excellent!

• Shawn Ravenfire says:

This is brilliant!  I had an idea years ago that educational video games could replace schools, but this is even better!

• Julian Lee says:

I know this has been brought up a lot…but no one has really convinced me this is different from khan academy…why doesn't he team up with salman? I guess people are fickle and wanna keep jumping from one train to another instead of sticking it out for the long haul.

• Nathan Pen says:

Wait! What about the teacher's, SEIU cafeteria/janitor's unions! This guy's idea obviously won't work … Too bad, it sounds good …

• erick alvarez says:

I want this.

• Yiya Plays says:

Nice to see someone doing something nice for everyone (especially for those that can't afford an education), but I hope it doesn't end up getting held back by things like ad revenue, profit margins, and censorship.

• fluxmind says:

Even though this man is astoundingly smart. His app still obscures the fact that some western societies aren't egalitarian. Weirdly science acts supremely elitist in contexts like these.

• 216trixie says:

When Orientals start yakking about the future of electronics, we best listen.

• A H. Barry says:

It would be awesome if Expii joined forces with KhanAcademy

• Algore Daemon says:

2:42

• Skyfox says:

If people can't afford to hire a tutor, how can they afford a smart phone and its requisite data plan? It's like people who are always behind on the rent but always have money for the cable TV, cigarettes, and booze.

• drieman says:

Solve "the equity problem" with a tutor app? OK, maybe I did not understand him.

• Christian Castillo says:

This guy gives me hope

• vertigoz says:

Communist!!!!!

• Maude Potvin says:

Looking forward that tutor ! 🙂

• TopShelf says:

I feel like advanced mathematics are obsolete for 99% of Americans.

• Kenny Espinoza says:

video is muted for me

• dorian diddles says:

Wow ! ! ! Way to think BIG ! ! !

• Michael Morrow says:

Yea, that's a virtual intelligence. We understand the concept, but we have not been able to create a truly effective one yet.

• Ahmed Saidam says:

this is overwhelmingly awesome

• Woodsurfcomedy says:

Would love to see an adaptation of similar structure to take on public policy debate… identify topics, intake all commentary, verify factuality, and also elicit indications with regard to incentive for support of various arguments… to hone in on universally identifiable truth around which real discussion and thus meaningful policy initiatives may be centered… and consensus, or at least common sense understanding may be achieved… and voting can then be based on something closer to actual reality

• Ilia Murjev says:

As far as it goes about the idea to start with questions and navigate towards the learner's zenith of knowledge so that learning becomes engaging and natural, many thumbs up.
But about the crowd sourcing of the content, that poses so much huge and tough issues I don't know where to start from.
First quora and Wikipedia are hardly comparable, but that's details… Knowledge is not democracy. It is harsh realization to us humans, but should we put our knowledge on voting we hope tomorrow to superstition, anecdotes, biblical humbug, and what not… Knowledge is the balance of concensus and the opportunity of a single player to sway the concensus without calling to everyone's amygdala, but to their frontal cortex instead. And no voting that I am aware of had yet achieved this.
And just in case you decide to contest this with the argument like:, sure but things would even out and truth will prevail… I wish to point out that in case on knowledge voting in order to select material to educate uneducated people, the negative feedback would mount so quickly that provided the app is popular enough, our species could retreat to dark ages much faster than the current events made us believe it could happen.

• Fatih Sejdiu says:

nice

• Ostrum says:

That is fucking cool

• Carolina Rojas says:

This is so exciting! I love your model of the exam comes first. It would definitely make learning so much more fun and engaging. Free education is absolutely necessary and extremely important.
I know you'll find the resources to bring this about as this is one of the most brilliant ideas in the history of the world. Thank you so much for what you are doing.

• Alexandre Anderson says:

Brilliant!… Simply and plainly…

• Jim the GOD says:

This is a good

Team with Khan Academy for this

• Galo Aguirre says:

Elegant, nice.

• Galo Aguirre says:

Sounds like something Kahn Academy could work with.

• DPN AST says:

Just because I want to contribute – the world problem exist in real universe, and then there is math universe to which we .
When we are solving problems we abstract from real world – and think only in math universe.
We are setting rules for math universe and amazingly we dont think about how many apples are in the basket – we just think about numbers addition subtraction and so on…. and it works.

• Videogamewalkthrough says:

Dude I love this. 🙌🏼🙌🏼

• Napier Thompson says:

But, by your own admission, it doesn't actually teach anything… unlike a tutor… it just suggests you go and read something on the stuff you don't know… which you could have worked out to do yourself! So, it is really just a system that confirms what you don't know and then suggests that you Google it… I already have a system that suggests I Google what I don't know… it's called my brain… ?????

• aracrg says:

Everything about this is brilliant, except the "free" part. There would be great value in such technology, therefore you should make it sustainable and monetise it somehow. Instead of reducing the tutor cost from \$30/hour to \$0/hour, how about to \$0.10/hour? Let us know if you're looking for investors.

• Jason Martin says:

As a mathematician, I really hope this works. There's so much disgust for math in the world, and so few people who understand what it is.

• HunterKiller says:

sounds like SkyNet to me boys..

• superoriginalname says:

the amount of computer work for this project sounds insanely complex. I'm guessing it would take teams upon teams to get this together but without the funds…I hope it works

• Robs Tech Channel says:

Maybe you should work with Khan Academy

• fkebfpahxirvxiqpqidiehxjan says:

singaporeans woooooooo

• Iraklis Panagiotopoulos says:

Awesome idea. I hope it is also viable.

• Stephan Söderberg says:

Perfectly put!

• ITHowToAsap says:

Fake news. lol

• ASHER JUNAID says:

• Bryan Keller says:

That moment when you envy a foreigner's English skills.

• jan johannes robertson says:

i love this idea so much. lets hope its not a lrtdoen or a pipe dream

What a great idea! This solves the problem of not knowing what questions to ask. An AI such as this would ask the questions for you so you can get to the right answer! Brilliant

• Aldair Pinto says:

It's a very good idea, I'm looking for the app now to try it!

• John Doe says:

It's at expii.com

• Idontunderstandchess says:

But that would be a grave mistake, if you let the majority dictate the contend you will have oversuply boredom and missed chances. That would defeat the entire idea.

Most great ideas were discovered by renegades, letting everyone get the same stuff the majority voted would just create the same systemic flaws.

• Big Data says:

Math is everything and too bad trump is making it worse and all the smart people will leave.

• Sam Lyons says:

• Zoe M says:

I love math! I'm just terrible at it 🙁

• salle rc says:

Cool idea! The website/app was hard to find though, why not add it to the description? https://www.expii.com/

• AW Crowe says:

I find I end up with too many interests and never get deep enough into a subject before I am distracted to the next topic.

so reveres engineering math.

• tean tan says:

A follow up video on the Maths software package and how to use it? Otherwise this video will only entice viewers wanting for more info.

• bu115hit says:

I would like to contribute to this if possible

• theo tryhard says:

this man is smart af

• Joseph Zicaro says:

This is amazing. Not the full solution to math education, but better than anything else existing.

• Tech Noboundary says:

I am one believer of this concept. Thank you, Dr. Loh.

• mbm fazly rabby says:

this man is sick

Po-Shen Loh is a kind spirit. We have so much work to do I'm glad at least some of us understand that we need to attack the source of the problems that we currently face. Namaste.

• James Drury says:

Expii is a rubbish name for this. Why not call it: machine teaching

• Cilantro Vegan says:

This guy has many good ideas, I like him.

• PetiteFleur says:

Language websites like DuoLingo, Lingvist and flashcard websites like Anki have been doing something similar for years and they are such a great way to learn. In awe of someone who can take this head on with a subject like Math!

• Nikos Gewrgiou says:

The sooner we get this, the sooner we'll start to wonder why we still don't have jobs.

• Mac Dy says:

Wikipedia is a horrible source of information. It censors out edits even from the original authors themselves if they don't conform to the predetermined stance on the subject.

• TryHardz-MC says:

That is genius, to do the exam first then the class then the homework.

• Thai Fried Banana says:

Yes, but the problem is poor students don't have a smartphone, right? If they can afford to buy one, why can't they hire a tutor?

• qwertyu uytrewq says:

So applying machine learning to teaching… That requires a huge database of questions/answers at least. Would be nice to get those ones by parsing/analyzing existing textbooks, videos and forums. But I guess this ML task is way harder than the initial problem.

• Raymeester says:

Why the fuck am I just seeing this now?