# The Future of Education

*To quote a Math Academy student: "The fastest and most rigorous progress will be made by individuals in front of their computers."*

A Math Academy student recently made the following comment:

*"After using it for a while I'm now fairly confident that if you took a normal student at a young enough age and gave them access they'd be graduate level in math before the age they’d normally finish high school. This should naturally apply to other stem domains -- physics, chem etc are no different in this regard. You can map out a topic dependency graph and serve examples. It's crazy how well this works. Seems like the fastest and most rigorous progress will be made by individuals in front of their computers. when you think about it from this angle, traditional public school is a worse alternative in almost every way except social. The value prop of school falls off a cliff."*

and asked the following question:

*"Curious to see what people better versed on this stuff think. do you still "need" to go if you can ace the SAT by age 16 just grinding a few hours a day in front of your PC?"*

**Here is my answer.**

Personally, a lot of my motivation to help build Math Academy comes from wishing I had it as a kid, exactly for the reasons described above.

I self-studied a bunch in my youth using MIT OpenCourseWare and various textbooks and got really far with it, but if I were to have spend the equivalent amount of time on Math Academy… yeah, that would have been life-changing for me. I mean, life-changing compared to the intense MIT OCW / textbook self-study, which was already life-changing compared to traditional school. (More info here.)

The level of opportunity that young Math Academy students have is just unbelievable. Even we ourselves did not originally anticipate the magnitude of educational acceleration that students could achieve working on the system.

The first time Jason saw one of our 6th graders speed-run Prealgebra through AP Calculus BC in a single year (2021-22), he came to me like “WTF Justin, why is your model giving this kid calculus tasks, he placed into Prealgebra last fall, this doesn’t make any sense!” … And then I looked into it only to find that it was legit – this kid completed all of what is typically high school math (Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, Precalculus) within a single school year.

This happened with a couple other students in our school program as well. We initially thought it was cool taking students entering 6th grade at Prealgebra level and accelerating them up to passing the AP Calculus BC exam in 8th grade, but once we got the automated task selection working allowing students to move at their own pace doing optimal learning tasks specially chosen to maximize their learning efficiency, some of the kids just took off flying faster than we could have ever imagined.

That year our AP Calculus BC exam scores skyrocketed, with most students passing the exam and most students who passed receiving the maximum score possible (5 out of 5). Four other students took AP Calculus BC on our system, unaffiliated with our Pasadena school program, completely independent of a classroom, and all but one of them scored a perfect 5 on the AP exam (the other one received a 4).

We actually ran the calculations to come up with the metric that, overall, students working on Math Academy can cover about 4x the amount of material in the same time that they’d spend in a traditional class – and learn it more deeply, too, since our courses tend to go beyond what’s covered in traditional classes, and every student who completes a Math Academy course must demonstrate a baseline level of mastery on every single topic in the course (whereas a student can get an A in a traditional class despite not having mastered all of the content, especially if the class is graded on a curve or is not fully comprehensive).

When I say that “a lot of my motivation to help build Math Academy comes from wishing I had it as a kid,” what I really mean is that building the system is my way of coping with the idea of having missed out on the experience I’m describing above. I’m so jealous of our students. And the way I cope is by realizing that the only thing better than getting to learn math on a system like that is getting to build the system itself ;)

**Anyway, to address the first question:**

- if you took a strong but non-genius math student (say, top half of the honors class at a traditional school),
- who was motivated to put effort into the learning process,
- and instead of having them brainrot in their traditional class, you put them on Math Academy for the equivalent amount of time (and made sure they were staying focused and engaging in productive learning behaviors),
- and you did this at a young age (say, starting sometime in elementary school),

then, assuming we had all our university courses built out, would they reach graduate level in math before they’d normally finish high school?

I’d agree: yes, with high confidence.

**And to answer the second question:**

Do you still “need” to attend traditional school classes?

I don’t think so.

I agree that the only value proposition of traditional school would be socialization. And while I’d say that socialization is an important part of growing up, I don’t think that the traditional school classroom is the only way or even the optimal way to get that.

I’m no expert on human social development, but just based on personal experience, I’d expect a greater degree of social development to occur in peer groups matched more loosely by age and more closely by skill level and common interest. Something more like school clubs and less like school classrooms.

**Further Reading**

For more info about our work with the Pasadena school program, here are some links to check out:

- mathacademy.com/about-us focuses on events before 2020
- justinmath.com/bio/#2018-23 focuses on events before 2020
- mathacademy.us/press has a bunch of news stories about our original in-school program

And to get an even stronger sense of how fast some students can move, here’s an even crazier story:

*"One of our beta students, Stephen, started with our Prealgebra course in 4th grade, completed 7 years worth of math in a year and a half, and aced the AP Calculus BC exam as a 5th grader with a perfect score of 5! easyreadernews.com/redondo-11-year-old-tops-college-board-ap-calculus"*

**Regarding Motivation and Supervision**

Once we introduced the automated system in our Pasadena school program, students could have actually taken the AP Calculus BC exam earlier than 8th grade if they did more than 40 XP per school day, but most of the students don’t want to do more than that.

When I was teaching, it was hard enough getting students to complete the baseline 40 XP per school day, even though that can typically be knocked out in a single class period if a student is fully focused. I really had to stay on top of them and hold them accountable for doing their work and not goofing off too much.

(My classroom rule was that students can socialize and goof around here and there, but they need to knock out at least 20-30 XP during the 50-minute class period and then do the remaining 10-20 XP for homework.

… And even then, occasionally a student would complain to their parent about having too much work, so I would sit next them the next class and force them to focus, and they would magically get all 40 XP done in class purely as a result of staying on task, working problems out on paper, etc., which would make the parent realize that the kid was just making excuses to try to get out of the very little work that they had to do.

This is why, in my description of a successful student, I added the criteria that the student has to be motivated and have an adult who frequently checks in to make sure they are staying focused and engaging in productive learning behaviors.)