Alumni-Developed Math App: Now with More Education!

by Amy Marcott on September 6, 2012 · 3 comments

in Alumni Life, Learning, Media

Native Brain logoIn the world of educational apps, “educational” is relative. The best-selling apps are often popular because of an entertainment factor, not because they actually help kids achieve mastery of key concepts and skills. But two alumni are aiming to change that.

Technology entrepreneur and Sloanie Jeff Durso ’94 teamed up with Michael Connell ’91, ’94, SM ’96 last December to found Boston-based Native Brain, a company that builds iPad apps based on the latest in learning science. Connell earned degrees in electrical engineering and computer science from MIT and a doctorate in education from Harvard and has authored numerous articles on learning, motivation, and education.

Native Brain’s platform employs lessons gleaned from advanced brain and cognitive science and studies on how children actually learn. It’s also dynamically paced, giving users an individualized experience. If a child is struggling, the next question would be easier so they don’t lose interest or quit out of frustration. Those moving quickly would see more challenging questions.

The platform can be used with a variety of subjects, but the first offering will be the math-related Native Numbers. Native Numbers will help kids ages three to seven learn Arabic numerals and ordinal numbers and arrange things from largest to smallest and vice versa, all prerequisites of the Native Addition app that will appear later this year. Native Brain’s apps also include a dashboard for parents and educators to monitor a child’s progress.

According to the Boston Herald online, Native Numbers will cost around $5 and is slated to be on sale soon. It’s currently being tested by children. Sign up for notification of the beta launch.

Native Brain is currently in the running for the Mass Technology Leadership Council’s 2012 Start-Up to Watch award, which recognizes a new and innovative company two years or younger that demonstrates the potential for significant growth and positive change to its market or industry. Voting is open through tomorrow, and the winner will be announced at the MassTLC Leadership Awards Gala on September 13.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Michael Connell September 14, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Hi, Amy.
Thanks for the post about Native Brain!

Native Numbers develops “number sense,” which is a specific set of well-defined concepts and skills that researchers have identified as critical to success in early mathematics. Kids are beta testing the app now and we expect to release it via the App Store very soon. Stay tuned!

Apps are just the front end of our offering, though – we are developing a comprehensive learning platform. We are basically working to answer the question: “What would a modern learning platform look like if it were designed today, from the ground up, with the intent of leveraging modern technologies (like tablet computers) and our collective scientific understanding of learning and motivation?”

We look forward to engaging in productive conversations with all stakeholders on this and related topics.

Thanks again!



Michael Connell December 22, 2012 at 12:25 pm

Hi, Amy.

Just a quick update…

We are happy to report that Teachers With Apps has recognized Native Numbers as one of the “12 BEST Children’s Educational Apps of 2012”:

The best part is that TeachersWithApps tests apps with actual children and bases their decisions on those data. See their full review of Native Numbers here:

Happy holidays!


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