123 Math

1-2-3 Math Wins Education Webby for Alexa Skill

1-2-3 Math, an Alexa voice app created by Sermo Labs and designed to teach children mathematics, has won this year’s Webby award in the voice education and reference category. The voice app has been gaining in popularity, especially as parents are turning more than ever to educational apps and tech while schools are shuttered during the current COVID-19 health crisis.

Adding Up

1-2-3 Math is essentially a series of math lessons turned into a kind of quiz game. The skill teaches basics like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, with three difficulty levels. The app can function purely in audio form, or with visuals if Alexa is accessed on a smart display or smart television. From an original 10 sample questions, the app has grown to not only incorporate more types of math and ways to teach it, but new languages to teach it in. The skill can communicate in English, Spanish, German, and Japanese, adding a multilingual dimension that isn’t very common outside of teaching apps aimed specifically for teaching languages. The app has expanded a great deal since it began, but the founders still center it on teaching math and helping people get excited about learning it.

“Quizzing our five-year-old with simple math questions was something that we as a family engaged in many times a week. It helped create enthusiasm for math in him besides helping him practice,” Sermo Labs co-founder Shanthan Kesharaju told Voicebot. “But there were days where our son wanted more of it than we planned. As technologists with a software engineering background, we started to identify a pattern that could be created and made available to him for extended use. It would not only introduce him to using new technology but also enable productive learning as well. That is when we set off on the path for creating 1-2-3 Math.”

Speak to Learn

1-2-3 Math’s growth, including in-app purchases for extra lesson modules, is what led to its nomination and eventual win at this year’s Webby’s. Of course, it was not the only Alexa skill to take home a Webby award. Notably, the Jimmy Fallon jokes on Alexa app by NBC Entertainment earned the People’s Voice Winner in the Voice Feature/Best Writing category.

“These Webby-award winning Alexa skills are a testament to the increasing popularity of voice-driven experiences,” Amazon wrote in a blog post about the award. “In fact, engagement with Alexa has nearly quadrupled over the last two years. And customers now interact with Alexa billions of times each week.”

The announcement from Amazon explicitly cited 1-2-3 Math as an example of the kind of skill it encourages developers to make. The value of educational voice apps has only become more apparent since quarantine and school campus shutdowns began. Partly in response, companies and investors are showing renewed interest in the concept. Google rushed out a kid-focused voice assistant named Diya to teach kids reading last month, seemingly before it was fully ready to take advantage of that trend. Meanwhile, educational voice tech startups are bringing in new investments, like the $1 million MyBuddy.ai recently closed. Kesharaju suggested that 1-2-3 Math is flexible enough to accommodate both traditional education and homeschooling done during and after the pandemic.

“1-2-3 Math skill has a unique and endearing personality of its own,” Kesharaju said. “And this is the main reason why we continue to see it stand apart as a top trending and loved skills around the world. We have implemented the best practices of Alexa skill development. From our history, you can see how promoting a fun family experience in addition to a rich learning experience with 1-2-3 Math is at the epicenter of our creation.”


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