“It’s easy for students to lose motivation and give up. They become convinced that math is too difficult for them. With DragonBox we want to change that and help kids believe in themselves and their own abilities.” – Jean-Baptiste Huynh, Norway

Last week, I talked about how teachers are using Windows 8 in the classroom, discovering new apps and learning creative ways to apply them. So today I am glad to share with you more about a terrific math app – DragonBox – and its visionary creator, Jean-Baptiste Huynh.

Huynh, a former teacher, is an entrepreneur on a mission to demystify algebra and give students confidence in their math abilities. Recognizing that algebra is one of the most difficult subjects to teach, and that it’s often an insurmountable obstacle on the road to studying higher mathematics (and STEM careers), Huynh saw an opportunity to make a difference with games-based learning. According to the DragonBox website, “DragonBox was conceived with the belief and the vision that human beings are hardwired to learn extremely complicated concepts.” Huynh has explained, “I worked as a math teacher for several years, and have seen how many young kids struggle with math. It’s easy for students to lose motivation and give up. They become convinced that math is too difficult for them. With DragonBox we want to change that and help kids believe in themselves and their own abilities.”

Shifting from teacher to large-scale games-based learning innovator seems like a natural move for Huynh. His company, WeWantToKnow, has a stated mission to “deliver efficient and user-friendly learning games to as many people as possible” and to “cover the largest possible curriculum.” In other words, they’re working to scale innovation. Music to my ears.

We’re excited that DragonBox is now available for Windows 8, and that we could share a bit of Jean-Baptiste Huynh’s innovative thinking. Enjoy!

What drew you to the field of education? Why is it important to you?

My desire to create a better world for my children and their friends.

Can you tell us about a favorite teacher, or someone who made a difference in your education?

My parents, who gave me an excellent set of values, lots of love and curiosity. It makes a big difference in education and life.

Please describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education.  What has changed as a result of your work?

My goal is to show and inspire people to focus on what can make a big difference in learning. Good content. I try to innovate in the way we communicate knowledge. It will help people to focus on content and not only technology and platforms.

How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?

I create interactive learning resources, meaning serious games, on tablets. And I will try to make use of the best tech available to create the most amazing learning experiences I can.

In your view, what is the most exciting innovation happening in education today?

Serious games.

Is there a 21st century skill (critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, or creativity and innovation) that you are most passionate about? Why?

Curiosity. If we could keep on being curious, it would be fantastic. The  “what if” changes the world in a positive way.

If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?

Paper and pen. Because you go a long way with a pen and paper.

What is your country doing well currently to support education?

Norway does not score necessarily high on usual performance measures. But Norway is way ahead of the rest of the world as it regards empowerment and democracy. One of the main reasons I live there.

How must education change in your country to ensure that students are equipped to thrive in the 21st century?

Break the state school monopoly.

What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are receiving a quality education?

Students opinion of education and themselves.

How can teachers or school leaders facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work?

Be student centered in everything they do. 

About Jean-Baptiste Huynh

  • Birthplace: Paris, France
  • Current residence: Oslo, Norway
  • Education: M.Sc. in computing and mathematics, certified financial analyst, certified math teacher
  • Website I check every day: Wikipedia
  • Person who inspires me most: Alan Kay
  • Favorite childhood memory: Playing cards with the family.
  • Next travel destination (work or pleasure): Paris
  • When was the last time you laughed? Why? Yesterday, (02.05) reading a comic strip from Lewis Trondheim and Joann Sfar with my kids.
  • Favorite book: Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond
  • Favorite music: Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto and Bach, Italian concerts, at the moment.
  • What is the best advice you have ever received?  Believe in yourself.
  • Your favorite quote or motto: The best way to predict the future is to invent it.
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