In China, there is big culture of practice makes perfect. As such, school homework is a battlefield not only for Chinese children but also for their parents and teachers, who have the task of reviewing assignments.
Technology is increasingly lending a helping hand though and now a Beijing-based online education start-up has developed an artificial intelligence-powered maths app that can check children’s arithmetic problems through the simple snap of a photo. Based on the image and its internal database, the app automatically checks whether the answers are right or wrong.
Known as Xiaoyuan Kousuan, the free app launched by the Tencent Holdings-backed online education firm Yuanfudao, has gained increasing popularity in China since its launch a year ago and claims to have checked an average of 70 million arithmetic problems per day, saving users around 40,000 hours of time in total.
Yuanfudao is also trying to build the country’s biggest education-related database generated from the everyday experiences of real students. Using this, the six-year-old company – which has a long line of big-name investors including Warburg Pincus, IDG Capital and Matrix Partners China – aims to reinvent how children are taught in China.
“By checking nearly 100 million problems every day, we have developed a deep understanding of the kind of mistakes students make when facing certain problems,” said Li Xin, co-founder of Yuanfudao – which means “ape tutor” in Chinese – in a recent interview. “The data gathered through the app can serve as a pillar for us to provide better online education courses.”
Yuanfudao is China’s second-largest online education unicorn by valuation, according to CB Insights. It is behind VipKid, which uses an online platform to connect Chinese students with North America-based teachers to learn English via a form of live-streaming.
Yuanfudao’s flagship app covers different subjects including maths, English language and chemistry. Li said the firm has built a database with student answers to six billion questions. He said this know-how has enabled Yuanfudao to better analyse individual students, helping it towards the ultimate goal of providing tailor-made courses and homework.
Li said the company’s aim is to “dramatically improve education efficiency in China”.