Curriculum Associates Brings Game Developer Into the Fold

Managing Editor

School provider Curriculum Associates has acquired an educational games company, in the latest sign of the burgeoning appetite in K-12 circles for game-based instructional strategies.

In snapping up Motion Math, Curriculum Associates says it is making just the second acquisition in its nearly 50-year history.

Terms of the deal, which was announced today, were not disclosed.

Motion Math offers a suite of games designed to help navigate students through the toughest concepts in elementary school math. The games will be made available as a supplement to i-Ready, an instruction and assessment platform from Curriculum Associates that the company estimates is used by more than 5 million students and educators.

Motion Math had been approached by big companies seeking partnerships or acquisitions in the past, said Jacob Klein, the company’s CEO and co-founder. But the prospect of making a deal with Curriculum Associates stood out, said Klein, who was impressed with both the larger company’s products and recent philanthropic largesse.

“The team that we’ve met at Curriculum Associates is very talented and very earnest,” he said in an interview. “They also have a very long-term vision. This is not an upstart company that might decide in a few years they’re not interested in education. They’re in it for the long haul.”

Motion Math was founded by Klein and the company’s chief technology officer, Gabriel Adauto, when they were students at Stanford’s Graduate School of Education.

Based in San Francisco, the five-person company seeks to build students’ understanding of potentially tricky grade K-6 math concepts, such as fractions, which can act as stumbling blocks on the route to more complex math.

The company’s games have been delivered to school districts and parents via iOS devices, iPhones, and iPads. Since February, they have also been delivered through a website. Motion Math’s games have been downloaded more than 5 million times, said Klein.

The i-Ready product incorporates some games already. Learners are offered “brain breaks” during lessons to spark engagement, and Curriculum Associates offers free iPad games to support i-Ready lessons, the company says.

Curriculum Associates officials believe Motion Math will bring the company fresh insights in game development. Company CEO Rob Waldron cited the “integrity of [the] games” produced by Motion Math and the “alignment of our values.”

Curriculum Associates engaged in a very different form of dealmaking earlier this year when it announced an investment that will result in a $200 million charitable donation going to a university and a philanthropy.

The company said it would receive an investment from Berkshire Partners LLC through a “capital partnership” with money from the transaction going to Iowa State University and the Boston Foundation. Both institutions said the donations were among the biggest in their history.

Over the past few years, educators, K-12 providers, and investors have shown a growing hunger for digital games that guide students through challenging academic content in fun ways.

A survey released last year by the group Project Tomorrow found that 48 percent of K-12 teachers reported using game-based learning environments in their classrooms, up from just 23 percent five years earlier.

Investors have taken notice. Many companies from the United States and other countries selling educational games have raised significant capital through fundraising, or they have been acquired by suitors seeking to broaden their portfolios.

“There’s an increasing recognition that when designed well, learning games can really engage students in the right way,” Klein said.

“They allow you to get at really challenging, diverse concepts,” he added, and even if students struggle, “your ego is not threatened through a game.”

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