Back in May, a startup named Desmos launched at TechCrunch Disrupt NYC with the hope of addressing the fragmentation inherent to education by way of platform-agnostic software that allows users to build and share their own rich educational content. In application, this meant that, like Inkling, Kno, Apple and more are doing for textbooks, Desmos wanted to reinvent the whiteboard by making it browser-based and interactive.
Of course, the real highlight of Desmos’ whiteboard has been its original, interactive online calculator, which graphs equations as you write them. Desmos Founder Eli Luberoff was a double math and physics major at Yale before launching his startup, and his experience has led him to believe that we may all be better off with a web-based calculator — because it means that you’ll never have to use a Texas Instruments abacus again.
Due to its popularity, the calculator began operating as a standalone feature, because, hey, it’s free, color-coded, boasts realtime updating, and users can share their graphs through simple Bit.ly links. It was this kind of neat, lightweight design that led to the startup closing an $800,000 seed round from Mitch Kapor, Learn Capital, and Kindler Capital during Disrupt.
But, more importantly, it’s Valentine’s Day, and in the spirit of love, affection, and all things heart-shaped, Desmos (at abettercalculator.com) is offering a special V Day gift for all those geeky lovers out there. Today, Desmos users can choose a romantically-themed graph, add their own caption, and then email or tweet it to their special, graph-loving someone.
Eli says that the inspiration is simple: Math and love are the two universal languages, but together, their power could be unfathomable. What’s more, the founder says that the team has noticed that a surprising number of graphs being built on the site and shared are heart-shaped.
So, Desmos is using the holiday to announce some updates to its flagship product; it has completely rewritten the product from the ground up, which means that it now has full HTML5 compatibility, including the biggest part of that — it works on your iPad’s browser. What’s more, that means pinch-zooming, sliders for paramaters, tracing by clicking and dragging along a line, the option to create an account and save graphs to view later. Oh, and everything is still free.
If it can be said that, like love, math is beautiful, then perhaps the tools that make it sing should be just as beautiful. Luberoff says that, while technology has seen huge leaps and bounds in the last 20 years, the calculator has been left behind — in spite of the fact that it has really become the door through which the majority of middle school students interact with math on a daily basis.
Through Desmos, Luberoff wants to keep testing the limits of the calculator, playing with interactivity, modeling, and fundamentally trying to create a calculator that can live everywhere while porting its new functionalities. Desmos will be pushing its calculator out on more platforms soon (Desmos’ revenue comes mainly through partnerships, some of which will result in the startup’s software popping up in new places in the near future), but they will be keeping it free for students and teachers alike.