Amazon Snaps Up Online Math Instruction Company TenMarks To Help It Make Education Apps

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Amazon has announced plans to snap up online education company TenMarks. The company offers an online math curriculum currently, and Amazon VP of Kindle Dave Limp says that together, “Amazon and TenMarks intend to develop rich educational content and applications, across multiple platforms, that we think teachers, parents and students will love.”

TenMarks was founded in 2008 and has raised debt funding several times over the last few years. Its most recent raise came in September of 2011, when it snagged $3M from Catamount Ventures and Birchmere.

TenMarks is a service that lets teachers specify math skill levels or concepts to cover and then develop personalized curriculums it calls ‘playlists’. TenMarks Math is a free product  for teachers that it says has been used across ‘tens of thousands’ of schools.

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“Amazon and TenMarks share a commitment to developing easy-to-implement solutions for schools and families,”  Rohit Agarwal, TenMarks co-founder said in a statement today. “We currently offer teachers, students and parents access to effective resources to foster the vision of the Common Core curriculum in math, including scalable professional development and tools for connecting with parents. We back this belief with our business model, where teachers can register and access our product for free, while being able to opt in for premium features, if needed. Going forward, we believe Amazon and TenMarks will create significant innovations in the K-12 arena.”

Whatever TenMarks’ business model was, it doesn’t matter much any more as it floats its way into the welcoming folds of Amazon. The acquisition is set to close in the 4th quarter of 2013, and terms were not disclosed.

The move is interesting on a couple of levels, as Amazon flat out says that it will be building its own education-oriented apps for ‘multiple platforms’. I don’t doubt that those platforms will begin with the Kindle Fire and perhaps even Kindle. Amazon has shown little reluctance to ship apps on other platforms in the past, and currently offers Kindle on iOS and ‘stock Android’.

Also, if there’s a competitor to Apple in the tablet space that could make a real play for the educational textbook market, you would be hard pressed not to finger Amazon. Apple has made a significant play for the education market with the iPad — both on the textbook and 1-for-1 school deployment fronts — and Amazon could be looking for a good slice of that with the Kindle and some ‘in-house’ material. Current programs like Amazon’s Kindle Textbook Rental could partner up with bespoke apps to create an attractive package.

Amazon has struggled to get anywhere near the volume of apps into its store that Google or Apple enjoy, but that doesn’t necessarily matter for the education market. What it needs is a core curriculum that it can sell to schools and partnerships with ed-tech vendors that can help it appear more attractive to school purchasing departments.