Charles Lund came up with the concept for I Play Math Games (IPMG Publishing) back in the mid-80s. At the time, he was the director of math curriculum for St. Paul’s public schools, and he’d developed an interest in creating interactive and fun ways for children to learn the material.
Over time, Lund began working with Bill Gaslin – a math education PhD and former superintendent – and his two sons Marty and Joel Gaslin. When Lund passed away about a decade ago, his wife offered to sell the company to the Gaslins, who accepted and took over operations.
Now, one man’s brainchild has become the enduring passion for an entrepreneurial family.
When the company started nearly 30 years ago, it was called White Bear Publishing. Lund produced games and activities that would appear in books and collections to be be sold at educational events around the country. Today, the Gaslins have updated the products and brand by transitioning into the digital era, developing math games for web browsers, SMART boards and most importantly, mobile apps.
The two brothers and their father comprise the entirety of IPMG’s staff; Marty and Bill provide valuable insight as both are deeply rooted in the educational profession, whereas business-minded Joel serves as CEO.
“There’s myriad data out there that shows that games and activities are a great way for kids to learn,” says Joel, “because if you can play a game and win, you’ve demonstrated that you know the content of the underlying driver of that game.”
To develop their apps, IPMG works with Minneapolis-based Clockwork Active Media Systems, first mapping out the architecture and game flow in Flash and then porting over to Apple’s platform. This gives them the freedom to keep a browser-friendly version of the game that can be played on their website (or an interactive whiteboard) in addition to the dedicated mobile app.
“We’re really trying to make it so that the product is available to anyone who wants to use it,” the CEO explains.
In 2010, IPMG launched Tic Tac Math, which became the first iPad game to be demoed at a National Council of Teachers of Mathematics meeting. As its name would suggest, the app enables users to compete in a game of tic-tac-toe by completing equations. It was very well received at the conference, helping them build momentum, and is now available digitally in three different iterations both online and on Apple’s iOS (currently the only mobile platform they’re developing for because, as Joel says, “It’s really hard to monetize outside of Apple.”) The flagship game has been downloaded about 20,000 times.
Going forward, the company hopes to cultivate a repository of digital games and create a system wherein parents and educators can go online and complete an assessment for their kids and be directed to specific mobile apps that match up to areas of deficiency. Joel calls this type of personalized, interactive learning the “consumerization of education.”
Kids might just call it “fun.”