Will we lose what makes us, us? The ascendence of Artificial Intelligence raises questions, not just whether it will put us out of jobs but also whether, in the allurement of using the technology, we will abandon our human selves.
This is the story and fact that Beyond Math highlights. In a world plunged into digitalization, it strives to keep human intelligence intact. It wants to increase, support, and equip human thinking, the ability to solve problems, to be resilient, and to keep at it until it gets done.
Nnenna Uboma, Chief Strategic Officer of Beyond Math, believes that even as the usage of artificial intelligence becomes increasingly common, it will become essential to develop critical thinking skills in kids. They shouldn’t believe that everything will be done for them or lose their ability to problem solve. She thinks that we need to keep learning as humans, just the same way machines keep learning.
To that end, Nnenna, with her two teenage children, launched the Beyond Math company to help youngsters of the world learn. The company is helmed by her kids, as Nnenna believes that kids learn from other kids best.
In an exclusive interview with CIOLook, Nnenna shares her endeavor to preserve human intelligence in the digitally advanced arena.
Below are the highlights of the interview:
Brief our audience about your journey as a business leader until your current position at Beyond Math. What challenges have you had to overcome to reach where you are today?
I started my career in corporate. I have worked with different organizations, such as BlackBerry and big Canadian banks. I worked and rose to the position of Director of Global Risk Management at Scotiabank, which I currently hold.
The journey of Beyond Math started when I picked an interest in kidpreneurship. I wanted to nurture my teenage children on the journey of entrepreneurship. During COVID, I wanted my daughter, who was 16 at the time, and I to go on this journey together, where she would also get exposed to how a business runs and how to be a leader. It was also one of the ways for us to do something together.
One of the key common points between us was math. She was very good at math, and my career has been in data analytics and data science. So, we said, “Okay, let’s build a company that will enhance analytical and critical thinking in young children between the ages of 8 and 13.”
That was how Beyond Math was born because it is a platform where we equip, rather than teach, children to come into analytical skills early in life so that they can be able to navigate the future of AI, where the world that has really gone digital. Currently, I’m the chief strategic officer of Beyond Math, driving its initiatives and getting it out there.
Tell us something more about Beyond Math and its mission and vision.
Beyond Math is a platform that we created to equip kids early on in life to enhance their analytical skills, analytical reasoning, and critical thinking skills. It uses symbols and principles of mathematics to do math puzzles which the user has to solve by filling in the gaps.
We live in a digital world where everybody is on TikTok, watching movies, and their attention span and problem-solving skills are very low because everybody expects AI to do everything. We want to keep the human brain alive. Therefore, our mission is to equip children with critical and analytical thinking in a world that is highly digitalized and automated.
Describe in detail the values and the work culture that drives Beyond Math.
Beyond Math is a platform enabled for ages 8 to 13, and in everything we deliver, we want to be accessible to that age group. So, the key thing that we do is to make sure that we keep fun as part of our culture, a part of our driving ethics.
We are also all about collaboration and teamwork. We encourage games and competition. It is something that we have incorporated into our culture, making it very innovative. We are always thinking about how we reach out to the kids in a fun gaming way.
The CEO of Beyond Math is actually my daughter, Jasmine Uboma, who is just 19. The reason why a CEO is a young person is to maintain that culture of reaching out to kids and helping them connect with other kids. Basically, it is assisting in adhering to the mindset that a kid is leading other kids for their future.
What methodologies do you implement that contribute to new growth opportunities?
We are focusing on sustainable growth while continuously engaging the 8-13 age group while aligning with new things as the world evolves. So, one of the things that we are implementing is competition. We are planning to run competitions every year for children between the ages of 12 and 13 and give out rewards to the top winners.
Another thing that is in the pipeline is incorporating digitalization into our work. Currently, Beyond Math is available as workbooks on Amazon, and we are looking into how to digitalize them. In the future, we will also develop an application where we can engage the children.
Undeniably, technology is playing a significant role in almost every sector. How are you leveraging technological advancements to make your solutions resourceful?
We are leveraging technology for the competition that will be held over the web, accessible to all children between ages 12 and 13 all over the world. We are also converting the puzzles in our analytical reasoning workbook into a technology app form. We are thinking of using AI to generate our puzzles and questions automatically.
It is the future of AI, and we see that it could contribute to significant changes in the industry. We are also considering how to reduce screen time for kids, as nowadays, they can spend too much time online studying from morning to night.
However, we’re a young company still, just about two years old. We have kind of finished our first phase and beginning our second phase, which is the competition. Our third phase will now be AI and automation.
What, according to you, could be the next significant change in your industry? How is Beyond Math preparing to be a part of that change?
During COVID, most people went online, even to schools. These schools are returning back to offline because, for the age group of 8 to 13, there is a need to keep them offline. But digitalization will have an impact on the education industry. That is why it is a focus of ours to use technology like AI and ML to support our work.
Where do you envision yourself to be in the long run, and what are your future goals for Beyond Math?
My goal is to get Beyond Math in the hands of every child between the ages of 8 and 13. I think that the worst thing that technology does that it blocks the human mind. It’s removing our resilience, problem-solving skills, and analytical thinking from us because everybody just goes to Google or goes to ChatGPT to search for everything. Over time, I see, innovation starts being difficult because people just can’t process it.
So, my goal is to start the early development of analytical and critical thinking in children so that they don’t completely forget it in a fully automated and digitalized world. I just want to keep the human brain working. That’s really what I hope for myself and Beyond Math. And I will keep working towards my goal until my story’s heard.
What advice would you like to give the next generation of aspiring business leaders?
My advice to the future generation is to embrace digitalization completely when it comes to optimization and efficiency, but also to keep the human intelligence. We call it Artificial Intelligence because it is very, very artificial.
Human intelligence is something that God gave all of us, and it is something we should hold, ensuring that it is intact and in place. You should not fall into the deception that Artificial Intelligence is going to do everything. Because without human intelligence, Artificial Intelligence cannot work.