Cross Talk 7 Development of AI teaching materials integrating paper and digital

Keirinkan is an emerging publisher of science, mathematics, and English textbooks and materials for elementary through high school. In conjunction with the revision of the Courses of Study, the company has released "AI Tutor Zero," a digital teaching material linked to textbooks. We spoke with the company about the development of this application and the functionality that was made possible by pluszero.

Keirinkan Corporation
Director of Mathematics Editorial Department
Nobuyuki Hamasaki
pluszero Corporation
Executive Vice President / PhD(Information Science and Technology)
Motoki Nagata

It was smooth because pluszero has knowledge in both education and AI.

Mr. Nobuyuki Hamasaki,Director of Mathematics Editorial Department,Keirinkan Corporation(hereafter referred to as Keirinkan, Hamasaki)

Keirinkan publish books and textbooks and teaching materials in math, arithmetic, and English for elementary through high school. Our strength is our familiarity with the education field throughout elementary, junior high, and high schools. We have taken on the challenge of new initiatives in response to the fact that the education industry is undergoing major changes. We wanted to publish digital educational materials that make the most of this strength.

In mathematics, in addition to knowledge and skills, it is important to efficiently address the three elements of academic ability: thinking, judgment, and expression, as well as independent learning. Our first concern was how to tackle the three elements when adding digital learning to the mix, but we thought that if we could integrate our existing paper-based teaching materials, we could develop apps and digital teaching materials that would leverage our strengths. When we were looking for a place where we could work on such an initiative, we came across pluszero.
Nagata, Executive Vice President of pluszero Corporation(hereafter referred to as pluszero, Nagata)

Our predecessor company was involved in education-related business, which led us to ask if we could utilize our technologies, such as AI and IT, in education.
Keirinkan, Hamasaki

There are three major changes in the field of education these days. One is digitization. Until now, learning was mainly done on paper, but the use of a tablet for each student has accelerated over the past few years, and the key to the future is how to add digital to paper.

The second is a change in the three perspectives of learning, which include "knowledge and skills," "ability to think, judge, and express," and "attitude toward independent learning," but until now the emphasis has tended to be on knowledge and skills. However, this has not been the case.

As the issue of not being able to make use of these skills after working at the society, more emphasis has been placed on the students' ability to think for themselves and make use of them, and more emphasis has been placed on "the ability to think, make decisions, and express themselves.”

Third, university entrance examinations have undergone major changes, with the Common Achievement Test replacing the Center Test, which had been in place for 30 years, and requiring students to have the ability to read and think. We are now at a turning point in these transitions, and while it is important to make the transition to digital technology, it is also difficult to make a rapid change to digital technology because the infrastructure at schools has not been able to keep up. It is precisely because we are at a turning point that there is a need for a fusion of digital and paper-based instructional materials, and while individualized and optimal learning is desired, pluszero has the strengths of both AI and experience in the education industry.
pluszero, Nagata

The Representative Director,chairman, Mr. Ojiro, and I, as well as several other members, had originally opened a tutoring school in a previous company and had experience in education. We felt that we could help by combining that experience with AI.
Keirinkan, Hamasaki

In the end, we were able to create a product that leveraged the strengths of both parties, and it was also significant that we were able to talk with Mr. Ojiro, who was running a cram school. Our company's desire to create something that would support teachers and solve students' problems matched well with our timing, and we were able to easily understand each other in a common language that is not easily understood by general IT companies.
pluszero, Nagata

The quality of the questions proposed by AI Tutor Zero was made possible only because of Keirinkan's thorough knowledge of the educational field and its long history of curriculum development. The functionality of which questions to propose was made possible by the collaboration of Keirinkan, school teachers, and those of us who have experience as cram school instructors, in other words, members who have an intuition for education.

Individual optimization is achieved by labeling the essential elements of the problem

Keirinkan, Hamasaki

Now that college entrance examinations are undergoing major changes, the emphasis is on spending more time on "how much students can think. However, there is so much to do in high school mathematics that it is difficult to devote time to it. In such a situation, we have to think about what we can do more efficiently, and it comes down to "knowledge and skills. The time that has been devoted to repetitive exercises needs to be used more efficiently to overcome difficulties. I remember that we often discussed how to improve the efficiency of which part of the skills we should improve in order to make the best use of the limited time we had.

I believe that pluszero was able to have such a discussion because he knew firsthand what iterative learning is, what thinking is, and the importance of "reading what we think" in the process.
pluszero, Nagata

A common mechanism for making suggestions based on wrong problems is for the AI to study past learning history and grades and make suggestions. However, in such a system, the AI tends to imitate the methods of students who are good at studying. This makes it difficult for the AI to suggest problems that students who are not good at studying really need to work on.

In contrast, AI Tutor Zero labels the elements of each question so that the AI can automatically identify what causes a student to get a question wrong, thereby enabling even students who are not good at studying to learn what is necessary for them, which is a major advantage.
Keirinkan, Hamasaki

That is certainly a major point. There are many functions that recommend problems, but I think most of them are in the form of similar problems that are repeated. However, students who are not good learners do not understand where they made mistakes even if they solve similar problems to the ones they made mistakes on. In this repetitive process, they may be able to memorize the answers, but they will not be able to understand the essence of the problem. And this leads to a dislike of mathematics.

Since math problems are a combination of various elements, it is assumed that the student understands those elements in order to solve the problem. The idea behind this project is to efficiently acquire knowledge and skills, and we have incorporated a system that uses AI to find out what areas the child has difficulty with. We are proud of the fact that we were able to present the idea that if they can solve that problem, they will be able to solve the current problem as well, and we believe that this application will help children who are not good at math deepen their understanding.

For example, in Math 1, in the case of the standard "maximum and minimum of quadratic functions" problem, if you ask children who made a mistake there to solve a similar problem,there would be various reasons for the mistake. AI Tutor Zero will analyze the problem from the label and present it as "since you made a mistake here, you should do this", which might be a quadratic It might be an equation, or it might be factorization. The student may not know why the problem was presented, but by solving that problem, the student gains the experience of being able to solve the maximum and minimum of a quadratic function that he/she originally got wrong.

Instead of simply doing similar questions to get used to them, the students will be able to pinpoint where they made mistakes or stumbled, and cover the points where they made mistakes. The greatest feature of AI Tutor Zero is that it provides recommendations on how to solve these problems.

Speedy development through a single integrated system and advanced OCR technology

Keirinkan, Hamasaki

We were able to take advantage of the fact that pluszero had experience as a cram school teacher and we are an educational publishing company that knows the school scene well. We had a lot of common language, and it was easy to convey nuances without having to explain everything from scratch, which was important in the short time frame we had to produce the product. Without this, the project might not have taken shape yet.
pluszero, Nagata

AI Tutor Zero uses OCR technology to read the questions that students make mistakes on, and we feel that our company's strengths were comprehensively utilized. We have been able to improve the accuracy of the system by using our experience accumulated over many years in OCR.

In addition, the ability to develop screens for school teachers, develop labeling of question elements, develop a system for recommending based on the labeling, and even an OCR function all in one step led to speedy development.
Keirinkan, Hamasaki

Since the development of the system started in April of the 2022 school year, when a new high school math curriculum was introduced, the release date was set for the end of February 2022. The development period was only one year, which was not long at all, but we were able to take advantage of the strengths, good points, and speed of pluszero to achieve our goal.

What makes it different from previous digital teaching materials is that it is a fusion application that connects paper-based teaching materials with digital ones. However, as the application is used more and more, we expect to hear various opinions, and we would like to make improvements based on those opinions.
pluszero, Nagata

The ability to understand the essential information contained in mathematical problems is a major feature of this application, and we believe that this is made possible by our past research and development into the "essential meaning of words.”
Keirinkan, Hamasaki

We are always thinking about the essential meaning as we create our teaching materials. In mathematics, people tend to think that it is enough to find the final answer, but considering that entrance exams and tests have changed and students are expected to respond to a variety of problems, we believe that the essence is how to develop ideas in progress in an orderly and logical manner rather than seeking the final solution.

How to acquire this ability is to understand what is built into the logical flow, or the flow will be blurred. Labeling in the development of this application was essential in order for the students to grasp the fact that the answers are ultimately found by properly understanding and accumulating each one of them. This mechanism allowed the same,  I think that even "understanding" is a totally different thing, and I think that using the application will naturally help people learn that element in a logical way.

AI Tutor Zero is an application for efficiently learning "knowledge skills" to understand the essence of mathematics. I believe that this will ultimately be the quickest way for children to understand and utilize the essentials. This will also broaden the children's knowledge acquisition.

Although we are starting with high school math, we are also working on science and English textbooks. We would like to expand the application horizontally, as well as vertically to elementary and junior high schools, so that the "recommendation function by labeling," which is one of the greatest features of this application, can be used to its fullest. By combining vertical and horizontal connections, we hope to expand the application and make it bigger and bigger.
pluszero, Nagata

Pluszero is working on developing AI that understands the meaning of words like humans do, including a technology called "personalized summarization," which rephrases sentences according to the reader's interest and level of understanding. If this technology can be applied to education to optimize individualized learning by optimizing sentences according to the student's level of understanding and interest, we can create even more wonderful educational materials.
Details of the dialogue can be found here.