Meet David Jeschke. David has partnered with Dr. Robert Read to work on his Euler Notebook project, which is a computer-based math program with a stylus that acts like a good old fashion pen and pencil. David is the founder of XtraMath, a nonprofit offering a free online supplementary math education program, and prior to XtraMath, he worked at a variety of startups, including a couple of his own, and spent several years at Microsoft. We talked to David to learn more about his background, the project, and his long-term goals for the Euler Notebook and Public Invention:
So how did you originally get involved in Public Invention?
I knew Rob from graduate school. We went to grad school in Computer Science at the University of Texas at Austin back in the 1990-91 timeframe. And I was leading a project called Xtramath, which is now a nonprofit that does a math program for elementary school students, and was looking to do another software project. And I was friends with Rob on social media and learned about what he was doing with Public Invention and contacted him to see if he’d be interested in working on this project with me and doing it under Public Invention.
Can you just tell me a little bit more about Xtramath and how and why you got involved in it?
Well, I had a long-standing interest in how computers could be applied to education, especially STEM education and AI. In 2007, I volunteered at a local elementary school to do some tutoring and realized a lot of the kids were still counting on their fingers in fourth and fifth grade to solve simple arithmetic problems. And so I created a program to use with the students that I was tutoring and other classrooms. The school started using it, and then other schools started using it, and it grew by word of mouth. So then, in 2009, I formally organized Xtramath as a nonprofit corporation and did that until I hired a replacement for myself in March. And I stayed on consulting until early June of this year and then I rolled off, and I’m no longer doing that on a day-to-day basis. Although I am still on the board of directors Xtramath. But now I’m just working on this project exclusively.
Great, so tell me a bit about the project you’re working on with Public Invention, Euler Notebook.
Well, Euler Notebook is a way to take mathematics, at least at the higher levels when you get into algebra and calculus from high school and above. The best way seems to still be to do it with paper and pencil, just manipulating formulas. Something is very natural about either paper and pencil or chalk and chalkboard, something about the stylus works. So in spite of their math tools like Mathematica, and Jupyter notebooks and things like that…somehow trying to do math with a keyboard and mouse just doesn’t seem to really flow well. But there are some very powerful tablet computers with styluses now and I figured that was an opportunity to create a math program that really works well with a stylus on the computer. And so it would be like using pencil and paper but with all the intelligence that a computer could bring to the task to make it easy to edit and review and check your work and make suggestions.
So cool. So more broadly, in regards to Public Invention, what do you think is beneficial and special about an organization that does open-source inventing as it relates to a project like Euler Notebook?
I think doing things in the open allows you to recruit a large community of possible contributors and talent and diversity of perspectives and experiences to projects. If you look at these very successful open-source projects, like Linux, so many people have contributed to them, and much more can be accomplished than could be accomplished just by one person or a small team. So, Rob and I are hoping that Euler Notebook will ultimately attract a community of people that are excited about it and want to contribute and make it better. As a community, we could do much more than we could just do as individuals or as a small company trying to kind of go out on our own.
Also, making it open makes us available to a much wider audience of people that otherwise might not be able to afford a commercial product that costs $150 or something like that.
Great. So lastly I just want to know more about you and what you hope to do with Public Invention in the future.
My plans are to work on that tablet for the foreseeable future, I think that at least is a decade-long project. My last project, Xtramath, I spent 12 years on it. And this is something I consider a much more ambitious project than that. And I think Rob has a terrific vision for Public Invention and I look forward to continuing to work on that tablet and hopefully be a vibrant part of Public Invention.