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New Service to Help U.S. Students Improve Math Scores, Better Compete in Global Job Market

Japan's largest educational company enters the U.S. market with a game-like mobile app for mathematically challenged middle-school students

NEW YORK, Nov. 13, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- With about two-thirds of U.S. eighth-graders below proficiency in math according to the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), most parents, teachers and employers agree that improving math scores is vital to the success of students and the nation's economic future.  

Now Benesse America wants to give U.S. students the kind of help with their math studies that has made its parent company famous among children and parents in Japan, this time with a new mobile technology twist.

Today Benesse launches a new self-tutoring service called StraightAce, designed for struggling middle-school math students. StraightAce makes a game out of math, increasing student motivation for learning.

"Parents see their children falling behind in math and don't know how to help them. With StraightAce, kids spend just 15 minutes a day on a smartphone or tablet collecting in-game rewards for their study achievements, all the while gaining a better grasp of vital math concepts," explains Shigeki Matsuo, president of Benesse America.

The service is designed for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders. Each StraightAce session includes a lesson and 10 math problems, with further explanations offered for each question. Every grade level includes over 150 different math topics, which are all aligned with the Common Core State Standards. The new standards, adopted by 45 states and now being implemented by teachers nationwide, reflect the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in college and the workplace.

StraightAce received praise from students and parents in focus groups: "I thought it was a good review and it matched up with what I was learning in school," said Matthew Sypa, 13, of Brooklyn, N.Y. "When I went back and read the explanations, I knew I could do the problems."

Makes Parental Involvement Easier  
As children complete math problems on the StraightAce mobile app, parents can follow and encourage their progress online through a cloud-based dashboard. The display includes snapshots of work completed by the student on the mobile app's virtual scratchpad and an inbox where students can send their parents messages if they need extra help. Parents can access all lessons, problems and explanations online.

Developmental Years Targeted
The middle-school years are a crucial time for math skills development. Since math concepts are cumulative, students who miss fundamentals during this period often fail to catch up as advanced concepts needed for high school and college are introduced.

StraightAce keeps middle-schoolers engaged by making math studies fun and easier to fit into the day. As students learn and answer math questions correctly, they earn virtual stars that are exchangeable for in-game rewards. Such features embrace the current popular tech trend of gamification. Making the content accessible through a mobile app means that the material goes with students wherever they are, so they can be learning even when they're away from textbooks.

Help for U.S. Students from a Famous Name in Japan
Benesse is a well-known name in Japan, so much so that 1 in 5 children there currently use a Benesse product of some kind.  

"Much like in America, parents in Japan have varying opinions of the educational system," Matsuo said. "It is therefore very common for parents in Japan to pay for additional products and services to supplement the learning that their children receive in the classroom. Helping students to more easily grasp what they are taught in school is part of what has made Benesse famous in Japan, and we can help students here in America as well."

StraightAce is available on the company's website at straightace.com and is compatible with iPhone, iPad and Android platforms. Subscription prices for the service start from $14.99 per month. StraightAce is the result of a joint development effort between Benesse America and Quipper, a learning platform developer.

About Benesse America
Based in New York, Benesse America Inc. is the operating entity of the Benesse Group in the United States. Its parent Benesse Holdings Inc. holds the largest education company in Japan and third largest in the world, with over $5 billion in net sales. Benesse Holdings Inc. is also the parent company of Berlitz Corporation, which offers language instruction through more than 550 locations in more than 70 countries.

About Quipper
Quipper was founded in 2010 by Masayuki Watanabe, co-founder of DeNA, and is based in London. Quipper has over 3.7 million learners around the world studying on its platform.

— For more information on StraightAce, go to straightace.com.

SOURCE Benesse

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