How the Pandemic Saved Trapezium Math Club

Posted by Angela McIver, PhD on Jul 20th 2020

How the Pandemic Saved Trapezium Math Club

The new year started off with such optimism. At math club we had comissioned a new Mathemagic play to be debuted in March. We were excited about the Spring Monstermathathon and had solidified our plans for summer camp. But, two seismic events turned everything upside down and forced us to change direction, resulting in the decision to close Trapezium Math Club ... and then to re-open it!

The first blow happened in February when we were notified by our landlord that our lease would not be renewed for September. Our space - home of Trapezium Math Club for 6 years - was being turned into a gym for the residents in the building, a casualty of gentrification. When considering my options, the numbers just didn't work out. Finding a space with reasonable rent in our neighborhood was not feasible. I decided to close Math Club and focus on other parts of our business (Dinner Table Math and Trapezium Math for Schools)

And then, the second blow. On March 13th the School District of Philadelphia closed all schools as the state issued a stay-at-home order. In an instant, our revenue from Math Club and Trapezium Math for Schools came to a  grinding halt. With no revenue coming in and no promise of reopening, I had to lay off my staff. 

But clouds have silver linings. The first came in the form of a PPP loan that allowed me to bring my staff back to work for 8 weeks. The second came with my appearance on Good Morning America. The exposure (and gift from Sofi) gave me enough money to make payroll for another 6 weeks. 

With everything about our business model thrown out (no Trapezium for Schools if schools were closed and no math club with no space), we had to come up with a new.plan. We decided that the best path forward was to focus on Dinner Table Math and to bring Trapezium Math Club back. But this time, Trapezium Math Club had to be online. 

Since the beginning, our philosophy has been to provide technology-free experiences that build confident, fearless math learners in fun and engaging ways. But since we were in the middle of a pandemic, we had to embrace technology in order stay alive. The challenge has been daunting. We've gone back to the drawing board many times after focus groups with math club students yielded amazing insights about online learning. For instance, we've learned that children need something tactile to accompany online learning - a box of materials that is used as part of instruction. We've also learned that younger children need as little technology as possible with short, highly engaging sessions that only involve a camera.  

In many ways, it feels like we are a start-up with opportunities to create a scalable business that focuses on our core priniciples - providing rigorous math to young learners in fun, highly engaging ways. 

So that's how the pandemic saved Trapezium Math Club. Stay tuned for Math Club 2.0 launching in September.