Meet Eli Luberoff.
Eli is founder and CEO of the ed tech venture Desmos, a free browser-based graphing calculator and math activity builder. I have used Desmos in my classroom for the past year and see enormous value in its use, while knowing that I’ve only scratched the surface of its potential. In addition to the graphing technology it provides, users can create and share activities (in a sort of learning module style) for students to work through. Teachers are able to log into a teacher space and host these activities for their students, monitoring their progress individually and as a group.
So who is Eli and what qualities/motivations led to his role as CEO and founder?
A Brief(ish) bio:
Eli took a rather unconventional route to becoming educated (what he refers to as an “absurd educational journey”), due largely to the issues that he found with the educational model presented to him. Seeing little pedagogical value in his middle school experience, he made an agreement with his mother to be homeschooled in grade 8. That year, he ended up auditing some math, physics and language courses at UMass Amherst courses (he refers to this as “pretend(ing) to be a student”, so it’s unclear as to whether this was in an official capacity or not). He was grouped together on projects with his much older classmates at that time, and it helped him develop and appreciation and critical eye towards group work and the ways students interact and express ideas to each other. During that time he also learned how to code in C++ and started creating math aid programs for his brother (in exchange for rides to Kentucky Fried Chicken) and games for his TI-83 graphing calculator – he even created a working version of monopoly.
He ended up returning to public education in grade 9 to attempt the high school model. Though better than middle school, he was still unsatisfied with the experience and dropped out in grade 10 once he was 16 and legally allowed to.
After dropping out of high school, he went back to college and got interested in web design, programming and entrepreneurship. After 2 ½ yeas of college, he took some time off to teach himself how to program (building on his earlier foundation) and to attempt to launch his own venture. He lived with a professor during that time, working as her Chief Technology Officer on her own project.
It was in that time that he created the predecessor to Desmos, a program that facilitated online tutoring. Eli actually used the program himself to conduct tutoring sessions and used the money from these sessions to help pay his bills upon returning to college.
While using his own program, he saw the importance of using graphing technology to help express concepts to students, and realized how important visual representations were for student understanding. This realization was the pivot point for his small company (only three individuals at that point) and focus shifted to what is now Desmos.
Eli’s story shows his passion for learning, for creating, and for addressing problems where that he can make the most impact by solving. He has compiled a professional team and strong positive work culture as evidence by their About Us video shown here:
I love how Eli has constantly looked to address the issues around him. His education wasn’t suited for him, so he changed his situation. He started his first venture (before pivoting to Desmos) to address the positive gains students had when receiving 1-on-1 support via tutoring. He then discovered a pain point within his own work, and there created this company that is serving a massive community of educators.