Michael Edlavitch, a middle school math teacher in Minneapolis, Minnesota, wanted a more engaging way to teach his students. "I was inspired by new educational games and decided to start building math games that students could play online and learn," he recalls. "So in summer 2008, I decided to make an online math game while waiting to find out about teaching jobs for the fall." That's how HoodaMath.com was born.
Michael Edlavitch, Founder & CEO
How Michael got started
Why ad revenue?
How Michael makes an impact
As the site grew, Michael began to think about how to fund its upkeep. "The school I taught at was using a paid math site for $7 per student," he says, "and I didn't like the concept that people would have to pay to learn math online. I think it's important to have free educational resources to create equitable learning for schools and students of all income levels. Searching online, I found Google AdSense and realized we could have a free site funded by ads."
With traffic increasing, Hooda Math's ad revenue rapidly grew as well. "By 2010," Michael says, "I started earning more money with AdSense than my teaching salary, and I decided to quit my job and pursue Hooda Math full time." The site now regularly reaches over one million teachers and students per month, with over 300 games for K-12 students on everything from math basics to business management to physics and logic puzzles.
Over the years, Michael explored other ad tech offerings but decided to stick with AdSense. "We worked with a few different ad networks but we chose AdSense because it has been the better solution for us," he explains. "First, we consistently get quality ads. I can screen and block out ads easily to ensure they're relevant for my audience, which is a feature that other ad networks don't offer. Second, we always get paid on time and get great customer support. As a small business, this is super important - I've had issues with other ad networks having to make sure we get paid. Finally, AdSense keeps innovating their ad offerings, creating new opportunities for us. Now we use new ad formats like vignette ads, which helps boost our revenue and is easy to set up."
With a strong revenue stream coming in, Michael continues to innovate to make sure his offerings remain a helpful and engaging resource. "I hired a contractor to help manage a weekly math escape room game that has been hugely popular," he says, "and during the pandemic we began offering timed tests and quizzes that send an email report to teachers so they can see how well their students are performing – and it's all free thanks to AdSense."
To stay motivated, Michael engages regularly with his teacher community. "I go to math conferences frequently," he tells us, "and hearing the excitement from teachers using the site and the engagement they get from their students is amazing. It really keeps me motivated to continue providing this free, useful resource." Hooda Math continues to evolve and grow to meet the needs of students everywhere. "We stay on top of gaming and math trends, so our content is the most fun and useful it can be, and I use our ad revenue to re-invest in the business. I work directly with teachers to build new games for math topics like understanding averages, and we expand our game's features as technology evolves. For example, we now offer multiplayer options on Hooda.io, and nearly all of our games are on HTML5."
Looking ahead, Michael is excited to pass this business on to his children. "My three kids are just getting started learning web programming and helping out," he says. "I'm so excited to keep this a family business - albeit different than a traditional storefront – but a family business all the same."