In March 2020, at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Swetha Tandri created a YouTube channel called Melodies for Math. Her weekly videos illustrated calculus concepts in fun and comprehendible ways, using music as the language to bind together complex lessons. The increasing audience behind this channel and the growing following behind the accompanying Instagram page alerted Swetha to start making custom songs for any math problems other high school students might be having.
“People had their own requests for songs that were beyond just calculus and they had ideas that they wanted to see,” Swetha stated. “Then afterward, to get all these requests done in time, it’s like I had to create three songs a week”.
Swetha knew that these videos couldn’t be maintained by herself any longer and that she would need to expand into a team. Around July 2020, Melodies for Math gained Haley Hoffman Smith, a Forbes influential speaker, as a key mentor on growth strategy. This group also expanded into a full team with high school students across the United States.
“There were so many different organizations that were popping up during the pandemic, since a lot of us had free time to start things,” Swetha stated. “A bunch of organizations on Instagram were just reposting and resharing opportunities from other organizations who were looking for team members, so word kind of spread that way.”
This growth was even more revitalized when Swetha read the Mathematician’s Lament by Paul Lockhart in early 2021. This novel discusses the gaps within teaching methods that deter many people from a necessary skill. Paul Lockhart asserted that mathematics was creative and should be explored in a creative way, which is a concept Melodies for Math has resonated with.
“Math is kind of an art, but we’re only too focused on the analytics, which is only half of the picture. It would be like only focusing on music theory and ignoring the artistic interpretations that can go into it,” Swetha stated.
Due to the encouragement from Haley Hoffman Smith, Swetha Tandri decided on expanding the brand into TikTok and Discord. This decision proved crucial for the organization and has helped them reach over 65000 followers on TikTok with videos like “Welcome to Algebra” receiving almost 2 million views on the platform. These viral videos have promoted their community chat and has helped them gain over 1000 members on the Discord app. The members enjoyed being able to ask regular questions during the hosted office hours and network with other students looking to better themselves.
Swetha mentioned “one thing that I noticed is that a lot of people understand the concepts, but they experience a lot of test anxiety.” Within the Discord community, Melodies for Math has noticed a lot of questions about a fear of failing or losing motivation before an important test date. This organization decided to work on addressing the issues behind math-related anxieties in an approach that other direct homework helpers haven’t created. Members who sign up to their newsletter receive a free 5-step guide on acing any math test, which dives heavily into handling test anxieties.
Moving forward, Swetha envisions Melodies for Math being in the social entrepreneurship space where they can offer free content while being able to monetize. Swetha places a strong stance behind wanting “our work to be more centered around the customer instead of shifting our focus to our investors”. They’re continuing to attract new members to assist with writing the songs and creating the content, but also want to expand into high school chapters across the country. To pay for any operational expenses, Swetha is looking into brand partnerships that align with their values while also launching membership services that allow members to receive one on one attention.