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Norwegian app aims to make math cool

By Joachim Dagenborg

OSLO (Reuters) - The startup behind the algebra app that overtook Angry Birds as No. 1 in the Norwegian app store earlier this year aims to replicate that success globally next year with four more mathematics games.

The goal of WeWantToKnow AS - to teach 12 years of math curriculum in some 30 hours of game play - is ambitious, but its founders are certain that the success of the first version of DragonBox, the algebra game which has been downloaded more than 50,000 times, proves the target is within reach.

The company will roll out a new version of DragonBox later this year and in 2013 it will introduce games for functions, probability, geometry and numbers, the other key fields of mathematics.

Teacher Jean-Baptiste Huynh created the first game after becoming frustrated with how math is being taught, teaming up with Rolf Assev, a key executive at No 5 browser firm Opera Software more than a decade ago.

Assev brought in other former executives from 1995-founded Norwegian tech star Opera, the oldest browser firm globally and the only publicly listed one focused on browsers.

The aim of WeWantToKnow is to redefine mathematical language for games and adapt the learning process into game play.

"It is the educational part that is really hard, and we have cracked the code. This type of game is going to be a "must have" in all future learning," Huynh told Reuters.

Currently, some 100 schools in the United States are testing the game in a joint project with the University of Washington.

There are no direct rivals on the market, and the firm said it already turned down a number of buyout offers from major gaming firms. It also has no plans to go public.

"We will do this on our own, and we have enormous ambitions. Why should we go public? Just ask Mark Zuckerberg if he thinks that the past year has been fun. I think he wishes he could still do whatever he wanted with his own company," said marketing director Assev.

Huynh and his partner Patrick Marchal own 70 percent of the company, with the rest owned by former Opera executives, including long time CEO and co-founder Jon Von Tetzchner.

(Writing By Tarmo Virki; editing by Gunna Dickson)

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