Show and Tell : Kate Mattison

A Q&A with IXL’s Director of Products

December 8, 2014


Life at IXL

In a new series of blog posts, we’ll be introducing you to members of the IXL team. Through fun Q&As, you’ll learn how our employees bring IXL to life, and how we spend our time away from the office.

We’re kicking off this series with an interview with Kate Mattison, Director of Products. Read on to learn about how she helped launch IXL and the best present she’s ever gotten!





The Basics

Name and title: Kate Mattison, Director of Products

Has been at IXL for: 7.5 years

Hometown and current city: Born and raised in Portland, Ore. Currently lives in San Carlos, Calif.

Life at IXL

What did you do prior to coming to IXL?

I got a Ph.D in math from Stanford University. I was studying algebraic topology–it’s really abstract math. My work was related to string theory in physics.

What do you do at IXL? Give us a taste of what a typical day at work is like for you.

I started off at IXL as a product analyst and designer. I created math problems for the launch of IXL, and worked on the other features like reports, standards, and awards. I now oversee all of the content development at IXL – the people on my team design the math and language arts problems on IXL. I spend a lot of my time helping those designers figure out how to solve problems. For example, if they’re working on a skill and they don’t know the best way to ask the question or how to have students interact with the problem, I help come up with solutions.

What do you like about working at IXL?

I love that we get to teach millions of students every day! I also love the people who work here – they’re such a fun and enthusiastic group of people to work with. They’re all very talented and dedicated to what we’re doing, and that makes coming to work every day a really good experience.

Life beyond IXL

What do you like to do in your free time?

I really like to hang out with my 2-year-old son. He loves trains, so we go watch the Caltrain [commuter train] a lot, and find reasons to ride it! I like to hike, and try to go once or twice a week at the great open space preserves in the area. I also cook with my husband. We like to make pork tenderloin with roasted vegetables, especially in the fall.

How would your best friend describe you?

I’d like to think she would say I’m trustworthy, funny, and hardworking.

Lightning round! Answer as quickly as you can:

  • Coffee or tea? Coffee! My husband and I are pretty into coffee – we really love Philz Coffee.
  • Cupcakes or regular cake? Cupcakes
  • PC or Mac? Mac
  • Phone call or text? Text

Just for Fun

This question tests your problem-solving skills: How would you survive a zombie apocalypse?

The best strategy I’ve heard is to get all your supplies on the second floor of your house, and then destroy the stairs so the zombies can’t get upstairs – but unfortunately, I live in a one-story house! I think assembling a team with people who have different roles would be great. I’d like to think I’d be the planner, and my husband would be the guy who could take any broken-down machine and make it work again. We’d also need a medic, and someone who’s a good shot.

It’s the holiday season, so let’s talk presents! What’s the best gift you have gotten?

This is cheesy, but my son was born on New Year’s Day, so he was a pretty good holiday present!

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All Comments (18)

Gabriel Eyre December 9, 2014 at 10:40 am

can I get into a competition somehow? I don’t know how to. can ixl blog help me?


The IXL Blog December 9, 2014 at 3:42 pm

Hi Gabriel, we recently finished up our ELA usage contest, but we plan to do more classroom and individual usage contests in the future, so keep an eye out!


Marissa December 10, 2014 at 10:29 am

Hey, ixl owner I’m a student and think ixl is a great way to learn but it’s not that fun. All you get if you master a skill is “hooray” and a picture award. Does that sound exciting to you? Not me. Otherwise, ixl is pretty awesome. Anyone agree with me?


The IXL Blog December 10, 2014 at 2:31 pm

Hi Marissa, we’re sorry to hear you feel IXL isn’t that fun! We often hear from kids that they like the awards and certificates, but if you have suggestions for how to make our program more fun, please let us know!


Zane February 4, 2015 at 4:41 pm

I totally agree. The awards are so boring and don’t stimulate my brain enough. I was thinking of having a medal store, where us students can spend medals on things, like maybe make a carnival with games, or anything that gives medals a point. I think that this may stop all of the kids in my class from going insane over the boredom of IXL. Another thing is that while I was around about, 86 smartscore points, I got a question wrong. It sent me back to 70 and it took me 3 problems to get back. Also, please tell parents that this is a practice website and not a teaching website. I went onto a blog and found a parent making their children work on this way too much. Maybe IXL could have an IXL user wide contest for whoever’s class can get the most questions answered correctly, gets ______. That is all that I can say to get this website fun and/or motivating to answer questions.

P.S. – Have variety with the games and have creativity involved.


The IXL Team February 5, 2015 at 11:00 am

Hi Zane, thank you for all of your suggestions – we’ll pass them along to our development team for consideration! We have run user contests in the past (and we agree they are a great motivator), and plan to do more in the future, so stay tuned!


minnie December 11, 2014 at 4:15 pm

hello ixl is fun but it is much better than extramath


Liam December 13, 2014 at 8:13 am

Can you tell us how you grade the IXL problems? Every time I get to say, 95, and I get two wrong in a row, it drops me to something insane like 72, and it takes me forever to get back to 95. Can you show an icon that indicates what the grade will drop to if you get the problem wrong so that way it will prevent me going insane? Thank you in advance for listening to my request.


The IXL Blog December 15, 2014 at 10:13 am

Hi Liam, we assess students on IXL using SmartScore, which is an algorithm that takes into account the number of problems completed, the number of problems correct and incorrect, problem difficulty, and consistency of correct answers in a row. When questions are answered incorrectly, the SmartScore drops in order to give you more time to practice and truly master the skill. Thank you for your suggestion about adding an icon to the SmartScore – we will pass that idea along to our development team!


sarah January 13, 2015 at 7:32 pm

i love it to because it fun to learn.


love January 19, 2015 at 4:25 pm

i need help


The IXL Team January 20, 2015 at 12:09 pm

Hi there, what can we help you with?


Zane W. Scott January 28, 2015 at 9:59 am

IXL needs actual games not a picture certificate. Also, have variety with the games.


The IXL Team January 29, 2015 at 10:03 am

Hi Zane, thank you for your suggestion to add games – we will pass it along to our development team!


Zane February 4, 2015 at 4:45 pm

Thank you! I love that you have a blog here that students can use!


Zane W. Scott February 5, 2015 at 10:31 am

Your welcome! Thank you for having a blog that students can use!


Unknown Stressed Child December 30, 2015 at 7:23 pm

I have spent many hours on IXL, over 6 thousand problems answered, and countless hours working on grades. I’m only 2/3 the way on 6th grade and I find it very stressful and contradicting in the encouraging path of learning. The awards for those countless hours do not stimulate me enough to have the will to learn, and the SmartScore Algorithm is just broken. If we could get some way of stimulation, either a currency of some sort that could help us be driven to get a virtual item of some sort, a game we could play to have our minds take a break from the stress, etc. The awards, that are just in pictures, just make us (or me personally) think,’So What? I’ve done all of this just to get a picture of a tent?!?’ I find that to keep kids hooked onto IXL, there has to be a way to make them want to come back on the site and learn, and be determined to earn something, maybe even be competitive in learning. At least it won’t keep kids like me tearing the hairs out of their scalps and getting punished for not doing the ‘hour a day’ they’re expected to do.


The IXL Team January 4, 2016 at 11:11 am

Hi there, we’re sorry you’ve been feeling frustrated on IXL. We’ll let our development team know about your suggestions for a virtual currency or other awards. Thanks for taking the time to give us your feedback!


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