Archives For November 2011

Touch-screen technology is on the verge of revolutionising learning. Why?

  • It’s interactive. asking children to “touch the hexagon” will engage them far more than asking them to “click on the hexagon”.
  • It’s intuitive. Anyone who has seen a toddler play with an iPad will agree. This ease of use is vital for learning – it allows the user to focus entirely on the task in hand without any distractions.
  • It’s small and light. In 10 years time, children will no longer carry a bag of books to and from school. Text books will all be electronic, interactive, easy to update, environmentally friendly and light. No more sore shoulders from excessively heavy bags, no more “have you got all the books you need for today?” and no more administrative nightmares for staff getting text books in at the end of the year for a fresh cover and a reissue.
  • It’s portable – and apps work without a data connection. Children can learn on an iPad anywhere. DoodleMaths is designed to work without a data connection. Children will be able to learn maths whilst on car journeys, waiting for a sibling to finish swimming, for example, or on a flight. They will be able to revise for an exam by the pool or on the beach or simply moving around in the house.
  • And it’s new! It won’t be new forever, but for as long as it seems new, children will want to use it.

 

 

We need Beta Testers!

November 15, 2011 — Leave a comment

In the next few weeks we will be ready to beta-test DoodleMaths.

The app is aimed at 7 to 11 year olds, however, we are interested in feedback from teachers, parents, educationalists and journalists as well as children.

If you would like to help us and get a sneak preview of what we are doing at the same time, please email us: hello@doodlemaths.co.uk.

The success of a secondary school is measured in a single statistic: the percentage of children attaining 5 or more GCSEs at grade C or above.

Far from raising standards, this has actually encouraged mediocrity. In maths classrooms, schools are happy for bright children to settle for a C because it makes little difference to their figures whether they get an A, B or C. Some schools encourage students to sit their GCSE maths in Year 10: this is not necessarily for the benefit of the student, who gets a C in Year 10 when they could have got an A or B with another year’s study, but gets a C in the bag and allows them to concentrate on other subjects.

This gives schools more time and energy to focus on the borderline C/D students (and also potential A-level candidates.) I won’t be liked for saying this, but the story will be familiar to those teaching maths across the country: these students are often in smaller class sizes, get the best teachers, offered after-school classes, Easter revision courses, even one-to-one tuition and mentoring.

To a lesser extent this is true in primary schools, where league tables focus on the number of children achieving a Level 4 or higher at the end of Key Stage 2.

As maths tutors trying to get the best out of individuals, it can be infuriating. I recall one student whose maths teacher was adamant he should do foundation GCSE (this meant that he had a better chance of achieving a C, although at foundation you cannot exceed this.) Finally, after extensive pressure from the parent, the teacher agreed to enter him at higher level; he went on to achieve a grade A. If we find it infuriating, how do parents find it?

This is not the fault of teachers, but endemic within the system. I was a maths teacher for 10 years and understand the pressure and scrutiny that staff are under, and also the severe shortage of maths teachers we are facing nationally. From yesterday’s press, it seems that David Cameron is starting to recognise this. Is far as I can see, there are two options: scrap league tables, or ensure that league tables recognise the performance of every individual and not just those on the C/D borderline.

In the meantime, parents need to be aware that if their child is not on the C/D borderline, or a potential A-level candidate, then they may well be coasting towards an easy C or being allowed to settle for a minimum pass of an E, F or G.

App Store Icons

November 14, 2011 — Leave a comment

Whilst the programmers fix the glitches we’re still having plenty of fun with the design of the app. Martin, who is undertaking most of the design work, seems to know little about maths but is a hugely talented designer, due to spending most of his school days doodling in his books – ideal preparation for this project!

Martin has prepared a number of possible icons for us, which I have whittled down to the three below:

 

 

 

 

 

From what I understand from my research, an app icon needs to:

  • communicate what the app is/does without the use of words
  • incorporate simple design
  • have consistency with the design of the app
  • stand out from the crowd

I think we are addressing most of these. Personally I think it impossible to communicate everything the app can do through the icon alone; that said, it needs to be high quality design to reflect the quality of the product. I’d be interested in readers comments!

 

Grey Hairs

November 10, 2011 — Leave a comment

There’s a few more today compared to yesterday. That seems to be the case most mornings now, though some would say I’m getting on a bit. We had a meeting with the programmers yesterday which was hugely positive until the shock news that we are still at least a month away from beta testing. And as some will already know, its not the first time we have had such news.

Why the delay? Well, the app has far more complexity than we initially planned for. There are a number of features that are unique to DoodleMaths, as far as we can tell, and it is essential that these function without glitches if it is to be popular. Getting the styling and design of the app is also crucial in ensuring users do not tire of it, given that it is expected to be used on a daily basis. We want to get it right first time.

Why the hurry? Two reasons. First, there are no apps currently in the app store that come even close to competing with the major online tutoring websites, and if we are quick, we will be the first. But we are well aware of the huge sums of money being thrown at children’s apps (many of the major educational corporates now have in-house app development teams) – we can only compete with this through innovation and reaching the market before them. Our major fear is that we are beaten to it. Second, we have now invested a serious amount of time and money into this project, at the expense of family, friends, work and sleep, and we are desperate to get to release.

As it is, it looks like the grey hairs will keep coming for a bit longer yet.

Why the Silly Name?

November 8, 2011 — Leave a comment

Enough of the boring stuff and now to address everyone’s burning question: why call it DoodleMaths?

First off, let me state that the concept for the app came before the name. In fact, prior to being called DoodleMaths it was called:

  • MathsApp (terrible, I know)
  • Maths Box (probably an improvement)
  • SmartMaths (much better – the idea was to reflect the intelligent aspects of the app that tailor work programs to individuals, however, some children felt they had to be smart to use it, and it didn’t reflect the style of the app)
  • Infinity Maths (this didn’t last long – not as many people as we thought were familiar with the infinity symbol, and most felt like they would be consigned to doing maths for an eternity)

We settled on DoodleMaths as it was catchy and appealed to those who would be using it. Our only concern is that perhaps it trivialises what the app is capable of and draws attention to its styling more than its content. Accordingly, we need a tag line to counter this; “pocket tutor” is what we are thinking of currently but as you can see from the above, it could change at any time!

So you want your child to learn about percentages? Well first you need to make sure they understand fractions – because percentages are fractions out of 100.

This is why, in the UK, the Numeracy Strategy was such a fantastic achievement. Finally, not only did we have consistency in terms of teaching methods, we also had clarity over what should be taught, when. Nobody should be taught a new concept without the prerequisites being covered prior.

All the most successful teaching curriculums, whether it be school-based such as the Numeracy Strategy, or a tutoring system such as Kumon, are extremely carefully constructed in this regard. In my view, however, most do not pay sufficient regard to one fact that every parent is familiar with: children forget.

It’s all very well ensuring that your child has learnt how to find 1/7 of 42, however, how can you be sure that he will still remember how to do this in a few months time when you ask him to find 5/7 of 42? The answer is, once a child has learnt a concept, it needs to be reviewed on a regular basis over a lengthy period of time for it to remain understood. New concepts are then learnt with ease because all the prerequisites are in place.

For this reason, DoodleMaths places as much emphasis on reviewing what has been learnt as it does on learning something new. For children (especially those who have perhaps found maths tricky in the past), learning a new concept can be a stressful experience. By ensuring that everything is in place ready for them to start, things become much easier. The app is intuitive -some children need to review their learning much more than others – DoodleMaths detects this and adjusts each child’s program accordingly. And if a child forgets how to do something, the app detects this as well and makes sure they re-learn it before they progress any further. Children are expected to review their learning daily, but learn something new on a weekly basis. See below:

As a result, progression is guaranteed.