Maths on the move

2011-06-20 00:00

MATHX is hardly the game you’d expect to be keeping teenagers indoors. But this is exactly the feedback that Edge Campus, the developer of this new cellphone maths game, has received: “This game is so interesting,” said one user. “It keeps your mind in good thinking”, “it makes my mind feel fresh” and “it keeps me off the street”, said others.

MathX is an educational game based on the well-known Math24 card game. Players are given four numbers and are told what number answer they need to get using addition, subtraction, multiplication, and/or division.

It’s simple — I played it with three children under 10 — yet it’s very clever. Having the answer takes the pressure off the child, and helps him or her to focus on the maths processes. Our answer was 24, our numbers were 1, 2, 3, 4, and it took a fair amount of mathematical acrobatics before we figured out that if you multiplied all those numbers you would get your answer.

Unfortunately, while Math24 has been used with much success in schools in wealthier countries, as both a card game and a computer game, it has been of little value in a country like South Africa, where many poorer schools don’t have access to games or computers. Which is what makes MathX so different.

MathX, which has been developed in South Africa and for the South African market, is available on your cellphone via the popular social networking site, MXit. According to a survey conducted by the Youth Research Unit at Unisa, 98% to 99% of high school pupils across all school types own a cellphone in South Africa. In addition, MXit puts its user base in South Africa at about 19 to 20 million, which makes it by far the most popular social networking site, above both Twitter and Facebook. Because both MXit and MathX are available for free on cellphones, and because cellphones are so common in South Africa, this new educational game is accessible to all pupils, regardless of their background.

According to Michael Horn, co-author of Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns, MathX is exactly the type of educational trend we should be looking out for in 2011: “Roughly 70 million children worldwide do not have access to primary school. Over 200 million do not attend secondary school. In the countries and regions where this is the reality, mobile learning will offer education for people who historically have not had access to it.”

In South Africa, both the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), and Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), have shown that South Africans underperform in basic numeracy and literacy skills. In response to this, Edge Campus plans to release a new educational mini-game every three months that focuses on a different learning skill.

The pre-launch version of MathX, called Play.24 that has already been released on MXit, gained 15 000 registered users in two months, without advertising. The updated version will be released today.

Early players of the pre-launch version seem to agree with Horn’s prediction. They claim to be receiving an education through their cellphones. Paul Kim, CEO of Edge Campus, is excited that they are leading the South African initiative in mobile education, but his greatest encouragement has come from the players themselves: “We’ve had really positive feedback so far. One anonymous MXit player said: ‘This game helped me to calculate numbers without a calculator and now I can add, subtract, multiply and divide’. Another added: ‘It teaches you proper maths, you will get educated. Try it out and see’.”


• If you want to try it out and see, then from today simply register for MXit on your cellphone, add Edge Campus as a contact, follow the installation instructions and begin the game.




• Sarah Groves is a freelance writer living in Pietermaritzburg.


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