The path to grammar school
Mathilda (2018)


Getting into grammar school is tough. The entrance exam allows you little time while covering a lot of material. In Zürich, only half of the students pass the exam.

That’s where Mathilda comes into the picture, an iOS app created by my 11-year old son and me. It helps schoolkids get ready for the algebra tests. Mathilda proved to be a useful companion for many, receiving such feedback as:

"OMG, best app, I passed the exam with a 5.32 average. Very handy, can only recommend!!!"
—Review on the App Store

How it began

A year before my son’s entrance exam to grammar school, we looked at various maths courses, books and apps. We needed something that provides the prep materials but leaves my son in charge. An app, if possible, which would pique my son’s interest. It’s the app era, after all.

So we’re building an app

Since we couldn’t find anything that would fit our needs, we decided to develop an app ourselves.

The app is there to support student in the most arduous part of the journey, repeatedly solve the same type of mathematical problems until one can do them fast and faultless.

Forming a habit

My main goal in designing the app was to make solving maths problems a daily habit. Students shouldn’t spend hours in one sitting but rather take bite-sized sessions and avoid overload. This keeps their motivation high through constant positive reinforcement.

Features like scores, notifications and statistics help maintaining the habit.

Leveling up

We designed a smart leveling system in Mathilda that always matches the student’s skill level. Since preparation is a marathon rather than a sprint, students will gradually get up to speed, driven by nudges rather than kicks.

Let’s talk UX—Information architecture

The app’s content is divided into three main sections:
1. Home—providing a brief progress overview and recommendations
2. Exercises—the place of action where the exercises reside
3. Stats—combining statistics and history

Exercise inventory

There are a few types of algebra exercises required for the exam that come in different difficulty levels: basic calculations, equations, units of measurement and also word problems.

For example:


Mathilda is designed for kids who are serious about their studies. They are digital natives grown up using apps like Whatsapp and YouTube.

The UI is optimised for daily use and puts the focus on what needs to be improved. The visual style is dominated by the colors for the different exercise types, acting as signposts.

The app uses subtle animations and transitions to make key moments more delightful:


We launched an MVP version of the app in 2018 on the App Store and it immediately received very positive feedback. The app helped a lot of schoolkids throughout Zürich to prepare for the entrance exam to their gymnasium of choice.


© Zoltan Gocza