Getting into grammar school is tough. The entrance exam allows you little time while covering a lot of material—much of which is not even taught in primary school. 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 to help schoolkids get ready for the algebra tests. It proved to be a useful companion for many students and received the most flattering feedback a designer can hope for, such as:
"OMG, best app, I passed the exam with a 5.32 average. Very handy, can only recommend!!!"
About 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 much stronger than any book might. It’s the app era, after all.
Suffice to say, we couldn’t find anything that would fit our needs. We decided to take things into our hands and develop an app ourselves. And thus was born Mathilda.
While designing the app, my main goal 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.
We designed a smart leveling system in Mathilda that generates exercises with a difficulty level matching the student’s skills. Since preparation is a marathon rather than a sprint, students will gradually get up to speed, driven by nudges rather than kicks.
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
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. The app caters for multiple types that can be further extended later.
Mathilda is designed for daily use by kids who take studying seriously. They are digital natives grown up using apps like Whatsapp and YouTube.
Mathilda puts a focus on your progress and what skills you need to improve. It employs a clean layout and a visual style dominated by colors associated with the different types of exercises, acting as effective 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.