Parents, if your child complains about how boring and difficult maths is, here’s some good news. Brainy Arkies, the new maths learning app by Marshall Cavendish Education, aims to make maths more fun by combining learning with play. In the app, children solve maths questions to level up and build a world of wonders with the help of lovable creatures called Arkies.
We spoke to Product and Programme Manager Ngoi Kian Peng to learn more.
What was the inspiration behind Brainy Arkies?
Brainy Arkies is novel in the way serious gaming, automated adaptive testing and self-directed learning with parental supervision are combined to provide the best learning outcome for the child. The inspiration behind Brainy Arkies is to create a believable, immersive 3D virtual world where kids are more engaged and motivated to learn maths in a fun way. The kids can build, explore or move up levels through ages of history with the help of local inhabitants called Arkies – friendly creatures in their own enchanting land of wonders. Arkies must increase their wisdom by correctly answering maths quizzes in order to build bigger or more elaborate structures or to progress further in a quest.
How did the concept and design come about?
During the conceptualisation and design of Brainy Arkies, we first had to understand the requirements of the key stakeholders, the parent and child. One key concern we had to address was the concept of learning through play. Parents might not understand how a game can help their child learn. They will also be concerned about their kids spending too much time playing games, the topics included in the app and being able to track their child’s progress. The latter can be done through the app’s analytics reports.
For the child, we had to consider the different game genres, for example, building, role-play, action and adventure; the user experience; creating an immersive virtual world with a strong theme and believable story; user retention techniques such as leaderboards, awards, badges and mini-games, and user engagement through collaborations with others.
A delicate balance between parents’ concerns and the child’s enjoyment has to be maintained. Several market research and pilot tests were conducted for both parents and their kids. First, market research was commissioned to test parents’ reception to the Brainy Arkies concept. Then a pilot trial was conducted for both parents and their child to gather their feedback. Finally, several short trials were conducted for the kids to fine-tune the final product.
What were some of the difficulties encountered along the way?
We needed to ensure the design and gameplay appeals to children in Primary 1 to 6. Younger kids like cartoon characters while older kids may prefer human-like characters. There must also be a balance between gameplay and learning to ensure the child is continually engaged and motivated to learn. Children in Primary 1 to Primary 3 may have more difficulties navigating the app. It is important to ensure that the right language level is used and the built-in tutorial is able to guide a child through their learning independently.
Also, Brainy Arkies is for the consumer market and we need to understand parents’ needs for a digital learning app. For example, parents have little time to monitor their kids’ performance and the app must be designed for self-directed learning.
Finally, we also faced the challenge of integrating the diagnostic questions, adaptive learning engine, recommendation engine and the remediation content.
How does the app benefit children and parents?
Children are more engaged and motivated as they enjoy learning in the immersive world of the Arkies. They are also rewarded with mini-games, awards and badges as they learn. They will feel less stressed when learning in the fun environment and this increases the efficiency of learning.
Their learning experience is also personalised due to the use of an adaptive learning engine. The easy-to-understand visuals and step-by-step solutions with clear instructions are designed for self-directed learning to help children master maths.
Parents can benefit from being able to monitor their child’s learning through detailed learning performance reports. These provide information such as which topics have been covered, scores and attempts, time spent on quizzes and solutions to questions. The app also recommends remedial actions, such as intervention content when necessary. Higher ability children can be challenged by more difficult questions, topical tests and exam-type questions. Parents also have supervisory controls such as a daily time limit, study mode, social collaboration and managing of topics. Finally, the app contains over 12,000 questions for Primary 1 to 4 based on the MOE maths curriculum.
Will there be more levels and features?
Brainy Arkies will be constantly refreshed and updated with new features and activities. Additional Ages will be introduced so that the child will able to progress through their learning journey together with the Arkies. There are also plans to develop a multiplayer game platform where kids can challenge or collaborate with each other.
Are there any plans to create a similar app for other subjects, for example, English or Science?
Yes, there are plans to introduce Science into Brainy Arkies.