Homegrown board game teaches maths skills

Lebone Mano
By Lebone Mano, junior journalist
Johannesburg, 24 Mar 2021

With stats indicating that six out of 10 South African learners lack basic maths skills, Static City Math, a Monopoly-style app, aims to change that by drawing these learners to maths at a preparatory level (from 11 to 15 years old).

The game allows learners to practise maths by answering equations based on addition, subtraction, division, multiplication and ascending/descending order. Each correct answer earns learners one Static City currency, which will accumulate and can eventually be used to buy property around the city, including monuments such as the Union Buildings and the Taj Mahal.

The game was developed by Mukenge Kim Chulu Amina Arnaud of Kimard Studio, a local dev agency focused on improving education.

Says Arnaud: “Research into the world's maths levels per country shows that if pupils understand mathematical concepts early enough, they will do better in the subject later. So this age group was chosen for the game because they’re not too young, they can make their own decisions and they’re likely to have their own phone.

“It’s a pivotal group to instill basics into and it’s also where the mess tends to start.”

Ahead of its time

While Static City Math was only recently relaunched, the concept has been around for almost a decade. “In 2013, my then partners and I built some interactive apps; we approached the Department of Basic Education (DBE) with the idea of where we saw education going, which is digital,” Mukenge says.

“The feedback we got was that, ‘we like your ideas, but how about digitising these books for us and basing the game on that?’

“This wasn't viable for us,” he says. “Who would incur the costs of digitising those textbooks? The idea came too early and the department wasn’t visionary enough.” He adds that the Eastern and Western Cape governments and Botswana were much more receptive to the idea and wanted to invest in it.

“Fast forward to 2020 when the pandemic struck and kids were forced to stay home; they were not being stimulated as much as they would be at school and the DBE was suddenly talking about the need to go digital.

“All we needed to do was repackage everything.”

Gaming to pay off my school fees?

Static City’s content was compiled by a teacher. Arnaud tasked her with simplifying definitions and making maths terminology easier to consume. Some of the app's features include monitoring for parents and guardians and video lessons.

“I was never good at maths as a kid, but now that I'm older, I can see its value,” he says. “Problem-solving goes beyond getting the answer right, so the plan is to add other features so that the currency can be used to buy more than property. This will introduce kids to financial literacy and we could involve banks at this point.”

A leaderboard will be added to the app soon to host tournaments. “We can start with monthly district competitions and work towards an annual event where the winner’s fees could possibly be settled for the year. We’d like to partner with the department at this level.”

Static City Math is available on iOS and Android.