Mathematician Expedition "Correct" screenMathematician Expedition home screenMathematician Expedition problem screen


The goal of this project was to design the experience and interface of an app that would help motivate kids to practice their math skills and allowing rigor to adapt to each individual student. Using gamification as the core of the experience, users would take part in enjoyable practice at home and motivating competition in the classroom. By engaging the students with a reward system and restructuring the process as an exciting adventure, Mathematician Expedition helps students build intrinsic motivation to learn while providing the teacher with the important ability of adaptable teaching.

The Problem

Young students do not enjoy practicing mathematics and it is difficult for educators to facilitate adaptable levels of rigor to ensure every student is challenged and engaged.

Target Audience

8 - 10 year olds that need motivation to practice mathematics at home and ensure participation in the classroom.

My ROle

Product Designer (Research, Visual Design, Prototyping)

Tools Used

Adobe XD, Adobe Illustrator, Rotato

Time Frame

April - May 2019


Understanding the user

Before I even began thinking about a concept for the app, I knew I needed to get a better understanding of the kids that would be using it. Some basic research yielded significant developmental milestones kids are reaching at this age. They are becoming more dependent on their social groups, beginning to pursue an ever-shifting list of interests, and experiencing extrinsic motivators like peer pressure, competition, and cooperation. 

Image of young boy with description:
Jonathan, 9 years old, 4th grader in public school system, resident of Portland Oregon, energetic, polite, and somewhat shy, likes playing video games like Fortnite and Minecraft, plays club basketball and baseball, very competitive, upper-middle class family, dislikes math, history, and doing his homework
I developed this persona during my research to help me better remember my target audience.

To get a deeper understanding of my users, I met with a professor of psychology at Auburn University who specializes in social psychology, motivation, and emotion. He emphasized the effectiveness of reward systems/gamification and provided lots of helpful insights into how the difficulty of tasks should be structured for kids this age.


Concept + wireframes

As I researched, a concept began to take shape; I could leverage the social and competitive motivations that were developing in these kids with a gamified math app. Students could practice with the app at home and compete in the classroom, acting as a nontraditional homework/quiz system that they might actually enjoy. To increase engagement I gave the app a jungle theme, hoping to transport the students out of their potentially boring classroom environment and into an exciting adventure.

Mathematician Expedition wireframe sketches

I chose to develop the concept for tablet sized devices to leverage the increasingly popular class sets of iPads schools have been utilizing over the past several years. I began by sketching out the basic structure before moving onto the illustrations that would make the app exciting and engaging.

Mathematician Expedition visual style: soft, round, and playful
This soft and bubbly illustration style made the app feel friendly and energetic. All illustrations were custom designed in Adobe Illustrator.


Final Design + Prototype

The final prototype shows both the competitive classroom mode and the at-home practice mode. Make sure you turn on your sound for the sound effects and original soundtrack I wrote to make the app more fun and engaging!


What I Learned + Final Thoughts

This project was considerably different than any other I've done for two reasons: it's a game and it's for kids. These two factors really changed the way I had to approach the project. I had very little personal experience to consider when making design decisions because it has been so long since I was in my audience's shoes and technology was completely different back then. While user testing wasn't in the scope of the project, I would be very interested to see how kids interact with the prototype; I imagine that user testing experience would be quite atypical!

I really enjoyed getting to explore different creative avenues with this project. Illustration and music composition, while not directly related to user experience design, are what really made this project stand out to me. It was fun to break away from the typical minimalist app design style that has been so popular for the last several years and create an interface with almost no negative space.

check out another project

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A responsive website redesign with a focus on improved marketing and usability.

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Copyright © 2020 Jake Martin