MatheArena – A Mobile App as a Maths Teacher

The couple stands in front of the Digitalos Awards screen and presents the trophy and the certificate.
Gerald and Eva-Maria Infanger at Digitalos Award Foto: © MatheArena

Hagenberg, 28 November 2023: Husband-and-wife teachers Eva-Maria and Gerald Infanger from Upper Austria’s Innviertel want to remove children’s fear of learning maths. To do this, they have developed a learning app called “MatheArena”. This digital educational aid enables flexible and mobile learning so that pupils can build up their knowledge in small “doses”. In September, first results of the cooperation with Veritas, publishers of school textbooks, were published and the app is now being officially introduced in school lessons. On 16 November, founder Eva-Maria Infanger was presented with the Digitalia special prize. Software Competence Center Hagenberg (SCCH) contributed additional scientific expertise to developing the adaptive algorithm necessary for assessing the degree of difficulty of the maths problems. The partnership received funding from the FFG’s starter programme.

Geared to Individual Learning Outcomes

“The app’s level of difficulty automatically adapts to the learner’s current level of knowledge,” explains Eva-Maria Infanger. “In this way, the maths topics can be learned in small doses in the form of multiple-choice questions and mini games, which is both entertaining and motivating. Our aim is to set levels of difficulty that pose just enough of a challenge to increase the learners’ motivation without their getting frustrated or out of their depth.” The app’s design focuses primarily on the learners’ individual needs. “In particular, we take the needs of girls and women into account to show them that everyone is capable of thinking mathematically and to strengthen their interest and self-confidence with regard to STEM professions,” Infanger adds.

A cell phone with the application open. Various layers with examples of the application graphics were placed over the screen.
Photo: © MatheArena

Gamification Based on Chess

Assessing the degree of difficulty of different kinds of problem, and consequently assessing the pupils’ proficiency in maths, is an essential component of the app. “For this, we took the Elo rating system used in chess and computer games as the basis,” says Gerald Infanger. “The Elo rating describes the proficiency of chess players. It’s named after its Hungarian-American inventor, Arpad Elo. In our project, we developed the concept so that a maths problem is rated the way an opposing player would be. This makes it possible to estimate its level of difficulty. Elo ratings are now used in a number of different games and sports.” In this system, the players (learners) and problems are given a fair rating: If I solve a difficult problem I win a lot of points; if I fail, I only lose a few points owing to the problem’s difficulty. Florian Sobieczky, senior researcher data science, is researching AI-assisted prescriptive analytics at SCCH. He explains: “We wanted to find an efficient, in other words fast, way of implementing the Elo rating system.” This aim was achieved by accelerating the convergence of the rating sequence for correctly assessing the level of difficulty. This enables highly accurate assessment of users and problems after 15 to 20 attempts at solving them. Among the aspects used for this were the elements common to the individual disciplines (geometry, differential calculus, algebra, …). “We are faced with similar problems when training artificial intelligence,” says Sobieczky. “For instance, existing expertise (in physics-informed neural networks, for example) can be transferred to the learning process of artificial intelligence and so speed it up.”

Two schoolgirls are standing on the platform in front of a ticket machine. Both girls have the app open on their cell phones and the left one is pointing at the friend's display.
Learn math anywhere © MatheArena

Playful Approach to STEM Subjects

In the classroom, suitable measures are needed to stimulate pupils’ interest in the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). “In school, mathematics – the basis of most STEM subjects – is often thought of as difficult and having little to do with the real world,” says Eva-Maria Infanger. “With our app pupils can approach it as a game and gain long-term benefits.” The MatheArena founders also regularly monitor how the app affects approaches to the psychology of learning. “At the teacher training college in Baden our app was used to go through the topics covered in the subject of geometry,” says Eva-Maria Infanger, who is writing about MatheArena in her doctoral thesis. “The pupils suddenly started discussing geometry and set about solving the problem with much more enthusiasm and initiative.” “Our vision is to make mathematics an international language that connects young people from all over the world,” Infanger explains. “Our app is now being used at a great many schools (by whole classes and institutions) all over Austria.”

About Software Competence Center Hagenberg GmbH (SCCH)

Software Competence Center Hagenberg GmbH (SCCH) was founded in 1999 as a spin-off by the Johannes Kepler University Linz and can look back on many successful years. The centre has grown significantly, particularly in the last few years. Today, 130 people from 23 nations work at SCCH. With a rapidly growing portfolio of national and EU-wide projects this member of the UAR Innovation Network is set for a highly successful future

Portrait of Sobieczky Florian
Sobieczky Florian © SCCH

About MatheArena

MatheArena combines learning maths through games with adaptive difficulty in a single app. Flexible practice with no need for pen and paper enables a form of learning that is both motivating and efficient. The approach is based on the latest findings from the psychology of learning. It incorporates mini games and reward mechanisms and enables forms of learning tailored to the needs of every individual.

MatheArena has already scored a number of successes, including over 100,000 downloads, several awards (such as in the Digitalia special category of the Digitalos awards organized by the Oberösterreichische Nachrichten newspaper) and numerous positive comments from users. Its innovative, evidence-based approach coupled with its focus on personalized, game-based learning makes MatheArena the ideal solution to improving maths proficiency and promoting the next generation of STEM talents. The app is currently being translated into English, Turkish and Indonesian. More languages will follow.

For more information, contact:

Software Competence Center Hagenberg
Mag. Martina Höller, Science Communication, (+43) 50 343 882,
Martina.Hoeller@scch.at, www.scch.at

MatheArena
MatheArena GmbH, Mag. Eva-Maria Infanger, (+43) 677 62117718,
eva-maria@mathearena.com, www.MatheArena.com