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MonsterNums

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The math learning app that caters to the unique needs of students with ADHD

Our Mission

Empowering young minds with a tailored learning experience

MonsterNums is dedicated to offering an online learning platform catered to the unique needs of students with ADHD. Our specific audience faces math learning specific challenges in traditional education and our objective is to empower users by enabling them to personalize their learning experience. 

Develop innovative teaching methods

We strive to discover teaching methods that are proven to be effective for all learners as well as uncover successful math learning secrets for those specifically whose learning styles do not quite fit with the traditional education systems

Build confidence and self-worth

We believe that nurturing mental health by building self-confidence, self-esteem, and encouraging autonomy are just as crucial to building math skills. 

Research Objectives

Explore

the business ideas through UX research to formally define the Minimal Viable Product (MVP) and Minimal Marketable Product (MMP)

Validate

the problems attempting to be solved and perform evaluative research to determine product and market viability

Refine

foundational vision, product strategy, and target audience 

Build

interaction and service designs for flows per the client's needs

Implement and explore

design sets and pathways representing client's needs

Literature Review

Gamification

What it means to turn math learning into a game

One of Product and Design’s goals for phase 2 is to begin implementing gamification. It was up to us as a the UX Research team to gather necessary information and gain an understanding of how to begin "gamifying" our product.

We gathered approximately 15 articles that met our research objectives:

What is gamification and its various types in an educational context?

Foundational principles

Effective examples, elements, and strategies

How is it applied to improve learning outcomes?
  • Engagement, motivation, knowledge acquisition, retention

  • in context to learning disabilities

What are its drawbacks and limitations in education?
  • including accessibility and ethical issues

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Here is a screenshot of the Gamification Literature review reference list. We included notes on what specific question - respective to our research objectives - did each article answer and why.

What was learned

Gamification uses game elements and design principles in non-gaming settings

Commonly used design principles:

  • Freedom of choice

  • Freedom to fail

  • Visual status

  • Social engagement

  • Rapid Feedback

A potential tool to aid in the development of children including those with learning disabilities

Gamified learning supports

  • Critical and creative thinking through strategy elements

  • Motivation and engagement through visual and social cues (ie. progress indicators)

Gaming tools has been found to improve students' learning achievement 

Educators can create:

  • Personalized learning experiences

  • Variety of exercises

  • Specific feedback and rewards

Limitations of gamification

  • Sustaining long-term engagement

    • Though gamification excels in short-term engagement, sustaining engagement over time has been a known challenge​

  • One size does not fit all

    • Gamification should take learners' autonomy ​

  • Potential lack of customization​​

    • could lead to superficial learning​

Survey

Math App Solutions

Pivoting to customization

After meeting with the stakeholder, Anna, we decided as a team to pivot our focus towards customization rather than gamifcation

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This meant we also needed to revise our MVP for phase 2. Our strategy team led the way in pointing our efforts in the new direction. As the UX Research team, we agreed that our priority now is to validate user need for customization in learning platforms. We decided the best way to accomplish this was through a survey.

What do parents and caregivers think?

Assessing how math learning apps and other solutions are being used by parents and caregivers

Research objectives
  • Assess the current scope of math educational apps and other relevant solutions used by parents of children with ADHD.

  • Understand parent’s needs, goals, and expectations in using these solutions.
    Identify challenges, frustrations, and unmet needs

  • Understand parent’s thoughts, opinions, experiences on customization options within these apps and solutions.

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What was learned

Familiarity with apps or games used in the child's school environment significantly influences parents' choice of digital tools.

Parents tend to prefer apps and games that their children are already familiar with, possibly because they align with the child's learning experience in school.​

Parents seek apps that are engaging, align with the school curriculum, provide shorter and more focused activities, and offer options for managing screen time effectively.

“Hard to teach rules, lack of meaningful rewards, too much time commitment, and want to lessen the amount of screen time.”

Effective design and balance in educational resources are essential for fostering a positive learning experience for children with ADHD.

An excess of interactive elements can be distracting, and poorly designed reward systems may discourage struggling learners.

Some parents find that certain apps lack differentiation from traditional paper quizzes or worksheets, potentially indicating a need for more engaging and interactive features in digital learning tools.

Parents value digital tools that encourage a growth mindset, and promote deep thinking about the subject matter.

Over half of the participants utilize tutoring to support their child’s math learning. This reflects a strong demand for personalized, one-on-one support

Parents may value the personalized that tutoring offers to address their child's specific learning needs.

Parents emphasize the importance of focusing on the learning process and understanding rather than test-like activities.

They value features that facilitate the comprehension of patterns and problem-solving methods.

Competitive Audit

Learning platform customizations

Assessing the market

What customization features exist within our various competitor products?

Competitive Audit on customization features

Objectives:

  • Uncover what customization is and how it exists within various competitors

  • Identify places within our app where it can be advantageous without overbearing to the learner with ADHD

  • Identify which aspects of customization to prioritize based on user needs

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We compiled a list of competitors and categorized the most common features:

  • Sensation and stimuli

  • Accessibility

  • Gamification elements

  • Content/Format

We also classified between features that are most commonly a parent/guardian or learner controlled feature.

Sensation and Stimuli

Visual, auditory, and sensory elements

  • Helps remove distractions

  • Simplify sensory inputs

Recommendations

  • Adjustable text size

  • Multiple volume options

  • Adjustable playback speed

  • Color themes options - high contrast and dark mode

  • Ability to remove or minimize animations, pop-ups, or autoplay features

Accessibility
  • Users with visual, auditory, speech, dexterity, cognitive, mobility, and other disabilities can engage with content easily and effectively.

Recommendations

  • Offer downloadable transcripts

  • Text-to-Speech and Speech-to-Text

  • Descriptive alt text to images, graphics, charts, etc

  • Highlight and Listen to text

  • High-contrast mode

Game Elements
  • Customizable elements like game speed, time limits, or progress tracking can accommodate different learning paces

  • Customized milestones/rewards can provide students with a greater sense of achievement and accomplishment

  • personalized avatars, themes, or rewards can increase intrinsic motivations.

Recommendations

  • Choice of sound affects for achievements

  • Progress tracking tools - progress bars, badges, lists

  • Customizable themes - avatars and visual elements

Content and Format
  • Adjust the amount and type of content displayed

  • Choosing between what media is accessible to learner

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Recommendations

  • Ability to set daily or weekly engagement quotas

  • Create individual profiles for each learner to have saved preferences

  • Parent/caretaker view of learner's progress and activity

  • Custom learning styles

  • Focus modes

Heuristic Evaluation

Onboarding screens

As we neared this phase's usability testing, we wanted to audit our current design to evaluate our progress.

In order to provide the design and writing team with feedback before moving on to usability testing, we opted to conduct a Heuristic Evaluation of the Child Onboarding flow. Each team member examined all screens of the prototype and provided feedback based on the usability heuristics below:

My contribution of the evaluation can be viewed here:

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Presenting our findings to the design team

Once completed, we had a meeting with the design team to discuss our findings

View the full report here:

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Account Creation

Missing Labels

  • Placeholders disappear when field is active

Forgot Password

  • Only relevant to the log in screen

Layout and wording

  • Can cause confusion due to inconsistencies and repetition

Math Topics

Selection patterns

  • Lack of contrast between selection and non-selection

Inaccessible info modal

  • Touch target is too small

No exit plan

  • Users can't go back, skip, or exit

Customization

Lack of affordance

  • Will users know how to operate this screen?

  • Customizations applying only to the preview window may cause confusion

Transition Screens

Inconsistent transitions

  • These screens change after a delay, as opposed to the "next" button we've seen before

App Settings

Is the navigation intuitive?

  • Some subjects don't seem to fit well in certain categories

Reasoning for input fields
  • Do we need both name and username?

  • Data needs for age/birthday

  • Is "learner's profile" accessible jargon?

Is there enough affordance?
  • will users know how to operate this specific screen?

Feedback on UX Writing

Simplify language

  • "Visual preferences" may not be accessible for our target audience

Give clear instructions

  • "What would you like to learn together" could imply learning these subjects at the same time rather than learning with the math buddy.

Usability Test

Phase 2 MVP - Onboarding flow

After some design iterations, it was time to test this onboarding flow with users

We created an unmoderated usability test through Lyssna and recruited 4 parents of children 8-11 with ADHD-specific math learning needs.

Users will be tasked with completing the onboarding flow by first creating an account
Selecting lesson material
And finally, fine tuning their experience through customizations
Additionally, we gave them the option to skip it all

We wanted to gather information on user preferences of the placement of customizations in general. To do that, we added a "skip for now" option to test whether they would prefer to make customization decisions later in the onboarding process. Or maybe, they'd prefer it outside of the onboarding flow completely

Observing how they navigated the onboarding flow

Avg. time spent - 3:29 min.

In a real-world scenario, this could be longer.

if any additional features need to be included in the future, the overall onboarding length will need to be considered

Interactive sample problem

2 out of 4 participants clicked on the sample problem elements (marbles and container), which suggests participants expected it might be interactable

Interactive math buddy

Users expect math buddy to be animated or to produce a specific sound (2 out of 4 users)

Users wanted to hear the sound options

During sound customization users expect to hear what each sound is like (3 out of 4 users).​

Participants often clicked on the whole card to play sounds and select their preferred sounds.

Users sampled all customizations

3 out of 4 participants tried all customization options before moving to the next screen → changing activity window helps users make a decision about customization

Follow up thoughts and opinions

After the usability test, we asked participants a few follow up questions

Are there any screens that you would have decided to skip/not skip if you were doing this with your child? And why?

“ I think that background sound type should have words related to what kids would know. So I would use things like "Rain" and "Wind/Fan" "Nature" with pictures. These words are much more elementary-level of their understanding since it is an app for them to use vs adults.”

Key insights:

  • What happens with the topics they’re comfortable with after they enter the app? Would they be revisited in their lesson plan or would we not mention those topics? It seems that it might cause confusion for users.

  • It might be more helpful to have familiar words paired with visual aids to describe the different sounds rather than jargon terms such as “pink noise, white noise”, etc.

Which of the customization options did you find useful or not useful (Medium font, Bionic font, Square grid, High contrast, Frequency of breaks, Background sound type, Math Buddy color)? Why or why not?

“If I choose music will it play the whole time the app is open? Are there music controls on the screen at all times? How do I turn it off quickly without having to go into settings?”

Key insights:

  • Participants seem to prioritize features that they do not have a direct influence over through their devices settings such as font size, dark mode. Users are more interested in unique app-specific customization options such as bionic font that are offered beyond standard basic settings.

  • It’s not very obvious that the sound/music selections would be played throughout their entire experience of the app. Users might want to be able to readily turn on/off the sound during their lessons in addition to having the option to do so in the settings page.

Would you want customization options to be accessible during the onboarding process of the app? Please expand on your answer.

“it's hard to understand what some of the customizations will be like in the app without experiencing the app/lessons first.”

Key insights:

  • Participants have differing preferences regarding the timing of the customization options suggesting that they might value having these options more once they clearly understand our app’s content and structure

Please select the top 3 customization options that you would find to be most useful to include.
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Key insights:

  • Results align with the customization survey in which parents selected read/aloud features and direct feedback as being the most helpful aspects of additional resources used to supplement their children’s math learning.

Reflection and Next Steps

Hand off for phase 3

What we set out to do

Further assess user needs relating to math and math learning apps. 

Assess user opinions and thoughts on customization as well as potential implementation of customization

What didn't work

Recruitment for this age range and niche user characteristics was a challenge. Finding qualified participants became a limitation to the quality of our research

What we did

Literature Review of gamification

Survey on e-learning solutions

Design Audit on customization

Heuristic Evaluation

Unmoderated Usability study

What's Next

  • Utilizing users outside of our specific user type could be a reasonable consideration

  • For future reference, begin recruiting for test participants as early as possible

  • Direct our research efforts into fully validating the user problem and need 

My takeaway

Grateful - I broadened my horizons with agile collaboration in product design

My biggest takeaway was being able to learn and work in an agile setting with other team member at Tech Fleet. This was a deliberate choice, driven by my desire for collaborative experiences, which were notably absent in my studies at DesignLab. As a junior designer and researcher, this opportunity has been invaluable to me, offering insights into the intricate dynamics of product development and design. 

Thanks for reading! Check out more of my work

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