Start Up

App's big plus is in adding fun to maths

Ms Chua (left), a big believer of children learning through play, put a "six-figure sum" of her own money into developing DetecThink. Madam Ang (right) said the game appeals to her son Ethan, who has been playing the game and has completed it several
Ms Chua (left), a big believer of children learning through play, put a "six-figure sum" of her own money into developing DetecThink. Madam Ang (right) said the game appeals to her son Ethan, who has been playing the game and has completed it several times.ST PHOTO: DON CHI

Children solve equations to get gadgets and clues to find a missing crown in DetecThink

Mathematics can be a chore for many children, but a local start-up hopes to subtract the tedium and add a little entertainment.

Intellipath Games, founded in February last year, has developed an edutainment app that weaves mathematical problems into an interactive detective story, in which children have to solve equations to acquire gadgets and clues to find Prince Colin's missing crown.

The iOS-only app, called DetecThink, is targeted at six- to 10-year-olds. It was released on the iTunes store three weeks ago in Singapore and several other countries such as the United States and Malaysia. The first four chapters are free to play, but unlocking all 10 costs $6.98.

Ms Grace Chua, co-founder and director of Intellipath Games, said that she is a big believer of children learning though play.

The mother of a boy, 18, and a girl, 14, said: "There's always a push and pull. Mums don't want their children to miss out on mobile games like Pokemon Go and Angry Birds but, at the same time, these games take time away from homework. DetecThink combines both."

This is the first time Ms Chua, who is in her 40s, has delved into the technology sector. She worked in the consumer goods industry for over two decades, and her last appointment was as vice-president of Asia-Pacific strategy and marketing operations at Johnson & Johnson. She left the company last January, after 14 years.

She said: "I may not be able to ask the techie questions, but what I bring is my marketing background, to improve the user experience."

Intellipath Games has a four-man IT team working on the app.

Ms Chua also sank a "six-figure sum" of her own money into developing the app, which she calls her "passion project". "I really believe in seeing how we can integrate technology into education," she said.

To develop the app, the firm spoke to maths tutors to better understand what skills children needed. DetecThink has five levels of addition and subtraction problems, ranging from single-digit numbers to 999.

It also hired a composer to write original music, and a cast of seven voice actors to bring to life characters such as Chief Arthur, who Ms Chua describes as a "James Bond wannabe with a British accent".

"It was really exciting, like producing a mini-movie," she said. The app took about 11/2 years to develop, from start to end.

While the first DetecThink hasonly addition and subtraction, future instalments may have multiplication and division, and even elements of history and geography.

Ethan Lim, eight, has been playing the game for about two weeks. He said that DetecThink is as fun as his other favourite game, Pokemon Go.

His mother, Madam Lydia Ang, said that Ethan used to dread assessment books, but has now completed DetecThink multiple times.

"It's presented in a way that is very interesting, and appeals to children," she said.

Ms Chua said: "This is really a product by a mum, for another mum."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2016, with the headline 'App's big plus is in adding fun to maths'. Print Edition | Subscribe