Author Archives: The Creator

Multi student / device support

One of the most popular features requested in the first version of the app, was to allow siblings and school children to use the app and to allow students to keep track of their progress.

Several new features have been designed to achieve this goal.

From the settings within the app, you can turn on multi student mode. Here you can add new students and optionally enable the user toggle button. The user toggle button allows you to tap on the students name on the main screen. This enables parents of teachers to easily switch been students.

Several children or even a whole class can use the app keep their progression through times tables between sessions. We hope this feature will be popular in schools.

Here you can see that a student has completed some tables but is locked out of other tables until they have completed earlier times tables. This ensures that the student has completed simpler times tables before progressing on to more difficult (or more challenging) ones.

As a parent or teacher you can also manage your students and see an overview of their performance

We hope these features will be popular with schools and families.


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Siri / Voice Recordings

Siri has become an extremely popular feature in iOS and we have been able to incorporate it into the app. Siri is used in conjunction with recorded voices (provided in English) to cater for several new languages.

With version 1 of the app we investigated the differences between UK and US English, for numbering.

In the UK we would say ten times twelve equals one hundred and twenty.

In the US we would say ten times twelve equals one hundred twenty.

Notice the ‘and’ in the UK, we took care to ensure that these subtle differences were included, which mean a lot to the specific culture.

Obviously cultural knowledge isn’t easy to include for all languages. In version 2 we took the decision to provide the app in additional languages, but as we didn’t have the cultural knowledge, we provided these extra languages with Siri.

We felt it was better to provide the app in these extra languages even if we weren’t able to provide voice recordings, however in the future we hope to roll out voice recordings for other languages.


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Universal device support

The first version of the app was designed purely for iPad. However, all of the images in that version have been converted into drawing code. This has made it possible to cater for larger devices without a loss in quality.

Adding support for the iPad Pro 12 inch created some development issues. Drawing code had to be specifically modified to cater for the bigger size. We also support the iPad Pro 10.5 inch and the iPhone X.

The app also now supports Touch ID and Face ID, this is optionally available as an alternative to the pin login feature, which restricts access to the settings screens.

In order to provide multiple student features, iCloud was required to allow students to share several devices, perhaps an iPhone and iPad. Adding iCloud support was complex and care was taken to provide easy to use features which had flexibility for use in schools.

Version 1 of the app had voice recordings, however there was no choice to use siri. English students can now use siri or voice recordings. With improvements to Siri, other languages were possible and have been added to the app for use primarily by non English students.


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Multiple languages

In the first version of the app we provided voice recordings, however these were only available in English.

Although it would be possible to provide voice recordings in other languages, this would have greatly increased the development time and as a result made the inclusion of some languages problematic.

Care has been taken to ensure that the translations are of a high quality and that numbering and wording is used correctly for that culture.

The app is now available is UK English, US English, French, Spanish, Russian, German and Simplified Chinese.

You can see a demonstration of the app via the video on your local app store.


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How we designed the app (v2)

Please see the blog post about the first version of the app here.


Version 1

Version 2

If you were to compare version 1 against version 2, you may notice that at first glance there isn’t a great deal which looks different.

A lot of the changes have been made for technical reasons and to increase performance.

You may notice, that the monkey looks slightly different. Images do look different because they’ve been adjustedand converted into resizable drawings. These changes make is possible to provide sharp / quality drawings for different size devices.

The app is now available across all iPhones and iPads, including the new iPhone X.

Our times tables apps have grown over several years with each new version we’ve listened to customer feedback from parents and schools.

One of the key feature requests, was to allow multiple students / siblings to use the app and keep track of their progression through tables.  

With version 2, we have introduced iCloud support and multiple student support to make the app available to a lot more students.

We wanted to make the app available to students world wide. This was rather a large undertaking, so as well as UK English and US English we have added French, Spanish, Russian, German and Simplified Chinese languages. But this is an ongoing process and this first step provides these additional languages with Siri Support rather than voice recordings.

This now means that you can use Siri in English too.

With so many new features and options, we needed some settings to allow parents and teachers to turn on these features. We have added a parent gate, which allows settings to be restricted. If your device has Touch ID or Face ID, this can be employed to make access to settings easier.


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How we designed the app

First we drew out the old iphone version of the app and with all the comments / feedback we redesigned the layout specifically for iPad. For example, with the extra space, we were able to add buttons for random answers on the test screen, this removed the need for the keypad. This made the app much simpler and more fun as we were able to randomly place the correct answer, multiple choice.

Then we decided to lock the tables on the screen where the child could select which table they would like to be tested upon. This made it more fun and engaging. Next we thought about a way to make the app more fun, so we expanded on the chimp theme from the iPhone version. We made the chimp cuter and added fun sounds, that played at specific points in the app.

We went through several drafts and got feedback at each stage.

Then we hired a voice artist from the United States to produce some recording for full sums. We asked her to use a neutral accent, which would work in the UK and the US, also to make the voice friendly and fun. Why the United States (we’re a UK firm) ? Well we wanted to reach as many students as possible and help them learn their times tables.

With what we’d learned in the past, (have a look at The history behind the app page) we realized that the app had to fun, make the child want to return to the app and ultimately learn their times tables. This was quite a difficult combination and we decided to build a mockup app to and figure out how best to achieve this.

It made sense to give the child different answers to tap on, rather than enter an answer using a keypad. Also provide something to tap on as an extra, to give the child something to do for fun, while learning.

Here’s a video of an early beta, it looks a lot different to what we have today.


Next we decided to hire a designer to create a fun looking app, we gave him the early release, so he knew how the app should flow and asked him include fun looking monkeys. We think he did a really good job.

Then, we picked out some sounds which we thought would work, making sure that more prominent sounds were louder than other sounds.

We had some feedback from some kids who were in fits of laughter tapping sounds repeatedly 🙂 so we think the sounds fit nicely too.

We think we have a good combination of fun, retention and something kids can really use to learn their times tables.

The history behind the app

About ten years ago we created Speak Times Tables Tutor for the PC. The idea was to create something which would help kids learn their times tables interactively.

Speech technology had finally become available on desktop computers. We thought it was an awesome opportunity to create a learning tool that kids would find extremely useful.

The program used windows speech technology and was a good alternative to learning times tables “parrot fashion” (also known as reading and repeating from a book) of course kids love computers and fun, adding speech into the mix for the first time was really exciting.

ttt-logo

The program had a lot of similarities to the iPad version today.

Primarily sold on ebay on CD, the program proved very popular. We often got feedback from happy parents whose children had done well at school in times tables tests.

At the time CD was the only real method to get educational software, broadband was only starting to become popular and dial up was the only alternative. Kids were able to use it at home to help with their times table.

In 2010 we then decided to bring the concept to iPhone, but with better speech. Having an app that was fun and could be used anywhere (in the car / on the bus) was another huge step forward in technology.

We made voice recordings from members of our team for all the numbers required and played these sounds to form the sums in the app.

Again, the app has a lot in common with the iPad version.

After listening to reviews and feedback we decided we could make a good iPad version. The iPad was the obvious next step / technological leap forward for kids’ educational software.