Kyle Alexander
 
 

Trade Math

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Project Description

I have several friends that have a career in a trade job. I have watched those friends struggle to get jobs due to not having the mathematical knowledge required to perform the job. Trade jobs are deceiving and often require more math skills than one would expect. The amount of math needed to perform a trade job has become an issue, because students coming out of high school have not been trained how to do math that is specific to a trade job. The Trade Math app is project I have started working on to help people like my friends build the math skills needed to succeed in a trade job. The app will feature clear mathematical examples that directly relate to the trade field the user wants to get into. It will contain virtual projects that will help the user understand how math is used on the job site.

 

Example of a screen from the virtual project

 
 

Challenge 

Making an app that is interesting and engaging for a user that may have already lost interest in the traditional teaching methods found in a formal classroom. Developing an app that has a simple streamline navigation and content delivery that can be learned efficiently. 

Solution 

Find the pain points in competitors’ sites that affect the users’ learning experience, efficiency, and overall interest. Interview professionals in the field to see how they have adapted and overcome the challenges for learning trade math in their field. Interview potential users and find out what they need from this app to stay motivated.

 

Measurement lesson screen derived from interviewing trade professionals on their learning experiences

 
 
 

Survey 

To make the solution a reality, one of the most crucial things I had to address was creating an engaging design. Many of the potential users for this app have a negative connotation of math, because textbooks and classrooms depicted math in a way that was generic, dry, and boring. I conducted a survey showing potential users 3 different navigation designs. I found that only 5 % liked the first design, and thought it looked to childish. 10% liked the second design, but overall potential users said it looked boring. 85% of the potential users chose the 3rd design, many said it looked professional and they could identify with the icons.

 
 
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Contextual Inquiry 

The content in this app couldn't be a success if I didn’t interview some professionals from the field, so I visited several carpenters/ cabinet makers to start. I observed them measure, add and subtract fractions, and figure out angles as they built their projects. While observing I would ask them questions, “Can you show me your work and tell me your thought process on how you added those fractions together?” Or “How did you visualize that math problem in your head?” One of the men gave me a diagram, and told me this is what they use as directions for cutting and measuring a cabinet. This gave me a better idea of how design a virtual project that would map out math problems in a visual way. 

“It helps if I draw a diagram of the part of the project I am cutting out, that way I have a visual of how the pieces look when I am trying to add or subtract fractions.” Bruce age 40, Cabinet Maker 

 
 

I designed the lessons with clearly labeled diagrams to mimic how trade professionals do math

 
 
 

Competitive Analysis

While analyzing the competitors’ websites, there was one site that had all the elements I want to include in my app; easy to follow navigations, an engaging way of presenting the math curriculum, and clearly defined examples. I found inspiration from one of the Construct Ed site’s features, which allowed you to follow a real life example while learning how to properly read a tape measure. This gave me the idea for creating the virtual project for my own app. 

 
 
 
 

Information architecture

While creating the information architecture for this site, I chose to focus on how the structure would look moving from the main and secondary navigation, into the lessons, and then into the virtual project. The structure is very linear, because it is important that the user completes the lessons in order to get the most out of the math review. 

Persona

This persona captures the qualities of a user who is most likely frustrated with math, and requires visual aids. They need an app designed with simplicity in mind.

 
Tyler_persona.png
 
 

User flow

Tyler will enter the app, find his ideal trade job, and then start with the first lesson. He will read the examples, then solve a few problems that are based on real world trade work. Then he will complete the virtual project by solving problems that guide him through the creation of a virtual object.

 
 
trademath_userflow.png
 
 

Sketches

I worked through many navigation ideas while sketching, until I finally came up with a design that would fit the users’ needs. I was able to produce a design that is simple, clearly labeled with icons, and interesting. 

 
 
 

Wireframes

My main goal while creating the wireframes was to figure out how much content to put on each screen. There is so much information to cover and teach the users I had to find the right balance. Some information and features have to be on the same screen; for example, the problem and workspace should be together so the user does not have to go back and forth as he writes the problem onto the workspace.

 
 

Iterative Process 

Currently I am only on the first stage of the iterative process, testing a hand drawn prototype that displays my basic lesson concepts. After a great deal of consideration I decided to start testing the app on professionals in the field first before testing the app on potential users. I made this decision, because professionals in the field have already overcome the challenge of learning math for a trade job so they have great insight on how develop content that is specific to the trade. 

 
 
 

Testing Round 1: 

The purpose of the initial round of testing was to see if both the main navigation and content are successful. Users found the navigation to be clearly labeled and easy to move through, however a few users wanted to swipe to move through lessons instead of using the back/ forward buttons. I plan on doing an A/B test in the future to see if swiping or pressing is better

 
 
 

Testing Round 2:

The second tests were very informative and I learned several things that will improve my carpentry section of the app. The users found my measurement lesson easy to follow, and they all said that was the way they learned to visualize and read a tape measure. The virtual cabinet project needs some more work to feel like a realistic project that would be built in the cabinetry field. The user gave me some great diagrams and explained a few concepts I didn't know were trade standards, like the way the back of the cabinet is measured, notched, and cut. 

 
 
 
 

Conclusion 

This project is still in the early stages, but I am learning what steps I will need to take to make it a success. I will be conducting contextual inquires with more trade professionals to see how they use math on the job site. I will also continue to perform more user testing on trade professionals to see if my content matches up with the way they learn and use math. I want to get into the professionals’ heads and see how they process and visualize math on the job site. After I have gathered the information needed to develop my content I will create a fully functional prototype for potential users to test. Users will test the prototype to see if the lessons and navigation are working as intended. In the final stages of design I will refine the content and find more ways to make the content interactive. My ultimate goal is to have a finished product that will help young adults build the math skills needed to land their first trade job.

Clickable Prototype

Note: Only the carpentry math lesson button on the choose a trade screen, and the lesson 1 measurement button on the math lessons screen are active. All the buttons on all the other screens are active.

 
 

Future Connected Projects

I am currently developing ideas for two more apps that would be linked to the Trade Math app. One of the apps will be a social networking site for young adults to connect with trade professionals. The other app is a job finder app, that clearly displays whether the candidate qualifies for the job and encourages them to apply if they meet the requirements. These apps will help remove the intimidation and anxiety that many young adults face when applying to trade professions. Below are the mockups that I am using to show trade professionals, in order to get their feedback and ideas. I am showing them fully rendered layouts, because I want the trade professionals to have a strong visual of what the apps could potentially look like.