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Graduate's maths app a hit with learners and students

Lloyd Gordon, a computer science graduate from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), launched a mathematical learning app, Open Omnia, last week to assist high school learners and university students struggling with mathematics.

Seeing his peers struggling in class inspired Gordon to come up with the app. Now, just a week after launching it, the app has been downloaded more than 1 000 times a day.

The 26-year-old boffin, who lives with his family in Pietermaritzburg, said the app targets learners from Grade 11 to university so they grasp mathematical formulae better.

Journalist Sithembile Shabangu, representing the university's electronic newsletter, UKZNdaba Online, spoke to Gordon about his app.

Shabangu: Tell us more about the app that you launched recently.

Gordon: Open Omnia is a mathematical learning platform that enables users to practise maths freely, without incurring any operational costs. The service uses an Android application and a Web application as platforms to allow learning.

A student simply types in a mathematical problem, then the app returns a step-by-step solution to the problem. This ensures that students learn how to get to the answer. The app has multiple features that span across high school and university mathematics.

Shabangu: What objective are you trying to achieve with the app?

Gordon: First and foremost, to have a major impact on students and to get users from various countries downloading and using the app. South Africa is not the only country that struggles with maths.

Another objective of Open Omnia is to bridge the achievement gap between students from affluent backgrounds and those from poor backgrounds. Most students can't afford a tutor. I want the app to fill that gap and ensure a good maths pass rate across the board.

Shabangu: Tell us about the development of the app.

Gordon: I am the only developer. I did, however, receive funding from Ithala and the UKZN InQubate/ENSPIRE Programme. The app was one of the winning business concepts for Ithala's Inkunz' Isematholeni Youth in Business Competition.

Shabangu: What has the response been since the app's launch?

Gordon: It's been amazing! The first week was good. I got 1 000 downloads, and then things really picked up. I'm now getting over 1 100 downloads per day. The rating for the app is at 4.6 out of 5 on Google Play, which is an amazing rating.

It has been downloaded in over 20 countries. Users are spread out in a number of places around the world.

Shabangu: What was your journey like as a UKZN student, and how did you manage to juggle completing your studies and developing Open Omnia?

Gordon: I completed my undergraduate degree in computer science in 2018. It was not easy juggling the two. I used to take away two hours each day to work on the app. You really have to work hard. Dedication and sacrifice are important in developing an app. With my studies over, I am now able to work full time on the app.

Shabangu: What are your future plans now that the app has been launched?

Gordon: I am currently working with libraries in Pietermaritzburg. It is easier to target a place where all students meet, as opposed to visiting all schools one by one. I want to see how far the app can go. I also plan to develop apps for other subjects like chemistry, physics and more.

Shabangu: Where can people download the app?

Gordon: The Android app can be found here. The Web application can be found here.

Shabangu: Who would you like to thank in the process of developing the app and finally launching it?

Gordon: UKZN InQubate and Ithala for believing in and supporting my vision.

Words: Sithembile Shabangu