Today’s interview is with Alex Watt, an independent developer from Scotland with a goal to help promote numeracy across the world and to get his app, Mathstrainers, on every iOS device worldwide. Read more about how this app came about and what others Alex has in mind in his interview below.
Thank you for participating our interview. Please tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a College Lecturer and qualified Maths Teacher based in Scotland. I was a professional software engineer for over 20 years before becoming a qualified teacher. I have been creating educational apps for over a year now and I have over 20 available from Apple’s App Store.
How did the idea for your app come about?
My interest is in education and believe that skills are honed through practice. I wanted to develop a Maths practice app that was free, did not have annoying jingles or other distractions, no adverts, and no in-app purchases. It needed to help with different skills and give progression through a variety of levels.
And how long was the process from the original idea to the release of the app?
The app was based on work from previous developments: it includes functionality from at least four of my other apps and has been enhanced with further functionality. To answer the question although some of the apps took less than a week to produce, this has taken about a year to come together.
Did you hire a developer or do it yourself?
I originally developed in Adobe’s Flash Professional, but Apple now requires development using their own code so I learned Objective C at the start of the year. “Mathstrainers Pro” is entirely built using Objective C, designed and programmed by myself.
What has been the hardest obstacle you have had to overcome in the development process?
There have been many difficulties: finding time is the biggest obstacle. In terms of development, uploading to the App Store was quite difficult at first, but there are greater challenges involved in the coding as well: the app stores results (uses the file system), communicates with other devices (using bluetooth), and in future it will integrate with a teacher app I am developing.
Have you had much support during the development process (from family, peers, Apple Inc.)?
With a wife and two daughters (6 and 19) time is always an issue. Support is not always there but I try to mix development work with family fun: it can be difficult as things are always busy. There are some great tutorials from Apple and on the Internet to help with learning code, but it needs perseverance.
What are your plans for the future? Will you be developing any more apps?
My next priority is to develop a teach app that monitors a class set of “Mathstrainers Pro” apps, with recording of results, storage of progression and control features. I have many apps I wish to develop but there is little time.