Home > Group Projects > Math Tutor Project



Project concept and circuit design by Phil Townshend copyright 2005

Modified: 22:07, 25 October 2013

This was a project supported by the Speacialist Schools Trust as part of the Creative Learning Programme. As a Creative Learning Lead Practioner (CLLP) part of my role was to devise and manage two creative projects. One being with a collaborative project with another school, the Scoreboard project and this one, the Math Tutor Project. The intention is for two departments in the same school to use a creative learning approach to design and build a project. This project was run between myself, Head of the Electronics Department and Kerry Hayman, Head of Maths, both at Highcliffe School.

The Math Tutor project has 2 important aims:

  • To use creativity to develop a fun to use interactive toy
  • To create a learning toy that would develop students ability at basic multiplication tables

During a few Maths lessons Ms Hayman directed students to help them develop design ideas. These were then displayed with 4 chosen to make in the workshop directed by myself and assisted by Ms Hayman.


The Math Tutor operates by giving a fixed time to answer single digit multiplication sums from 1 to 9 times table. The answer is entered using the keypad and then pressing the hash key. If the answer is incorrect, a buzz is heard, otherwise a few notes play and the next LED in the chain is lit which keeps track of the score. The time can be altered in between games by pressing the star key. This toggles through 15, 30, 45 and 60 second time limits. Pressing the star key during a game aborts the game and the display shows the time taken to that point. Press the hash key to start the game. At the beginning the time you have is shown briefly.

The circuit is based around a PIC IC which is needed due to the complexity of function. For example, while running, the PIC controls keyboard scans, multiplexing the 7-segment display, sound wave generation as well as general management of multiplication and sum generation. The program is available in a pre-programmed PIC. Please contact us for details.
The astable formed by IC4, R2, C1 and LDR is to generate a random frequency which in turn causes a counter to increment inside the PIC. This forms the basis of random number generation. The rest of IC4 prvodes some drive to the piezo transducer to increase sound level. All sound generation is controlled by the PIC enabling a range of notes to be played. IC2 and the transistors T1-3 drive the 7 segment display with the middle display being a starburst to generate the "X" sign. IC3 is a latched 4-16 decoder which keeps track of the score of correct answers.


Left is a view of the display PCB. Connection by 16way DIL header. Note the starburst display.

Right is the connection lead from the display to the main PCB , shown far right.

Below is a picture showing the main PCB and the leads connecting to the keypad, LED's and display. The PCB is supported by adhesive plastic standoff posts. Both the display and the LED array use DIL header plugs.

For details regarding purchasing this project in kit form please contact us.

Below is a diagram of the main PCB with the PIC microcontroller.
These photos show how the circuits were fitted into the case and connected together. This is the Homer version, but all were pretty much the same. Some of the display PCB's had to be sanded down in size to fit into the cases.



The cases were made by vacuum forming 1.5mm polystyrene sheet over moulds made from MDF and details added with plasticine or modelling clay. Students were encouraged to develop design ideas during Maths lessons and 4 were chosen to be made. These were
  • Homer Simpson
  • Bender (from Futurama)
  • Horse theme
  • Safe theme
Wooden mould of the safe
Homer and Bender wooden moulds
Horses theme wooden mould
Adding modelling clay to the mould
Cutting MDF using Hegna saw
The vacuum formed cases cut out ready for painting
Adding enamel paints to the cases
Adding painted details with metaillic paint
Painting vacuum formed case
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