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Thobeka Nkabinde eRank Play Founder

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SA mobile game makes maths fun

Thobeka Nkabinde wanted to motivate learners to learn maths. Her answer was a game based on everyday situations.

For many South African learners, learning maths is a major stumbling block. A young Western Cape-based entrepreneur, Thobeka Nkabinde, is changing this, one equation at a time. Her WhatsApp-based eRank Play app aims to make maths fun to learn for all South African children.

The eRank Play app is built around everyday actions, like working out what change is due from a taxi driver when collecting fares, or how to use maths to slot a car into a small parking spot. It can be played anywhere, anytime.  

The app already has 1,000 regular players and is growing daily  Nkabinde,  a student and former administrative assistant at the University of the Western Cape, says it seeks to strip away learners’ fear of maths – a problem she had while at boarding school, battling with maths, and finding it difficult to get help with the subject.  

“Besides the fact that many young South Africans perform poorly at maths, there are also many whose parents can’t afford tutors to help develop their kids’ understanding,” says Nkabinde. “I knew there had to be a better way to help people by making learning fun and affordable, and so we thought that an app easily accessed from a phone would be the way to go.

“Our players are mainly Grade 8 and 9’s, but we are working on expanding our content and making it attractive to older high school learners.” 

The eRank Play app was named a finalist in the recently launched MTN Women in Digital Business Challenge. Nkabinde and her team were awarded R100,00,0 which they are using to raise the app’s profile. The cash will be used to develop a digital marketing campaign and attract more users to the site, offering free access for a period and a premium subscription service for an upgraded version. 

Nkabinde turned the Covid pandemic into an opportunity. Worried about the possibility of losing her job, she began working on the eRank Play app as a way of being independent, so as to not leave her welfare and future in the hands of others.  

Angie Moloka, senior manager of the Education & Community Programmes Foundation at MTN, says: “Thobeka’s story adds strength to the now well-proven theory that entrepreneurs are inspired to solve problems they have experienced. By reducing maths to its most basic elements, the app makes learning fun, encouraging young people to explore maths and break through the barriers that have made it a subject that is often disliked. I hope eRank Play becomes a game that encourages thousands of young people to consider a career in science, technology, or engineering – skills which are so desperately needed in SA.”

The MTN Women in Digital Business Challenge forms part of the MTN Group’s commitment to developing ICT SMEs on the continent. It encourages an entrepreneurial mindset by providing R1-million annually to 10 SMME candidates for working capital needs, business development, tangible assets, mentorship, and advancing technology/software. 

“Our ten 2022 finalists, and recipients of R100,000 each, are examples of what can be achieved by women in a competitive industry,” says Moloka.

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