EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Pal Szekely; Creator of ‘Dart Math’

Last week I had the opportunity to catch up with Hungarian darts player Pal Szekely, who is also the founder and creator of ‘Dart Math’; an interactive and educational software that was released earlier this year.

It’s a software that is aimed to primarily improve young children’s basic mathematics skills in an interactive and practical fashion. However, it is applicable for all ages and standards. Please check out my exclusive Q/A with Pal, as we discussed the concept behind the program, and his ambitions for the product’s future.

Josh’s Dartistry: Hi there Pal, firstly, can you tell us about your Darting background?

Pal Szekely: I started playing darts 19 years ago. Before that, I was formerly a handball goalkeeper. With my Darts club team I won 7 Hungarian championships, represented the National Team four times, and this year I would be in Turkey, but now we are awaiting the birth of our first child.

This weekend  I won the VII part of 2015 Steel Singles Hungarian Championship, and with this I became the  Hungarian Champion in 2015.

For ten years, I have taught darts to both children and adults.

JD: So what made you devise the software ‘Darts Math’?

PSBecause of Darts I spend a lot of time abroad therefore I ended up in Netherlands and the UK. Then I recognized that they use Darts in learning Mathematics, too.

The results from  PISA testing in 2012 also evidenced that Hungarian students are bad at Mathematics, and as an educator I was thinking of finding a solution for this problem.

Nowadays, children are growing up in an interactive world and the old-fashioned way of teaching with blackboard and chalk is not interesting for them any more.  It is difficult for them to learn without interactive methods.

The basics of Maths are the most important, because we use them in all fields of life, and for making progress in Mathematics later, we need to know the basics.

Then I found out, that I should connect interactive learning with Darts. It resulted in a free Darts Maths Program.

JD: Who were the main influences in you creating this software?

PS: I devised a means of learning that teachers can use on classes, like rulers, the divider or a chalk.  It was very important for the program to be free because in education, unfortunately, there is not much money, and this system of learning Mathematics is also completely new, so teachers would not even begin to use it if the program was not free.

JD: How popular has the software been since its introduction?

PS: The software was first launched in Hungary, on Sept. 15. 2015, and then I began a free Road show. I visit schools, institutions and I hold lectures about the possibility of using Darts and Darts Maths Program for learning.

From this Spring, the program is available in the English language, too. In September, we had 4500 downloads from 101 countries, and in terms of advertising, we have not spent any money.

JD: Has ‘Darts Math’ been a big hit in the UK since it was created?

PS: This program has been downloaded nearly 300 times in the UK, more than half of them by particular institutions.  We have received 1200 downloads in the USA and 849 in Hungary. Our plan is to add the PDC, BDO and WDF to this project and program. The most important thing should be for every child to become familiar with the sport of darts. This is the only mobile sport that uses all 4 basic maths operations: addition, dividing, multiplication and subtraction.

JD: This software is being used in schools after it received the support of the Hungarian Government. Just how much credibility has this given ‘Darts Math’?

PS: On the day of the program’s launch we hosted a press conference where the state administration had its representative, alongside Kiss Norbert, the Deputy State Secretary. He said that this sport has a place in learning Mathematics and Physical Education. In our schools, the children have Physical Education every day. This means if they do not have Physical Education every morning, they must have some sports activities in the afternoon.

Darts is perfect for the development of self-control, concentration and attention and because of this it was able to appear in schools. It occupies very little space so it can be used in schools that have no room for Physical Education. With  ‘Darts Math’ Program, children can learn darts board mathematics, and in Physical Education class, they can practice their maths skills during sports activities.

JD: Is the software geared towards a specific age-group, or is it created for all Darts players in general?

PS: This program is primarily designed for schools, but darts clubs also use it. For example,  the Hungarian Youth National Team are practising check-outs and counting tactics using this program. This year our girls won the European Championship in the girls’ pairs category, and won third place in the World Championships in Turkey.

The software is designed to be used by children from the age of 4/5 until they go to school. Up until the second year of secondary school, tasks could be used from the program that are associated with the material that is learnt.

JD: Just how important is good counting and mathematics for top dart players?

PS: There are two things in connection with numbers that every darts player needs to know. Firstly, the darts player has to know everything about the arrangement of numbers on the board and secondly, they must know about counting.

Both of these skills can be practised on this software with measuring time whilst practising. If a beginner  knows these things, during the throws, they only need to think about throwing.

JD: Could you explain the different types of exercises available on this software?

PS: We have two types of tasks. The first type is about laying the groundwork, tasks for the development of memory, and the second type is about Maths, which are the tasks of counting.

Tasks from the first round can be solved by children from the age of 4. There are two tasks for meeting the darts board, appearance and the layout of numbers. It is very useful for kids to learn about interactive equipments, touch screen or the way to use the mouse.

The Number Puzzle task helps children learn the numbers from 1 to 20 (the first class of primary school) and helps the future darts players to remember the position of the sectors on the darts board.

It is important to know that it is possible to measure the time it takes to do a task, so users will not become tired of the task; it will be a new challenge to play against one another and being able to finish the task quicker than your opponent.

The most important thing in Mathematical tasks based on counting, is to use them to learn basic mathematical operations. The Press Number is a game for presenting the basic mathematical structure of the darts board. Children can learn how to add up to two or three (of the same numbers) and can learn multiplication by two and three more easily.

There is also a game where we are given 6 numbers. These numbers are independent numbers on the board (For example: 54 points is T18). The task is to remove all 6 numbers as soon as possible. One boy from Pecs, who is just 10 years old, can remove all 6 numbers within just 5 seconds.

The Sector Puzzle game is about dividing using the numbers two and three. There is also another game that can be used in many different ways. Firstly, we have to set the initial value and the end value, which should have been achieved so that on the darts table, you must press the appropriate value fields. The program gives the option to reduce the possibility.

An example:

Initial value: 69 points

End value: 148 points

Conditions:

  • Maximum 3 throws
  • Only the double and triple sectors apply
  • Last throw must be at a double
  • The same sector must not be used twice

Teacher’s Hypothesis:

I’m looking for at least three solutions; all solutions in all different sectors should be used.( So if we use D20 within our first solution, in others we cannot use it anymore.)

And this must all be kept in your mind.

JD: So how are you hoping to expand your product in the near future?

PS: In September, this system was introduced in over 100 primary schools in Hungary. They call us from abroad, primarily from neighboring countries, to translate the program into their languages. By the end of the year, it will have been translated in another 6 languages: German, Dutch, Romanian, Czech, Slovak, and Serbian.

We are looking for cooperation with both National and International Darts organisations, whilst trying to find sponsors among darts equipment manufacturers. We would be very satisfied if the world’s best players would support our program/software.

I think that next year we could reach a minimum of 10,000-20,000 downloads and this software will be present in 500-1000 Hungarian schools, with the aim of encouraging them to start to use this program and software actively.

The Darts Math app is available for free here. Check it out!   https://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/store/apps/darts-maths/9wzdncrdp9p7

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