BlockPlay: Using AI to Support Research into Children's Early Mathematical Thinking

In 2021, Michael Rumbelow and Alf Coles (University of Bristol) identified the need for a software solution that could facilitate the study of children’s early mathematical thinking through observation of their block manipulation.

This case study outlines the collaboration between Michael Rumbelow and Pysource to develop, an educational app designed to interact with children during mathematical activities using Cuisenaire rods and Multilink Cubes.

The Need

Rumbelow’s research aimed to explore the complexity of a structurally-coupled system involved in learning mathematics, particularly focusing on the manipulation of objects in discrete steps. He sought to investigate whether a task designed for solving through step-by-step object manipulation could shed light on children’s mathematical development.

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Our Solution

Pysource responded to Rumbelow’s need by developing This educational app served as a platform for interacting with children during mathematical activities. The core components of the app included Cuisenaire rods and Multilink Cubes, enabling children to engage in hands-on mathematical exploration.

Development Process

The development of followed a multi-step approach, characterized by collaboration and continuous iteration:

  1. Proof of Concept (POC) Development (2021): Pysource initially developed a POC to demonstrate the feasibility of the concept.
  2. Expansion of Functionality (2022): With additional funding, the app underwent significant enhancements, including the addition of new functionalities and games.
  3. App Preparation for Testing (2022-2023): Pysource worked on preparing the app for testing, ensuring easy installation on any Windows machine.




The app was developed in collaboration with a team at the University of Bristol, at the Research Centre for Teaching, Learning and Curriculum in the School of Education, and a local primary school.

The app’s development was funded by the Bristol Digital Futures Institute, the Jean Golding Institute, and the Runway programme.