developing Søve Educational Playground and Equipment

User analysis and design for playful math learning tools.

Matematikkbølgen and Søve have recently collaborated on a unique project to promote children’s curiosity and creativity in mathematics. Their project has received high interest and was granted economic support by Innovation Norway and Design and Architecture Norway for universal/inclusive design.

volume house playful math
Søve Volume House

Matematikk bølgen main purpose is to promote excitement and creativity in all mathematic aspects. They have many years of experience teaching, writing numerous textbooks on the topics, and created several mathematics learning rooms.

Together with Søve, they identified the two most challenging mathematic areas, fraction and volume. Based on these areas they suggested two learning equipment, seesaw and volume house.

When can we do this again?

– 1st grader

Eker Design was then engaged to perform and facilitate the user analysis and the design of the new playground.


The primary users for our analysis were children in Norwegian primary school, 1th to 6th grade. Together with Søve, we agreed to use workshops as the research method. In cooperation with two schools, we put out together 5 different groups where all groups were diversified in respect to their math knowledge.

It is fun to work with Math this way

–  3rd grader

For the workshops at the schools, we prepared a miniature volume house and seesaw that was used in the math plays we created. The plays covered length, area, volume, and fraction.  

By overserving the children in combination with questions and answers, we found that working with math in a physical way in groups, engaged all pupils independent of math knowledge. In respect to fractions, we also noticed that graphics/symbols were easier to interpret than numbers.

User research developing Søve Playground Equipment
The focus group study was done as a workshop with children 1st to 6th grade.

For the universal design, we built a 1:1 scale volume house and a portion of a 1:1 scale seesaw. For the volume house, we also made 10x10cm wood bricks for a mathematical play. The intention was to observe how a disabled child would use the playground equipment and identity their physical challenges in this setting. The user for our test was paralyzed from the waist down and used an electric wheelchair to move around.

By use of the 1:1 mockups, the ergonomic considerations became very clear in our different math plays. The challenges for the volume house were spanning from height issues when seated in a wheelchair, suitable ground to move around, and handle for rising. For the seesaw, the main challenges were related to the transition from the wheelchair into the seesaw seat and staying seated.

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Taking design inspiration from the principles of Universal Design and autistic users on the spectrum, we selected simpler and more muted colors, rather than the bright, shouty colors normally associated with playgrounds. A splash of yellow and green in select places provided a highlight.

infographics for playful math equipment
Experimenting with infographics of fractions

We also chose to avoid using numbers as much as possible, but instead represent math using symbols and simple graphics, considering potential users with dyslexia.

A very nice bonus, with the production method that Søve uses, is that all the graphics are milled into the plates rather than printed onto the surface. This creates a relieff for the entire design providing not only a tactile experience but also allows for children with impaired sight to explore and understand the product.


The product represents the geometric shape of a cube and has a room with an exact volume of one cubic meter. This both restricted and gave a guideline as to how the product should be designed.

søve playful math design concepts
Concept design of the cubistic volume hose

Together with the requirements of being an educational tool and adhering to the universal design principles, the design became minimalistic, clean, and balanced, something not usually found in a playground. Its more toned-down color palette and design blend in with its surroundings makes it more appealing to use for landscape architects and city planners.


The new series of playground equipment is delivered with tasks for pupils and teachers. With its unique combination of learning and physical activities, the entire structure could very well become anything in the imaginative mind of a child.

Photo: Søve
Render: Eker Design

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