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Former teacher launches sports-based game to shake up maths learning

£70k BEF loan supports the growth of award-wining Middlesbrough maker, Mi-BoxLive.

Middlesbrough-based Chris Withers launched Mi-BoxLive, after a career in teaching in which he saw children lose enthusiasm when it came to learning maths in the classroom and began creating new ways of learning during after-school clubs.

Mi-BoxLive is a board game and app which combines maths with the team-ethos of a sports context to make numeracy learning more accessible and fun, for children at school and at home with their families. Based on a running track, the board game features athlete figurines modelled on mathematics symbols while the app employs features to support different learners.

After winning the government’s Innovate UK Unlocking Potential Award 2023 which provided him with a £50k grant to support the development of the app and board game, Chris received a £70k loan from the Business Enterprise Fund (BEF) and Ceniarth.

On developing the product and receiving the investment, Chris said: “After years of working with children in school, including those with mild learning difficulties, I knew I had something special with Mi-BoxLive. Giving children the opportunity to learn maths while combining it with sports-based game immediately makes it more fun for them and the interactive learning is ideal to use at home with families too as it supports face-to-face connection and the challenges are suited to different knowledge levels.

“Last year 39% of students failed their maths GCSE and it’s easy to forget that we all learn differently. This approach allows those who prefer hands-on, interactive learning to really get to grips with their maths skills and feel confident in their knowledge. Following the Innovation grant, the £70k loan from BEF and Ceniarth has allowed for product manufacturing and marketing activities; without this money and the support from my investment manager Antony, this wasn’t going to be possible.”

With the launch of a supporting app, Chris’ plans for Mi-BoxLive include getting the game into more classrooms, helping to digitalise it so that entire learning journeys can be shown to Ofsted. Mi-BoxLive, which Chris developed in partnership with game specialist and technical developer Georg Engeeakken, currently has contracts with the River Tees Academy Trust.

Chris comments: “It’s been fantastic to see Mi-BoxLive in schools already; as a learning based game it’s really helping young children learn about play, regulating emotions and working together in teams – particularly great for those who’re in the pupil referral unit and are generally sent out of the classroom. The growth in confidence and comradery is wonderful to see.

“My goal is to have this available in every primary school across the country – it’s perfect for making lessons more fun as well as maths and after-school clubs. Confidence in maths is imperative for future generations; today’s game players are going to be the problem solvers of the future and it’s our job to in-still the knowledge and assurance to help them get there.”

Chris’ future plans for Mi-BoxLive also include working closely with Newcastle University using the game to help the ageing population stay active, as well as developing further relationships with schools.

Antony Nicholson, investment manager at BEF, comments: “Supporting entrepreneurs such as Chris and businesses like Mi-BoxLive is incredibly important to us at BEF – it’s a fantastic concept which is directly contributing to the community, improving childrens’ learning and enjoyment of maths from a young age. Chris’ enthusiasm and dedication to making Mi-BoxLive is infectious and we can’t wait to see how it develops.”

For more information about Mi-BoxLive visit

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