Are YOU Ready to Make Math Magical? Try Prodigy!


What student doesn't like wizards, duels, rewards, and challenges? Gamification in education is a growing industry and many EdTech start-up companies are jumping on the opportunity to gamify learning. As I have stressed before in my blog, students today learn and are engaged differently than their predecessors. It is therefore crucial that educators differentiate their instruction to speak to the 21st century digital learner. Not only does gamification have the potential to support the unique learning styles of students today, but it further brings students interests into the classroom and makes learning more meaningful for them. One EdTech company has not only demonstrated how gamification can support the digital learner, but they have further demonstrated how gamification can support teachers with data driven assessment. With over 1.5 million student users and growing, this company just so happens to be Prodigy. I am sure some of you educators have heard about this interactive math game with a classic resemblance to Pokemon. 

Last week, at the Educational Research and Innovation Hub (Niagara iHub) Math Technology Showcase, I had the wonderful opportunity to interview one of the co-founders of Prodigy, Alex Peters. Peters provided me with some great insight regarding the features of Prodigy that speak to the learning needs of students and teaching needs of educators. Therefore, the intent of this Prodigy review is to not only explain what information Peters provided me with, but to further interpret and organize this information from an educators perspective. Please see Tkach's Top Ten Tips to Teaching with Tablets in order to see my own views and recommendations for using digital technology in the classroom. As a math program with over 1.5 million students already using it, I see Prodigy creeping its way into schools more and more as teachers choose Prodigy to be their go to math game. Here are the main reasons I encourage educators to use Prodigy in their next math lesson:
  • Design. As I mentioned above, Prodigy reflects a similar character design and feel as the game Pokemon. However, this game integrates the fun and engaging platform of duelling wizards and collecting pets with math education. The design itself supports students' interests of online games and therefore has the potential to make learning more meaningful. For instance, instead of just answering multiple choice questions, students have to dual other wizards (computer players, not other students) in the game by answering math questions. On another note, the design of the game itself is not specifically an app. However, after talking to Peters, he explained that the game was designed to look and fit nicely on any device. Although I would recommend Prodigy designing an app to make the game more accessible on iPads or other app based devices (for younger students), the fact that the game shows up looking like a high quality app on any device really supports the Bring Your Own Device (B.Y. O. D.) movement across Ontario. 
  • Curriculum Alignment. One of the most important features of content-based apps is its potential and ability to align with curriculum standards. As the website states, "Prodigy was designed with Ontario educators in mind." Prodigy covers over 300-curriculum aligned math skills for grades 1-8. It includes questions on all five math strands so that it is not solely focusing on number sense and numeration. Curriculum alignment holds great potential for integration into math units and for assessment purposes. 
  • Assessment. Prodigy does an excellent job to support assessment FOR and OF learning. The first time students begin playing Prodigy, they are automatically given diagnostic (assessment for learning) questions so that the program can determine what curriculum expectations fit that students' math ability. Furthermore, teachers can create diagnostic assessments of their own with specific questions from the hundreds of math questions in the prodigy database. After students have been placed, they will begin to work on questions based on the curriculum expectations their math level aligns with. Teachers can then formatively asses (assessment for learning) their students through real-time reporting and receive reports on how their students are progressing throughout Prodigy. The app with not only show how many questions a specific student answered right or wrong overall, but it will show specifically how many questions that student answered right based on a specific Ontario curriculum expectation. Crazy right? This would be a great assessment report to show during parent-teacher interviews to demonstrate students' progress. To support summative assessment (assessment of learning), prodigy provides a data driven form of assessment, which essentially can be used for summative assessment to score students. Teachers can further create their own math unit tests using specific questions based on certain expectations they would like to assess. Basically, the importance of Prodigy and assessment is that students will not even realize that they are being assessed since they are answering questions through a game!
  • Differentiation. Prodigy has designed a gammified learning platform that really takes differentiation into consideration. For starters, the diagnostic assessment at the beginning differentiates instruction by determining what curriculum expectations align with that students' current math level. As the student continues to progress throughout Prodigy, the program will identify if a student is finding the current level too easy and will automatically start to give the student more challenging questions. On the other hand, if a student is struggling with a question, it will first provide scaffolding and then automatically provide easier questions for that student if they continue to struggle. Teachers can further go into the program and modify the game for particular students and their learning needs. 
  • Scaffolding. As mentioned above, if a student is struggling with a question and gets it wrong, the game supports students through scaffolding features. Prodigy will first provide a hint and the option for students to use digital math manipulatives to help solve the question. If the student gets the question wrong again, this is when the app will automatically differentiate the instruction and make the next question easier.
  • Reward Systems. The Prodigy reward system definitely would appeal to students. After math battles, students can earn gold or experience. These rewards can then be used to upgrade your characters house in the game or collect pets. This reward system kind of reminds me of the game I used to play in elementary school called Neopets! I can really see students' motivation increasing when the option to earn a digital pet is on the line!!
So I would be surprised if you are not sold on Prodigy yet, however, it gets even better! Prodigy is free for all educators to use! Parents can further have their child use their Prodigy login from school at home. Many boards, including the District School Board of Niagara (DSBN), have already created accounts for their teachers. Teachers just need to set their account up, and their student list will show up automatically. I actually watched a DSBN teacher set Prodigy up in less than 5 minutes while at the Niagara iHub Tech. Showcase. She was shocked that the whole list of her students was already inputed into the database! 

Overall, this is an extremely long review. However, I decided to really provide as much detail about the high quality features Prodigy offers because I feel very passionately towards the potential Prodigy has for changing and gamifying math education. Please take the time to check Prodigy out at their website. Click the image below to take you there!



1 comment:

  1. I wish tech people would stop promoting this game for learning maths. It does no such thing but teachers are relying on you to make this judgement call. It may be a fun game ( I did not like it at all) but it certainly is not going to improve maths learning. First the game has nothing whatsoever to do with maths ( put in any content). The time spent on maths verse gaming is not positive. The manner in which some content is presented is confusing ( I have a maths degree and teach elementary). I would never use this game for my students. the game also pushes purchasing elements all the time. There is no time for the kids to get in the "zone" of mathematical thinking. It is just a poorly designed learning tool. Please tech people stop recommending. Yes kids love it and then you state well then they are learning to like maths - no they are not and they are not learning.

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