Friday, August 21, 2015

Subscription Based Websites For Math: Prodigy $

Subscription Based Websites


For the second summer in a row, I attended the GAFE Summit in Calgary. One of the sessions I went to was Emily Fitzpatrick's session: Not Your Momma's Math Class - Elementary. It got me thinking about what subscription based websites I wanted to invest my time in (and sometimes money) and that support the grade two Alberta math curriculum for the upcoming school year. This the second blog post in a series of (number to be determined).


Series

  1. Mathletics
  2. Prodigy


Prodigy

Emily introduced me to a new math game this summer: Prodigy. Like Mathletics (my previous blog post), Prodigy is solely a math-based program. It is much more gamified than Mathletics. Unlike Mathletics it has a free and premium option. I have not used this with students yet. I did create a teacher account and created a student account so I could explore its potential.

It Is Free... But

When you sign up for the teacher Prodigy account, you have access to all the educational content of the game for yourself and your students for free. The premium features are truly extras and are purchased by parents. However, students will be constantly reminded they are missing out on the premium features throughout game play. 

While I appreciate companies need to make money, it is a negative for me as a teacher making a choice about what to expose my young students to. On the one hand, this is a reality of the many apps that they are probably exposed to on their (or their family's) iPads, tablets and so on. So by having the same experiences in school, it gives me the opportunity to talk about the commerce element of digital citizenship and awareness. On the other hand, it is not something I necessarily want my students exposed to virtually after every task in the game. 

Content Is Read To You ... Sometimes

As a teacher of students who often are struggling readers, I LOVE when a product has reading support. Prodigy does provide players the option to have the question and answers read to students. However, the non-math gameplay also has a lot of reading and most, if not all, of this does not have reading support. While it is not essential to the game play, I can see it being frustrating for students.

It Is Canadian ... If You Are From Ontario

It is Canadian based! Yay! It has a Canadian curriculum you can assign your students. Yay. It has only one Canadian curriculum you can assign your students. Oh. While most Canadian curricula are similar, they are not the same. Initially I thought that might not be a problem. Much like Mathletics, teachers assign a task based on a specific outcome. Great, I can avoid the topics that do not align with the Alberta curriculum. However, once students complete their tasks Prodigy assigns them random questions based on the overarching curriculum you have assigned your class. 

How is this problematic? Well, when playing as a grade one student, I was asked to tell the time on an analog clock. This is not in the Alberta curriculum until grade four. Now students go from independent practice to likely needing direct instruction from a teacher or adult for some of the content. 

Gamification Equals Motivation... And Distraction

All the quests and actions that will level you up are math based. However, there is a whole world to explore. There are shops to look at and other players to check out (you cannot interact with them). Students could easily not do math while in the game. This will require the teacher to be very vigilant in monitoring student activity. As a result, teachers may spend more time monitoring students being on task than assisting students with math.

Digital In-Game Support

When students are answering math questions, they have access to lots of support. They can be given hints by selecting a question mark icon that gives them a tutorial on the topic of their question (there is an option to have this read aloud). Students access to a variety of manipulatives for each question: coloured pens to draw on the question, fraction blocks, base ten blocks, Canadian money and counters.


Diagnostics

Like Mathletics, Prodigy provides teachers with a wealth of data regarding student progress. 


Is It Worth It For Younger Students?

As a teacher with access to Mathletics, Prodigy is not going to be worth me investing a lot of my class time with younger students. They have a great deal of support and resources for teachers. It has great potential and I will continue to keep my eye on it.  I think it could be something I teach my students and then send home or for use in free time. I do not see it being regularly used in my math classes at this time.