This year I seem to have a group of students in each of my grade levels who are passionate about math. Every time I pull out a math activity, they devour it with glee. It has been a challenge for me to give these students assignments which maintain their excitement for “hard” math without discouraging them with work that is too difficult. Their classroom teachers are facing the same dilemma.
A couple of weeks ago, I decided to see what my 4th and 5th grade gifted students thought about Prodigy. Prodigy is an online math game that is free. (It is also available as an app.) Teachers can add classrooms of students, and can manage the math topics students practice, as well as the levels at which each student plays. I immediately assigned all of my students to topics above their current grade levels. After introducing it in class, I gave them their individual passcodes, letters for their parents, and the caution that playing Prodigy was completely optional. I also notified their homeroom teachers, and made it clear to the students and the teachers that it was completely up to the teachers to decide if the students could play the game in class.
My students say that the graphics are apparently reminiscent of that popular game, Pokemon. The students create avatars and can battle each other by doing math problems. They can also earn different abilities as they progress through the game.
There is a paid option for Prodigy, where parents can buy memberships. This allows the students to access a few more features than the free version. I have one student who asked his parent for permission to get the membership so far; everyone else seems satisfied with the free game.
I like that I can see individual student reports with Prodigy and that I can differentiate for each child in my class. I am also pleasantly surprised to see how excited the students are about playing the game. In addition, the privacy aspect seems fairly good, as the avatars do not give away any student information.
Prodigy does not teach. It is not a substitute for engaging classroom lessons that include higher order thinking skills. I enjoy using it as a formative assessment as it gives me reports on the strengths and weaknesses of each of my students in the skills they are assigned, but I would be appalled by any teacher who used Prodigy as their only method of assessment or differentiation.
As long as my students continue to be excited about math, I will view Prodigy as one of the many tools at our disposal that supports their learning. But I will also continue to provide them with real-life opportunities to use math in relevant ways.