What Is It?
On a visit to another school, my colleagues and I asked both students and teachers about their favorite new tech activity. The number one answer by far was “Prodigy.” A student in my 3rd grade classroom had been asking to play Prodigy for quite some time. Not knowing what it was, I kept putting him off until I could take a look at it. Apparently, this hot new game warranted my immediate attention.
So, I looked into it, and I’m glad I did. Prodigy is pretty awesome. It’s engaging, interactive, and my kids are practicing old math skills and learning new ones every time they play. They beg for “Prodigy time” every day, and I’m hearing of the same phenomenon from other teachers. Who knew that a math program could be so much fun?
Prodigy is a free, adaptive math game for students in grades 1-7. It integrates California Standards based math into a Pokemon-like role playing game. Students must correctly complete math problems in order to battle, level up, and eventually beat the game’s main antagonist, Crios. The game is self pacing, with the appropriate balance between math problems and “battles” to keep kids engaged. Students can interact with their friends in different “worlds,” but they do use fictional names in order to protect privacy.
During the initial tutorial, the game runs an invisible diagnostic test to place students at appropriate levels. However, teachers can override these levels or assign specific skills practice at any time, (including SBAC practice). Teachers can also access several different reports to monitor student progress.
The obvious benefit to playing Prodigy is that students are happily practicing math skills. However, there are some unexpected benefits, as well. One is the self-teaching that occurs. Students can’t battle and level up until they give a correct answer, and the math gets harder as the program adapts. If students give a wrong answer, the correct one is shown, but the battle has to wait. It’s incredible how this motivates students to teach themselves by using the information on the screen.
Another unexpected benefit is the peer-to-peer teaching that occurs. In the beginning, some of my students were sharing answers with others in order to battle them. Before long, these same students were teaching instead of telling.
They wanted to battle their friends, but doing their friend’s work was slowing them down. They found it more efficient to teach their friends when they got stuck; it saved time in the next rounds of battles. In fact, a few of my students asked if they could make and share a Google Slide Tutorial Presentation to help their struggling classmates! One even made a short screencast video!
Avoiding the Summer Slip
Prodigy can be a great way to help students avoid the “summer slip,” while being easy on teachers. Once you’ve set up your class, you can continue to monitor student progress and assign lessons if you want to. If you have already set up Prodigy, here are a few tips for preparing your students' accounts for summer learning and fun. If you don’t want to, Prodigy will do all the work. It will keep track of progress and increase rigor. Kids will be happy to spend summer vacation time playing Prodigy; it’s fun, it’s a great way to socialize, and it’s a parent-teacher approved computer game!
If you haven’t yet introduced Prodigy into your classroom, I highly recommend it. Give it a whirl yourself before pushing it out to your kids. Just be careful; you might find yourself addicted!