Prodigy Review

By Raymond Steinmetz

Wait, what the heck is this? No way my students are going to play video games in my class.

— Me (two months ago when I first saw Prodigy)

My students play a video game in my class.  Sometimes.  Not all of the time – but sometimes.  And they love every second of it!  But who could blame my original reaction when the first page you see when going to Prodigy’s website is this:

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Granted, based on the login page, its hard to imagine how this game could possibly be a valuable tool in a math classroom.  But the 6th grade teachers at my school RAVED about it.  They talked about how they couldn’t get the students to STOP playing it and how the game actually caused classroom management issues because the kids were so excited while playing.

So, I played it. It seemed like a pretty cute video game.  When you first start, you get to create your character, choose a wizard name, and trounce around a world following a guide that looks like this:

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Beginning of the game

Cool. Where’s the MATH? So, I kept playing….

And then this mean faced fox looking thing came along and wanted to fight me.

How could I turn that down? I wasn’t going to be bested by a fox!

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First Battle!

So, I followed my guide’s instructions and I cast a spell on that darn fox….

And, BOOM… Some MATH!

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Then I understood.  They are tricking kids into doing math in order to fight characters in a video game.  They can even battle each other in the virtual world.  It’s GENIUS!  It ends up that this is a fully featured video game that is similar to Pokemon, but in order to win, you have to correctly answer math questions.

So, I was in.  I knew that there had to be a way to control the math that the students were completing from a teacher perspective.  I had set my grade level to 7th grade, but I felt like the questions that were being asked were a little easy for my students who were towards the end of their 7th grade year.  If my students were going to play a video game, it was going to ask them hard questions!  So, I found the teacher website and logged in using my Google account.

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Prodigy from a Teacher Perspective

  • Prodigy is pretty easy to get started with because you can import classes from Google Classroom and have students sign in through Google.  The first time I had my students play, they got started in seconds.
  • Prodigy starts students off by giving them a placement test.  They take the student’s current grade level and then it starts asking them questions from one grade below.  At that point, it keeps asking them questions dynamically to find where they belong based on their correct/incorrect answers.  You can see an overview of an entire class’s student placement test, or a detailed view of an individual student’s responses.
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Class Placement Test Data
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Individual Student Placement Test Results
  • Beyond the placement test, you can align the math questions that the students see in 3 different ways through the Planner tool.
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Planner Tool
  • Once you create an alignment, you can see a detailed report of your students’ progress completing the problems that have been assigned to them.  You can even see the exact question that was asked by hovering over the question number at the top of the grid.
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Report of Standardized Test Alignment

Prodigy in Action

As I said before, my students LOVE playing Prodigy.  Obviously we can’t spend all of our time in class playing video games, even if they are aligned with math standards.  So my students play during their half-hour learning center block (a.k.a. study hall) a few times a week.  Lots of students play at home because they love the game so much.

Students Battling – Lots of Trash Talk Going On

So, maybe you should throw caution to the wind and give playing video games in your math class a try!  Then some day you can have the following conversations in your class:

Student 1: Mr. Steinmetz – you know what we should do? We should have a Prodigy tournament. We could make a bracket and have rounds where we battle each other in the game and whoever wins gets a trophy.

Student 2: Yeah, I’m pretty sure I would win because I’m level 63 and I have two flame creators that are level 24! I also have all of the stones to the school yard.

Me: I have no clue what you’re talking about.

Mr. Steinmetz