Using Prodigy in the Classroom

A rare form of math game that is both highly functional and lots of fun!

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Sometimes it can be tricky to find new ways to make math exciting for students. But, in my experience thus far, I haven’t seen anything quite as fun and engaging as the math-based game called Prodigy.

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Prodigy presents itself as a fantasy role-playing video game geared for students from grades 1 to 8. As of now, the game supports curriculum from Texas, Florida, Common Core (American), and Ontario. Students create a wizard avatar to represent themselves in the game. They are seeking to improve their magical prowess, explore their world, defeat monsters and ultimately, defeat bosses. Combat is turn-based, allowing students to select their spell of choice. The catch is that before they can cast a spell, students must first complete a math problem. As students progress, the game collects data on the students’ answers to the math problems and adapts to their level of proficiency.

Signing up is pretty straightforward and is done through the Prodigy website. An account is free for teachers (so no need to worry about using school resources.  Devices with access to a web browser and an internet connection are all students will need to play the game.  To sign up, teachers have to provide their name, email address, a password, school (optional), grade of students and curriculum covered. For a step-by-step guide provided by Prodigy, click here.

Since Prodigy is free, I thought I would make an account and explore the features for myself. Here’s what my class “Dashboard” looked like after I set up my account.

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Prodigy provided me with the next three steps I would need to take to get my class started on Prodigy. When I clicked “Classrooms”in the top right corner of the page, I was able to see my class and given the option to add more (which was also free). Frequently asked questions were found lower down on the page.

As a fan of video games, I couldn’t help but want to try to see how the game actually played (what better way to showcase how the game works?) . So I followed the instructions on my teacher “Dashboard” and made my own wizard.

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For all those visual learners, this is what “combat” looks like. I selected my spell (students would get access to more as they continued to play).

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Then, I was presented with this math problem. I’m happy to say I was able to solve it.

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This allowed me to successfully cast my spell and damage the opposing creature!

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Pretty neat right? I can definitely see the appeal this game would have for students. Admittedly, it may lose its appeal with Grade 8’s as the graphics are somewhat childish, but it may still be a useful tool for differentiation among some students that age. Perhaps if there were a modified version of the game that made the game seem slightly more mature, it might be more well received by older students.

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Having seen it work very well in a Grade 4 setting, I imagine Prodigy would work especially well in classrooms ranging from Grade 3-6, . The students liked the aspect of the challenge and getting more powerful spells and equipment, much like the appeal of an ordinary video game of that genre. While curriculum is supported for grades 1 and 2, the interface and the concept of a role-playing game might be too advanced for younger students. They may be unsure of where to go or what to do once the tutorial ended. You can use and equip gear that you collect by clicking the backpack option and see the pets that you find during the game by clicking the paw icon, but the game never tells you that; the student must figure that out on their own. I think it’s worth mentioning that because the game is built around a “combat” system, there is some cartoon violence (ie: firing colourful magical orbs at foes). That being said, creatures run away at the end of a battle, so nothing dies and there’s certainly no blood. If I had to make a comparison, I would say it’s a more tame version of what kids would see on a Pokemon tv show or video game.

Getting back to the teacher side of things, this is what my dashboard looked like after my “student” joined the game:

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From here, I could now an overview of my students performance (or student, in my case), the plan my class was on. I went into greater detail by clicking on the the options below “Dashboard” on my menu.

Clicking on “Students” lead to a class list and the ability to link parents to the student accounts. It also gave me administrator rights in managing the students names and log-in information. But the most exciting options, in my opinion, were under “Planner” and “Reports”. This is what my planner looked like:

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Normally, the game will generate random math questions that cover the entirety of the curriculum and grade level that you set. In the students first few “battles” the game starts with questions that are two grade levels lower than their actual grade to get a feel for where they are. However, under the “Create Plan” tab, I was able to make it so that questions focused on addition to 100 for the next week. This would allow a teacher to focus the questions generated by Prodigy on whatever they were covering in class. If they were so inclined, they could make plans for the whole month, or even year!

Under “Create Assignment” I was able to set the game to test for specific skills over a certain number of days. I could even assign which students I wanted to it, allowing for different tasks for different students. Essentially, an assignment would dictate the next few questions that my students would get when they played the game and would take priority over any plan that I had in place. For example, if a teacher was working with their class on fractions, but it became apparent that the students needed a review of addition, the teacher could make an addition assignment and have the next 10 question Prodigy asks the students be addition related before switching back to fractions. This, in my opinion, could serve as an excellent form of differentiated homework, tailored to each student and their specific needs.

The “Reports” section helped me keep track of how my students were doing.

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Prodigy gathers information on everything from knowing when students are playing Prodigy, to how well students are doing on each topic (right down to which exact questions they got wrong and how they answered), to how much of the curriculum or a given topic they have worked through. All these reports serve to help teachers identify students strengths and weakness and help them accordingly making it a fantastic diagnostic tool for teachers.

As I mentioned above, Prodigy can be used as a form of homework either for the whole class or as a differentiated alternative for some students. It can also be used in the classroom as something students can do when they have finished their classwork or as a free time option.

Without a doubt, Prodigy’s greatest strength is its ability to engage students. Because it presents itself like a real video game (rather than a math game website that’s obviously purely for learning), students are drawn into the world that Prodigy presents and are highly motivated to answer the math questions and progress through the game. As illustrated above, its ability to adapt and differentiate for students of many skill levels is truly impressive. That’s not to say it is not without its flaws. The game may fall flat for students on the younger and older side of the advertised age range. Additionally, students may be motivated to simply cheat on the questions they struggle with for the sake of progressing through the game. That’s why I think it is important not to just give students the game and leave them be, but to be present throughout the learning process at school and have parents help at home.

Overall, I highly recommend this game for use in Grades 3 to 6. I can say from experience that its lots of fun!

For more detailed video instructions on how to get set up and use Prodigy’s features click here.

All screenshots were taken from either my account on the Prodigy website, or my student account in the game it self.

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