Got Math? Game On!

What if learning was synonymous with playing? With game-based learning, it is! And students at Hopkins School are thrilled to be learning math content through the Prodigy math game. “With Prodigy, students design their very own wizard, battle against monsters, raise pets, and build and design their very own house. Think of it as a hybrid between Pokémon, Harry Potter, and The Sims that teaches kids math.” (Prodigygame.com)

While the Prodigy game is a novelty, game-based learning (GBL) is not new. Research dating back to 1986 has established the efficacy of GBL with programs such as the Oregon Trail. Developed in 1974, the pioneer simulation thrived in elementary classrooms from the mid 1980s to the mid 2000s. (Wikipedia) Solid game design built around content motivated students to learn and kept the game around for years as it morphed from one computing platform to another. Today, with the ubiquity of the Internet coupled with the level of engagement students experience outside of school, think Minecraft and mobile devices,  game developers and teachers alike are taking advantage of this learning medium.

According to the May 2015 University of Phoenix National Teacher Survey, 62% of K-12 educators report using games and simulations in their classrooms to support learning.

The mission of game designers is to create an engaging and motivational environment for their users, one that gamers will crave to enter time and time again. If those same design elements are incorporated into educational games, then students will be engaged and motivated to advance. As students progress through levels of a game, they learn new skills while practicing problem solving and honing their critical thinking.

This magic formula is what makes Prodigy math game so irresistible to young people and apparently, it is just the tip of the iceberg. Buzz around Room 112 is that Prodigy is adding multiplayer worlds which will allow students to meet their classmates’ wizard-selves online and battle them with math spells. Students say they find the game really fun, but cannot wait for the new feature to become active!

As for teacher perks, Prodigy aligns with the majority of the Common Core standards for grades 1 through 6 and is differentiated for each student. Upon initial play, students take a diagnostic through game play and Prodigy places them at the appropriate level for each standard. Teachers can also control which content students are getting, so the game can be used for pre assessment or review of current concepts in addition to the remediation or enrichment the game serves up automatically. To sweeten the pot, teachers can also track students’ progress through a dashboard, create custom assignments and run reports. Measurable data for teachers combined with fun-filled learning for students, now that’s a recipe for success!

Note: If you have read this far and are still conjuring up images of the Oregon Trail, visit the Internet Archive to play it and all of your favorite MS-DOS based games. Donkey Kong anyone?

By: Stephanie Doty
 Technology Integration Coordinator
 Hopkins School
 @HopkinsTechLib / @BlendedTeaching

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