It was only a matter of time before someone took a cool kid concept like “Pokeman” and related character-role-playing fantasy genres and embedded that idea or concept into an online world of some sort. Rohan Mahimker and his co-founding partner Alex Peters – both graduates of the University of Waterloo’s Mechatronics engineering program – seized the opportunity to use this genre and developed the online math game Prodigy. This game provides students with a fantasy world where they control various variables – to a large extent – so that their ‘user experiences’ are personalized and reflects their particular tastes in various aspects from dressing and hair style for their characters to the types of things they can acquire as they move up levels and gain power and points. In short, Prodigy is a very cool, very addictive and powerful medium for engaging students in mathematics in a fun and safe environment. And to be sure, they’re learning mathematics in a fun, and safe environment.
It’s difficult to explain Prodigy to you without going into great detail about the various nuances of the program. No quick overview can explain or describe the very rich graphical environment that the students are immersed in when they play ‘mathematics’. It makes much more sense for you to sign up and play the game. Better yet, introduce it to your students (or sons and daughters, nieces and nephews) (ages 7-12) and let them give you feedback. You’ll be surprised, I think. Teachers who sign their classes up will be able to login and retrieve information about where their students excelled, where they were having difficulty and how questions were answered and when they accessed the game. Indeed, there’s some basic information that a teacher can retrieve from the program that will help them better understand how their students are achieving in mathematics while playing Prodigy.
I knew that Prodigy was going to be a hit with the students for various reasons. For example, during a math class where I had introduced Prodigy a very reluctant mathematics student asked me if I could explain to him composite numbers. He needed to know in order to answer a question to battle and defeat his opponent! Wow, what an opportunity for further inquiry! Further, I hear students talking about the game among themselves, inquiring about what levels they’ve achieved and what their characters look like and if they have pets, among other things. The interesting point to note is that there is this underlying competition going on as well. Many of the students want to move through the various levels of the game because they’re looking for more adventure and fun. Further, EVERY student is engaged in playing this game if I allow them to play during math class. All ability levels, both genders, students who normally enjoy mathematics and students who don’t are engaged in playing Prodigy. The most interesting statistic however is that students are just as engaged playing Prodigy when they get home.