Prodigy Math Game

There are lots of online math games out there. Some of them are kinda fun, some of them are pretty boring. Prodigy is not like those games.

A screenshot from Prodigy.

A screenshot from Prodigy.

Created to be like the sweeping fantasy games that are popular among gamers, Prodigy is a math game that allows users to customize an avatar, pick up new abilities and spells, and make their way through new realms. It is also Common Core aligned, and automatically adjusts to each student’s skill level. Teachers can set up accounts for their students that allow them to track progress.

The folks at Prodigy believe that their product should be available for all, so most of the game is completely free. You can upgrade to a membership, but it is not necessary to advance in the game, and the reports and tracking features that are so great for teachers are also free.

ABCMouse

ABCMouse is the new favorite in the Ed Tech world. It is an entire learning environment with lessons and activities designed to prepare little ones (2-5) for school. Users can either pick and choose the activities they want to try, or follow a pre-set path that works its way through a standards-aligned curriculum.

 

If you have an account, you can log in as a teacher and create student accounts, complete with avatars, ability levels, and pre-set lessons. Students can then log into their own accounts, and have everything set up for them to learn and explore the site. There are dozens of printables, too. 

For those of you with younger students just learning the alphabet, colors, numbers, and other basics, this is a fantastic place for interactive practice. It is free for teachers and librarians, and requires a subscription for parents. 

Scholastic’s Math@Work

Two words: Tim. Gunn. If that isn’t enough to entice you to watch this video on how math is used in fashion design, I don’t know what will.

Math@Work is Scholastic’s brand new video series on how math is used every day, in different situations, by normal people. The above video is just a clip from the series debut episode. In addition  to the video episode, the site also features lesson plans that are aligned with the Common Core standards.

FYI: I don’t advise showing the above clip in class. The suggested video thumbnails that appear at the end are a bit… racy. You’re much better off going directly to the Math@Work site and viewing from there. They have their own video player (not YouTube) that is completely school-appropriate. I wanted to embed their video, but sadly WordPress wouldn’t let me.

YouTube for Schools

Though it is one of the most commonly blocked websites at schools across the country, YouTube is trying to get into the education game. A new channel on the video service website curates videos that can be used in classes, sorted by grade level and subject.

The quality of the videos varies, but there are some good resources here. The organization is also really helpful, saving you lots of time by making it easy to find videos on the topic you’re looking for. As a matter of fact, the slogan of YouTube for Schools is “Spend more time teaching, less time searching.”

Take a look at this video on magnetic breakfast cereal!

African American History and Heritage

As you may know, February is Black History Month. Hopefully, you’re finding ways to incorporate the accomplishments of African-Americans into your lessons, but if you need some help, check out the African American History and Heritage site. This site is currently School Library Journal’s site of the week– talk about just-in-time resources!

It may not be pretty, but it’s chock full of great resources: biographies, links to books and videos, and a Teacher Toolkit. The Toolkit contains links, lesson plans, and more, and is organized by discipline.

It’s pretty hard to navigate, and is so full of resources that it may be confusing, but if you’re willing to go exploring, you can find cool resources like the African American Inventors database.

Math Pickle

As a school, we put a lot of focus on problem-based learning, especially in the math and sciences. Well, Math Pickle takes this concept and runs with it! Created for kindergarten and up, Math Pickle presents elegant, interesting math problems that require developmentally-appropriate math skills to solve. Each problem is presented in video form, with actual students working on them. Along with showing the problem videos, teachers can download excellent worksheets for practice.

Students will view each problem as more of a puzzle to solve, and will become actively engaged with the material. I gave this one a try, and found myself wanting more:

A Google A Day

In my recent explorations of Google Chrome (the web browser) and all its fun extensions and apps, I discovered A Google A Day. Every day, A Google A Day poses a new question that can be answered by clever use of Google’s search engine. The questions cover a wide range of topics, from math, to science, to history, and several combinations thereof. There is a hint button, tips and tricks, and when you’ve gotten the answer, there is a great explanation provided.

Here’s yesterday’s question:

If the Statue of Liberty (including pedestal) were measured with the unit of length most common in 2650 BCE, how tall would she be?

It’s one question, but requires several pieces of information to solve: the height of the statue, the unit of measure, and some means of converting the units. Because the tool at use here is Google, the question serves to subtly point users to a lesser-utilized function of the search engine: conversion. You can ask Google to convert just about any unit of measurement into any other, and it will do the calculation for you. You may not know that going into the question, but you certainly will once you’ve finished.

The answer, (which includes exact search strings to be entered into the search engine for the best results) is:

Search [measurement from 2650 BCE] and learn that the cubit was the standard unit of measurement. Search [height Statue of Liberty] and find that from the bottom of the pedestal to the top of her torch she measures 305 feet, 1 inch. Compute [ 305 feet 1 inch in cubits ] to get 203 cubits. (Because cubits varied slightly in dimension, your answer could be anywhere from 186-203 cubits.)

The main reason why I love this feature is because the questions tend to force the researcher to utilize a Big 6-style approach to information problem solving. Answering a question requires that you figure out what you’re searching for, create a plan for searching, and then examine your source closely to extract the relevant information.

The questions are not easy, and require quite a bit of critical thinking. This is both a blessing and a curse, since I don’t think that A Google A Day is appropriate for below 6th grade and is challenging for 7th and 8th graders. However, it would be great to work on a question as a class, or in a team of two of three, then come together and discuss what you’ve found and formulate an answer. Even if students can’t find an answer, A Google A Day will spark discussions about the difficulties of the research process, and how to best plan for and navigate the world of search results.

If you’re interested, I’d recommend checking the A Google A Day website, where you’ll find a week’s worth of questions available,  to see if there are any questions that you’d like to use with one of your classes.