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Pros: Large collection of games, interactive word problems, and instructional videos offers limited value.
Cons: Not all games are academic; numerous ads are distracting; student performance is not saved; games don't adapt.
Bottom Line: Teachers who invest time identifying the best of the site may find some useful games and resources.
Math Playground is a website that hosts a collection of games; there is no dashboard or management system of any kind. Games don't adapt to student skill levels or answers. Student data isn't recorded for teachers to analyze.
To use Math Playground effectively, teachers will need to sift through many games to find the ones that align with their curricular goals. Google Classroom teachers will find a convenient button to send the game directly to that platform and can organize them as a material in Google Classroom for future use. Teachers must remain vigilant about monitoring students on the site, as there is no way to restrict access to games the teacher doesn't want them playing.
Teachers can find helpful games with enough exploration, but the sheer number of distracting ads, poor-quality games, and non-educational games can be distracting. Without any ad blockers, video advertisements for Nerf guns and Lego sets were observed during this review. Other ads are deceptive -- like ones that appear to be buttons for different grade levels. Children (and teachers) may click these and end up on an entirely different site without realizing it.
Many games that children are most likely to gravitate to have little educational value, like racing motorcycles, or Mario-style platformers. Some games will be too difficult for the grade level they are categorized in. For example, in kindergarten, there is a game for matching analog clocks to times written out as words. Nevertheless, teachers will likely find something that can reinforce the skill being worked on in class. Some games allow students to play against friends in their class or other people using the site. Note that it isn't possible for any virtual interactions between players otherwise.
Aside from games, teachers may find a few other resources, including worksheet generators and videos. The videos are generally procedural (think Khan Academy). These videos might be helpful as reminders or reinforcement, but they likely differ from how teachers introduce a particular skill.
Students will get basic feedback while playing some games -- whether they were right or wrong -- but once they close the feedback, that information is gone. Due to that and the lack of a dashboard in the non-subscription version, Math Playground is an example of a learning product that needs to catch up with modern developments and trends in educational technology.
Math Playground is an extensive collection of math games, interactive activities, and videos that address a wide variety of math topics such as arithmetic, geometry, percentages, word problems, algebra, graphing, logic, and more. Many of the games come from Arcademics, which is a site unto itself. Beyond the student-centered activities, teachers can find both online and printable worksheets. They can find games via subject and grade level, or find them grouped more broadly by clicking the All Games tab. A text window below each game lists the Common Core connection.
The free version has pop-up and banner ads that are easy to mistake for content. If you subscribe, you get access to more games, full-screen versions of games, the ability to save favorites, and classroom management features. Most importantly, paying makes the site ad-free.
Though it's great to have a ton of free content at your disposal, it's important to wade through the content on Math Playground to find the games, videos, and activities that will give your students what they need. In terms of games, there are some familiar types, like math-focused versions of Pac-Man and Tetris that help kids explore addition and numbers. Other games require brain-bending logic, like the gravity-based Sugar, Sugar. Worksheets, drills, and instructional videos explain a variety of math concepts to help round out the site's approach.
Unfortunately, the level of instruction varies from game to game, with many games focusing on superficial drills and rote practice. Also, the mechanics of some will likely confuse kids, especially when there are no instructions and no help within the game itself. Feedback is limited to trial and error: Kids can see their progress in individual games, but there isn't a system for tracking progress at the site level. Of course, free resources are critical for most teachers, and there's some solid content to find on Math Playground. However, it will definitely work best if teachers spend some time finding the higher-quality, targeted practice to avoid time-wasting and ad-related distraction.