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Pros: Kids find the games fun and motivating, questions can be read aloud, data reports help teachers plan instruction.
Cons: Games are mostly "skill and drill," and the scoreboards may intimidate some learners.
Bottom Line: These adaptive games can give teachers some useful data in math.
Teachers can use Sumdog to reinforce skills and concepts in four subject areas: math, reading, writing, and spelling. Teachers can have students play independently during academic choice time, allowing Sumdog to choose the questions that students get. Teachers can also assign specific Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and questions to students, making it handy for assessing kids after teaching the class a particular skill. Sumdog has introduced a button that reads the problem aloud, which will help remove barriers for some students. Be sure students have paper and a pencil nearby so that they can figure out some of the more complicated math problems.
Students will be more excited to practice this way than with a worksheet, but at its core, Sumdog is essentially a skill-and-drill exercise. The writing games are an exception, where activities involve writing sentences using certain words, practicing touch-typing, or writing a word that ends or begins with a particular letter or letters.
Sumdog is an online adaptive response program for K-8 math, K-6 spelling, and K-5 grammar (available on the web, iOS, and Android). When students log in, they can view assignments that the teacher has given them and can access games. When kids first play, Sumdog figures out what level of questions are appropriate for each student. If students feel the problems are too easy at first, tell them to stick with it; as kids answer questions correctly, the difficulty increases until students reach their "just right" level.
Students will enjoy the games, which have good, though not great, graphics and sound. When kids log in, their dashboard shows any assessments or challenges that the teacher has for them. They can also choose different subjects and topics for their games if the teacher has allowed it. The 25 games all follow the same format: Students answer some questions, play the game for a short amount of time, answer some more questions, play the game again, etc. Some students will enjoy competing with their classmates in games, while others may find this intimidating. Students don't need to be working on the same skill to compete, just playing the same game. One kid might be multiplying fractions and playing against a friend who is multiplying integers. Through it all, students earn coins that they can spend on items for their avatar's room.
Sumdog is a good option for skill practice for math, where the multiple-choice format works the best. The other subject areas offer less valuable practice, and thus more limited information on what a student knows. Reading questions have students choose the correct word for a sentence, while writing is limited to single sentences and words. Spelling assessments state the word to be spelled, use it in a sentence, and then state the word again. Students type the word and receive feedback on their spelling accuracy. The usefulness of this mode is hindered by the fact that teachers can only use words that are already in Sumdog. While there are lots of words, there's no guarantee that the words teachers need will be available. Likewise, having students in "writing" mode where they only write words and sentences won't provide much useful information for teachers and isn't the best use of student time.
Sumdog has made steps in trying to become more than "skill and drill," most notably by including integration with Khan Academy. When students get math problems wrong, at the end of the game Sumdog shows students these questions and provides a Khan Academy video to help students gain this skill. On paper, this sounds great, but Khan Academy tends to teach procedures more than concepts. Most students would be unlikely to watch a 10-minute whiteboard video on multiplying fractions and would instead get back to the games. Frankly, the teacher could address student misconceptions more effectively, and probably in less time.