Review by Jenny Bristol, Common Sense Education | Updated March 2019

Brilliant

Challenge top students with self-guided math, science, and CS courses

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • Math
  • Science

Skills
  • Critical Thinking
  • College & Career Prep
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
7–12
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (5 Reviews)
Privacy (See details)

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Pros: Self-guided learning perfect for driven students, thorough problem explanations, active community.

Cons: No teacher dashboard; somewhat dry material would benefit from more visuals.

Bottom Line: This learning and review site can be an exciting challenge for passionate students, but may be too much for struggling kids.

You may want to assign Brilliant's problems primarily for at-home practice, or challenge high-achieving kids to complete problems for extra credit. You can also encourage students to explore topics that you don't have time to cover in class. When you create your own account, you'll be able to post specific problems for your students; you can use hashtags to mark which ones you'd like them to complete. Encourage kids to post their own questions to the community or share interesting problems they find on Brilliant with the class. Encourage your students also to check out the helpful built-in wiki section, which offers succinct descriptions of ideas like Parallel Lines, the Law of Cosines, and Uniform Circular Motion accompanied by a few examples. Brilliant could be improved by adding a teacher dashboard to easily track student progress, however.

Like any online forum, there are some safety concerns; make sure to talk with your students about digital citizenship. Note that Brilliant is aimed toward "exceptional students," so it may not be appropriate for kids who are having difficulty with the subjects it covers.

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Brilliant is an online (web and mobile) community of learners who share and solve science, math, and computer science (CS) problems. Aimed toward high-aptitude students, it's particularly useful for kids competing in Math or Science Olympiad contests, or for those who want to get started in coding. The site's main interface is divided into the Today panel, Courses panel, and Practice panel (the community portions are, unfortunately, fairly hidden in one of the drop-down menus). The Today panel has a set of daily problems covering Math & Logic and Science & Engineering. Students can also access the Daily Problem archives. When students solve these problems, they can contribute an explanation to their solution if desired, with formatting including LaTeX.

Under Courses, students choose from among foundational and advanced courses like Algebra, Number Theory, Group Theory, Electricity & Magnetism, Programming with Python, Machine Learning, Astronomy, Geometry, and Calculus. A brief introduction gets students going, and then they're presented with material and questions to test their comprehension. Whether or not they answer the problems correctly, they can display the explanation to learn how the problem was solved by the author. Students can optionally give these explanations a thumbs up or thumbs down. The Practice section focuses on fewer topics but is well organized, pointing to related courses, additional practice problems, and the many relevant pages in the community wiki.

Students can participate in the active community of other Brilliant users who post and solve their own problems, add to and edit the built-in wiki, and generally help each other. Additionally, there's a coding environment where users can type in and run code for Python 3, Bash, C, Rust, and Q#.

Students can take Brilliant courses to learn new skills, to practice what they already know, as supplemental learning for school, or just for fun. The site is elegantly laid out and easy to navigate. It lets students solve problems in their areas of study while getting immediate feedback. Students will appreciate the self-directed nature of the site, allowing them to work in areas they find interesting, and they can set goals for when they want to finish courses. Even better, they can create their own problems to try to stump their friends.

Brilliant's existing problems are moderately intriguing; they're pretty similar to the types of story problems you find in traditional textbooks. But the community members present new challenging problems as well, and that area of the site is a great place for students to get additional help and bond over similar educational interests. There's room for different levels of knowledge, to some extent, as students can search for problems that are ranked easy, medium, or hard. The site could be improved by including the community and wiki resources in a top-level panel to make them easier to find.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Brilliant is very user-friendly, with a clean, intuitive design and quality content. The educational tasks themselves are about as fun as your average story problem, however. Still, engaged students will embrace the built-in community.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Self-directed courses and lessons, along with plenty of built-in explanation and community, involve students in directing their own learning.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Each problem includes a full explanation, and the built-in wiki and community are invaluable resources for additional help. Teachers can set kids free to work at their own pace, or walk students through the courses.


Teacher Reviews

(See all 5 reviews) (5 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Matt O. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Lusher Charter School
New Orleans, United States
It's a great place for students to stretch their intellectual muscles.
Brilliant is a great way to allow advanced students to go beyond the curriculum and try new things. It won't necessarily engage an uninterested student, but it does provide challenge to those who need it. And since it gives diagnostic pre-tests, it is good for multiple levels.
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