Review by Caryn Lix, Common Sense Education | Updated September 2016

CoolMath

Dated site has fun games, unclear math connections

Common Sense Says:
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Grades
K-12 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: Lessons and resources for parents, teachers, and kids of all ages are complemented by games galore.

Cons: The clunky, old-school interface may be a turnoff for older kids, and many will be drawn to the less skill-based games.

Bottom Line: Coolmath provides some ammo in the battle against math doldrums if used carefully.

First and foremost, Coolmath is a good place to send kids who think math is boring. Some of the games, like Beach Reversi, are based on ancient strategy games (in this case, Othello or the ancient Chinese game Go) and could be projected on the board to teach strategy or thinking skills to the whole class. "Brainie" is a cute way to practice addition with negative numbers for individual players, and "Crazy Taxi" helps with cementing multiples. Games appear to all be single-player, but scores could be tracked on a class chart.

Some of the games have great strategy and logic elements, but many don't have direct curricular connections, which could make it difficult to keep kids on track. If teachers take the time to find appropriate games to match the subject matter, they might find some good resources to use as supplemental activities. 

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Coolmath shouts "Math is fun!" with a huge collection of lessons, games, tips, flash cards, puzzles, definitions, calculators, math careers, a math survival guide, galleries, and links. Topics range from adding single digits to Pythagorean identities (precalculus).

After lessons, kids can practice solving problems with monster-themed games or try out a huge list of calculators, from compound interest (financial) to a prime number tester. There are quite a few levels of difficulty to be found on the site, from a lemonade-stand game that helps kids with addition and subtraction to a 32-step precalculus lesson. An extremely similar companion site, coolmath4kids.com, has overlapping content but is intended for elementary ages.

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There is no teacher dashboard and no way to track progress or even statistics beyond a single session, but this keeps in line with the lighthearted tone of the site. There is some good content here, but in the rush to include as many games as possible, there are also a lot of games that could be called "time wasters" -- they may encourage spatial or creative thinking on some level, but teachers probably won't want kids spending much time on them. 

While it might take kids a while to get used to the busy, dated visuals and sometimes confusing navigation, the sheer quantity of resources in Coolmath is staggering. Kids could easily get hooked on the games, but they might just as easily go to the lessons for some cool tricks or print out geometric coloring pages. The cartoony characters, bold primary colors, and avalanche of goofy stuff might be a turnoff for older kids who could definitely benefit from the precalculus and trigonometry resources. An update might reach the jaded teen audience, but it also might take away some of the fun.

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Overall Rating
2

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
4

Coolmath's design is fairly outdated and visually busy, but the games are fun and the overall variety should keep kids engaged.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
2

Kids get examples of how math concepts work and can play dozens of games to test out those lessons, but many games have a dubious learning connection.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
2

There's a helpful section for parents and teachers. The site also links to several other sites, including a math site for younger kids, sites about teen stress management, and other topics.


Common Sense Reviewer
Caryn Lix Classroom teacher

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