Review by Emily Pohlonski, Common Sense Education | Updated November 2016

ExploreLearning Gizmos

Vast array of science and math simulations impresses

Subjects & skills
  • Math
  • Science

  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (16 Reviews)
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Use Responsibly

Indicates that the service meets the minimum criteria and more research should be completed prior to use.

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Pros: Gizmos are simple to use, cover nearly every topic in math and science, and come with an array of supportive resources and assessments.

Cons: Subscription cost is high, but students can use Gizmos for free, 5 minutes per day.

Bottom Line: This powerful set of math and science tools puts the learning in students' hands.

Teachers can use ExploreLearning Gizmos as a demo projected in front of the class, but Gizmos are best used when placed right in the hands of the students. After setting up a teacher account, educators go to their Teacher Homepage, where they can create classes, assign individual Gizmos, and view assessment results. Teachers can select Gizmos aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core State Standards for math. Gizmos are also organized according to popular textbooks and curriculums such as FOSS Science.

Each Gizmo has support materials including Lesson Plans, Vocabulary Sheets, Teacher's Guides, and editable Student Exploration Sheets. Each activity also ends with an online assessment, the results of which are available immediately to teachers and students. The ExploreLearning community allows teachers to share worksheets and lessons that they have created using the Gizmos.

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It's difficult to describe the entire array of interactive simulation tools (called Gizmos) that ExploreLearning makes available on this site. Arranged by curriculum, topic, or textbook, these little applications explore hundreds of concepts that students learn in elementary, middle, and high school mathematics and science. From number sense to algebra and from biology to physics, there are enough tools here for students to try a different one each week for every school year.

Each Gizmo comes with extensive support through the site and printable resources to help with deployment. The Exploration Sheet includes some questions that activate prior knowledge and others that allow students to record their learning during an activity. An assessment is administered at the end of each Gizmo to measure student learning. All of these are of high quality and rigorous enough to be useful in any classroom.

ExploreLearning Gizmos allow individual students to experiment and build their own understanding of the concepts involved. Many are conducive to classroom demonstrations for a larger group, but this method loses the magic that comes from kids tweaking the settings of a simulation to see what happens. For example, the Archimedes Principle Gizmo is perfect for teaching the idea of buoyancy and displacement to middle school students. A student can learn a lot by adjusting the size of a "boat" and then adding mass until it sinks, observing how such factors affect whether a boat floats.

Gizmos embody the three-dimensional learning called for by the Next Generation Science Standards. Students are engaged in Science and Engineering Practices such as analyzing data, while they also learn content. Woven throughout the Gizmos are Cross-Cutting Concepts such as cause and effect and systems and scale. Simulations bundled with a few assessment questions help kids practice for the tech-enhanced items now appearing on many standardized science tests. 

Overall Rating

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

Interactive and graphical activities will draw kids in and keep them playing. Students can experiment as long as needed, and then take the assessment when ready.

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

Students make changes to simulations and observe the outcomes -- a powerful way for them to learn how various factors are related. 

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

A useful help section includes video demonstrations of the most important tasks on the site. Students get feedback in each activity as they complete the simulation.

Common Sense Reviewer
Emily Pohlonski Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

(See all 16 reviews) (16 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Jenny O. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
A.D. Henderson University School
Boca Raton, United States
Engaging Math and Science Interactives
We have recently renewed our school's Gizmo subscription. The student led nature of the interactives make them useful in a variety of classroom settings. My only complaint is that I find the way accounts are organized to be less than ideal for elementary students. (Students create accounts and then join a teacher class using a class code.) Overall, it is a helpful classroom resource.
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