Website review by Galen McQuillen, Common Sense Education | Updated April 2016

ExploreLearning Reflex

Addictive and adaptive games to help kids memorize math facts

Learning rating
Editorial review by Common Sense Education
Community rating
Based on 15 reviews
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1–5 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.
Subjects & Skills
Math, Critical Thinking

Pros: Eye-catching graphics, simple gameplay, and low cognitive threshold will hook kids right away, plus point systems might keep some kids playing.

Cons: Only helps with memorization and quick recall, not pattern recognition, grouping, or deep understanding of numerical relationships.

Bottom Line: If worksheets are too dull but you need the same kind of skill-practice question sets, this is certainly a more engaging format.

ExploreLearning Reflex is best used in situations where students already have strong conceptual understanding of operations, number patterns, and grouping strategies but could use a bit of extra support on quick recall (primarily for high-stakes testing purposes). It should not be any part of regular classroom practice, reserved instead for extra support.

Reflex is most effective if used regularly for shorter periods of time (15 minutes). Students should end the game wanting more. This will keep kids from getting bored and allow them to memorize facts more quickly. Kids can work on Reflex at home or in school. They can track their growth using the Progress Tree, and parents and teachers can view individual reports showing usage and fluency gained. The audio and sound effects could be distracting to others, so be sure students have headphones.

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ExploreLearning Reflex teaches math facts for addition and subtraction for numbers 0-10 and multiplication and division for numbers 0-12. It's best for students who already understand basic math operations and need practice to improve speed and accuracy. A character named Crabby walks students through the setup. Students then answer a set of questions to determine their starting fluency. They can choose from a selection of games appropriate for their level. Each game starts with Coach Penny giving them some rules, such as "Subtracting a number from itself equals 0." Students practice that rule, and once they demonstrate understanding, they get to play the game to build their speed. As they progress, they earn tokens to redeem for online prizes.

The Reflex dashboard allows teachers to create classes, add students, and monitor student progress. Teachers can enter each student manually or import a CSV file. Districts can load their class lists in advance so that teachers can simply select which students to add to their classes. The reports menu allows teachers to track the progress of their entire class and gives details about individual students, including fluency gains and product usage.

Students memorize more easily by learning "fact families," in which they focus on a set of facts for a group of numbers. Subtraction and addition are paired and taught together, as are multiplication and division. This strategy does some scaffolding toward inverse operations. Reflex is lightly adaptive, removing the facts students already know as they play, which may keep them challenged but can also promote forgetting facts after assessment. For extra support, Coach Penny offers some helpful tutorials.

That said, the actual content is no more complicated or authentic than long worksheets of numbers and single operations. Also, the game structure may do more harm than good, replacing any intrinsic motivation for learning math relationships with blindly churning through problems to accrue enough points for that next reward in the virtual shop. 

Overall Rating

Engagement Would it motivate students and hold their interest? Is it visually appealing? Would it inspire teachers to try something new or change their instruction?

Characters in precarious situations make kids want to solve problems quickly to reach their goals. Goofy accents and bright colors make the games more cartoon than worksheet (though the actual math is about the same).

Pedagogy Does the tool help teachers promote a more student-centered experience? Will students gain conceptual understanding or think critically? Does it deepen teachers’ pedagogical thinking?

The games promote a purely memorization-based approach, with "fact families" used as mnemonics rather than pattern-based deep understanding tools. They are effective at getting students through tons of homogenous problems.

Support Can students and teachers get assistance when they need it? Is it created with people of different abilities and backgrounds in mind? Is learning reinforced and extended beyond the digital experience?

Available in English, Spanish, and French. Friendly characters walk students through the process and provide some feedback. The teacher dashboard and Progress Tree allow teachers and students to view fluency gained.

Common Sense reviewer
Galen McQuillen Researcher

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Featured review by
Cathy F. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Ada Givens Elementary School
Merced, United States
A top-rate app in building math fact fluency
Reflex Math is an invaluable tool for an elementary math class. One of the best features of the program is that students learn related operations at the same time, with visual representations that help them deepen their understanding. They internalized the concepts of the operations, applying them during our problem-solving sessions. By Christmas my class was 97% fluent in multiplication and division. The payoff was huge during our fractions and division units. Because of their facility with math ...
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