Review by Emily Pohlonski, Common Sense Education | Updated May 2013

Sumdog

Let Sumdog be your guide through adaptive, straightforward math games

Common Sense Says:
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Grades
1-6 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: Kids really will find the games fun, and there are many motivators here to keep them continually improving skills.

Cons: Activities don’t focus on conceptual math understanding or provide opportunities to think critically -- it's just straightforward drills.

Bottom Line: Fun math fact games are individualized for each kid – kids'll stay for the coins, but you'll be happy with their scores.

Sumdog makes differentiation easy in your classroom. Kids can play the same games -- against each other -- and be practicing different skills at different levels. That's a really cool feature. The site is  great for at-home or in-class practice, and parents can even join in the fun and play against their kids. To get kids excited about math, your school can compete in national Sumdog math contests for prizes. Questions are personalized for kids at different levels, so each kid has a fair shot at winning. Nice!

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Sumdog lets kids play math games against their friends, classmates, or students from around the world. You have the flexibility to choose from 25 different games to practice the same skill; skills include arithmetic, fractions, decimals, percentages, equations, and money. Games stay the same, but the questions within them change based on teacher selections and student progress. Every correct answer earns you coins to spend in the virtual shop and buy outfits for your virtual avatar.

Cake Monsters – For every math fact you get right, you get to feed your monster cake; but pick your cake pieces very carefully as they pile up.

Starship – Answer math facts quickly to shoot enemy ships before they destroy you.

Touchdown – Click on the football player on the other team with the right answer before he tackles you.

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Kids love choice and competition: Sumdog provides both while also making lots of room for real math practice. Each game is timed, creating a sense of urgency and excitement as well as helping kids build their speed and increase their math fact fluency. Kids will also love the coin incentive to go shopping for their avatar (although some of the female clothing options are unecessarily provocative). Some games are a bit too much; the dizzying graphics in "Touchdown" may prevent kids from focusing on the math. But Sumdog does provide a bunch of different types of games, which is helpful for kids with various learning styles.

"Junk Pile" has you drag number answers down to a dumping ground; they then transform into various pieces of trash, which you stack up. In games like this, there's not as much of a connection between the game and the math as there could be; it would be better to create piles of junk with a certain number of garbage bits, or work fractions into the mix somehow. Pulling these things together a bit more could build a much better conceptual understanding that'll stick with kids.

Note: be cautious of kids trying to game the system. In some games, like Starship, kids can randomly click buttons until only the right answer remains.

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Overall Rating
3

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

Lots of competitive opportunities bring kids back for more, and games are colorful and fun. The graphics aren't fantastic, but they'll please kids.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
4

Each kid has a completely customized set of games, and as he or she learns, games adapt for a continual challenge.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
3

Each game begins with a quick demo to get kids started, and instruction is clear. Kids get immediate feedback as they play, and they get total scores at the end. Information is saved, and progress can be tracked.


Common Sense Reviewer
Emily Pohlonski Classroom teacher