Common Sense Review
Updated September 2015

Wowzers

Game-based, adaptive math site engages kids with extrinsic rewards
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Common Sense Rating 4
  • Teachers can create break-out groups for differentiated instruction.
  • Creating a class roster is a snap.
  • Learning paths can be rearranged and customized.
  • Teachers can view progress using the teacher dashboard.
Pros
Provides engaging, individualized math lessons that include games, video lessons, applied math, and assessments.
Cons
Older kids may find the virtual world a bit childish.
Bottom Line
Teachers looking for a gamified approach to math instruction will appreciate the customization and ability to target individual students' needs.
Jason Shiroff
Common Sense Reviewer
Classroom teacher
Common Sense Rating 4
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 4

Younger kids will find the interactive animations fun and engaging. Kids earn coins, which can be used to buy items for their avatars and Buzz Pods. A few learning videos aren't animated and aren't as fun.

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

Kids will like the games and rewards, but there's more than just fun to support learning. Sessions are adaptive, and each one has several parts: try out, lesson, practice, remediation, games, quests, and quizzes.

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

Students get instant feedback for answers, and they can bring up help screens and videos when they get stuck. Parents, teachers, and students can view progress.

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How Can Teachers Use It?

Teachers can set up students with the 60-question pre-assessment and let the program take over instruction from there. However, a more strategic use of the program might provide better results: With the teacher dashboard, Wowzers can be used to its fullest. You can easily search by grade level and standard to find the content of the daily sessions. Previews of each activity are available. From the dashboard, teachers can assign specific parts of the workshop to individual students, which is the real power and flexibility of Wowzers.

For example, you can assign one student a remediation activity in grade 6 integer arithmetic, while another student gets a grade 4 equivalent fraction quest activity. Since the site has so much content and is organized so well, teachers can set up playlists for students that really do address individual needs. Wowzers’ solid organization makes it a great way to target some instruction.

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What's It Like?

Wowzers is an interactive, adaptive math program that provides students opportunities to learn, practice, and apply new concepts. Each full session is organized in a traditional workshop model. Students start with a pre-assessment, followed by a lesson, practice, games, quests, and a final quiz. Students may move through a remediation step as needed, or skip a lesson if they do well on assessments. The assessments are modeled after the styles used on PARCC and Smarter Balanced assessments, which can help students prepare for high-stakes testing environments.  

The site provides comprehensive math content for grades K-8 based on the Common Core State Standards. Teachers are prompted to choose how they plan on using the website with their students; choices include core instruction, supplemental instruction, and extended day programs. Once students are entered into the site, teachers can choose activities and playlists across multiple grade levels. Students begin their work on Wowzers by creating an avatar and learning about the site. The kids’ virtual world is a visually engaging, animated space where they are rewarded with coins as they make progress on math concepts.

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Is It Good For Learning?

If you're looking for game-based learning, Wowzers is worth a look. It blends traditional math concepts into an animated virtual world, and the engagement factor is high, at least for grades K-5. Visually, middle school students might find the world a bit childish and less attractive. Although it's been recently improved, the audio still sounds a bit robotic at times, which can be a turn-off. Earning coins for performance might feed kids' desire for extrinsic rewards, but teachers should think about the implications of this within the context of their classrooms; will the knowledge stick?

On the plus side, the workshop model embedded in the program supports student learning. Teachers can create break-out groups from within each classroom to create differentiated learning scenarios. Students get instant feedback on assessments and get step-by-step instruction as needed. Some of these lessons are animated, while others are Khan Academy-like tutorials. These tutorials may help some learners, but others may need different types of instruction. The site also has downloadable supplemental materials, including homework worksheets, games, and activities for higher-order thinking and writing; teachers will appreciate the variety here. In particular, the Extended Response Four Square is a useful tool for problem-solving. With online and offline lessons, practice, and fun, Wowzers could be a valuable addition to an already balanced math classroom.

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