How I Use It
I used this with a small group while tutoring them in basic math facts. Though they were practicing the concepts addressed in this program, they were all in 6th grade or higher, so the animations and graphics were a bit too juvenile for their attention. The program allows you to pick which part of the pre-loaded curriculum you want to “assign” to students, and each can be on a different assigned pace based on their individual need. These are all aligned to CCSS, which I found extremely helpful to reinforce concepts that I re-taught in tutoring.
A typical cycle within the program includes an introduction activity, where the program will gauge whether the student needs to “relearn” the concept or lesson, and then provides instruction based on those three or four questions. Watching students go through one of the multiplication lessons, it was difficult to tell whether they were paying attention to what the program was attempting to teach them. With my 6th graders, they were apt to click through the lesson, assuming that they knew what was being explained. When they moved on to the practice part of the program, it was clear that they still needed more instruction (which the program then provided).
I was impressed with the practice problems and the way that each were used in a meaningful way: students were asked math problems in the context of the game which made it more worthwhile (it was not a worksheet or set of problems).
The thoroughness of each Common Core standard was interesting as well. It was easy to identify which unit I wanted students to work on or practice. I would be interested in if there were two or three quests or lessons per standard: it seems like many of my students will be repeating that standard when they miss concepts or fail to master the standard. The one unit we practice (multiplication of double digits) required the students to replay the same activities.
I was also impressed that I was given student results in real time. If I clicked on a student as they were completing an assignment or unit, the program provided data of their mastery level. I could also create multiple curriculum paths for a student to follow: whether with the entire class, a smaller group, or their individual level. From my computer, I could also push them into the path I wanted them in at that moment, without disrupting their progress from the other path. I also liked that I could chose from lower or higher grade levels based on my individual student’s need (without them knowing they were working on an easier task), and that the program automatically adapted to the level of help each student needed.
I will note that the animations were not engaging for my 6th grade group. The mouths of the characters don’t move when they speak. The robot voice and the “human” voices were not of the same quality. You controlled your character with the arrow keys and spacebar, which was confusing to my kids at first. There was a bit too much backstory starting out -- be prepared to spend 15-20 minutes to allow students to set up and get into the program the first time they signed on. Also, be sure to write down student passwords, as the teacher is not able to find their passwords once he/she leaves the initial page where students are entered.