What is it
Prodigy is an online game that relies on math to engage in battles with fantasy creatures. The game is a MORPG (multiplayer online role-playing game) and there is a limited social element where players can interact with other players. The game is free but the user is occasionally bombarded with in-game ads for the full membership.
Membership costs $8.95 per month or $59.88 per year. Membership removes ads and allows the player to do additional things in the game. These things (e.g. permitting a player to have more than 8 in-game pets) seem trivial to me but may matter to kids.
Prodigy is essentially gamified flash cards. Prodigy does not teach math, but instead drills players with grade-appropriate questions. Getting the question correct allows the in-game character to use some kind of spell in a battle. Winning battles earns credits, which can be used to level up armor, buy pets, etc.
Who is it for
Our kids don’t play any other MORPGs, so this is the game that permits them to have that experience. A kid who already plays online RPGs would probably find Prodigy to be inferior.
The educational part of the game is essentially identical to ALEKS. But while ALEKS has almost zero visual design or user feedback, Prodigy has loads. So a kid who needs/wants math drills but is frustrated by the flaws in ALEKS, might enjoy Prodigy.
Prodigy is in no way a substitute for a math course. It is useful as an ancillary activity, reinforcing the concepts that a child has learned elsewhere.
What Kids Like
My kids loathe ALEKS and love Prodigy. They enjoy the virtual environment, having an in-game character that they can name, dress, etc. They like all the game aspects of leveling up and earning credits. The math part is sometimes frustrating – because there is never explanation of how to solve the problems – but the fun of the game is usually enough to motivate them to continue.
What Parents Like
I like that instead of just playing a game, the kids are getting some math practice. We’ve tried other forms of math exercise, but Prodigy is the only one anyone has stuck with.
I have not used these features, but Prodigy allows parents to set goals for the kids, and set the rewards. It also allows parents to monitor progress and receive Report Cards.
What the Critics Think
Prodigy has loads of critics. The fact that the game does not actually teach anything, and solely relies on drills, is a frustrating surprise for some.
Common Sense Media has very mixed reviews, but ultimately gives Prodigy 4/5 stars.
• The excessive pressure to buy a membership can be annoying. There are not ads for other things, as there are in many of the apps my kids play, but still the ads for Prodigy membership may be enough reason to not play it.
• The game relies on a thirst for violent competition. The violence is very cartoon-y, without blood or gore. And the competition is not really different from what you would see in a game of chess.
However, most math-education tools/games rely on the desire to solve problems as the motivator. Prodigy uses the desire to win as the motivator. This may seem a subtle distinction, but it will appeal greatly to some students and not at all to others.
Who Made it / History
Prodigy was founded in 2011 by Rohan Mahimker, Alex Peters and is now developed and maintained by a rather large (70+) team based in Toronto.
Where Can I Get it