A pair of Waterloo alumni are helping families deliver math in a fun and engaging way.

Prodigy Game, developed by two University of Waterloo Engineering grads, has filled the resource gap for building math skills and confidence, especially during the present school-year interruption due to COVID-19.

Vikram Somasundaran
Vikram Somasundaran
> MAcc ’11, CPA, CA
> Director, Prodigy Game Partnerships​​​​​​

Launched in 2013, Prodigy Game is an online interactive and adaptive role-playing game (RPG) for grade 1 to 8 students. Students are immersed in a universe where the success of their adventure is based on answering skill-building math questions to earn rewards, battle wizards or create and build structures. How well a student does in math through the game is visible to teachers in the form of simple reports, which they can then use to streamline and customize their instruction.

“Video games build problem solving, resiliency and creative skills,” Vikram Somasundaram (MAcc ’11, CPA, CA) notes, director of Prodigy Game Partnerships. “The game marries the immersive nature of video games with math to make the process of learning fun, easy and hopefully as addictive as other RPGs.”

In 2019,  a study on Prodigy’s efficacy conducted by Johns Hopkins University (JHU) found that, on average, increased use of Prodigy was significantly correlated with increased achievement gains for students in mathematics. Educators indicated that when Prodigy is used to supplement math lessons, students’ engagement increases and they stay “focused and engaged with content that is both challenging and relevant.”

Originally delivered as a classroom tool, the game has been embraced by both parents and teachers with over 80+ million registered students, 6.9 million registered parents and 2 million registered teachers.

Navigating math in a virtual world

The game comes with a robust support network as well as analytics for teachers to differentiate their instruction based on their students’ needs. Principals, teachers and school districts are provided with training, one-on-one support and webinars to ensure successful implementation in the classroom. The depth of understanding teachers’ needs captured at the front-end of development has resulted in Prodigy Game’s ability to respond quickly to COVID-19 and the new challenges of online learning faced by teachers and parents.

“We have spent most of our energy over the last couple of weeks focused on outreach efforts to our users,” Somasundaram states. “We’re offering additional training and support and provided webinars, articles and blog posts to help teachers and parents transition successfully to teach from a distance and remote setting.”

The team at Prodigy Education is also ramping up their online tutoring service by hiring more certified teachers to meet the new demand.

“There’s been a huge spike in demand for this service and we’re seeing how we can scale it up quickly to help parents support their children’s learning at home.”.

Prodigy Game is one of many math platforms with a Waterloo connection. The Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing, which has been adopted as a resource by the Ontario government, is another.