Alternative Ed Review: Smartick
I was recently given a free trial for Smartick, an intuitive, online math tutorial for kids ages 4 to 14. Each child has their own profile and logs on for 15 minutes per day, 5 days a week. They complete math problems to gain ticks (stars that serve as Smartick currency). After the 15 minutes, they spend additional time navigating Smartick's virtual world, where they can redeem their ticks for avatar accessories, virtual pets, and treehouse decor. Eventually a game center opens up with games that focus on perception, memory, attention, and reasoning.
Intuitive - As a child answers questions, the program gauges her level and adapts accordingly. There is also an "I don't know" button if the material is too advanced.
15 Minutes Per Day - This is an entirely manageable block of time. It goes by quickly. Not only do I no longer get resistance from my children about doing their Smartick lesson, they wish they could do more lessons (the program allows one lesson per day, no chance to binge).
Virtual World & Games - Smartick's virtual world and math games are highly engaging. As students progress, new aspects of the world open up. After the lesson my daughters easily spend another 15 minutes exploring the virtual world and tailoring their avatars. Because this is so engaging, they're eager to do their lessons. The games available are math-orientated. If your kids are going to play games online, these are the types of games you want them playing.
Timer - I debated over whether this was a pro or con. In the beginning, the presence of a timer caused panic and frustration (the kids can see if they're on track to finish or falling behind). Ultimately I think this is a necessary component. Without a timer, either of my daughters is liable to end up staring into space when confronted with a difficult problem. The timer keeps them focused and moving forward.
|After the math lesson, it's game time.|
Dialect Issues - Smartick originated in Spanish, was then translated for a British audience, and is now being introduced to the US. There are a few instances of unfamiliar dialect or words not common in American English. Overall this isn't a huge stumbling block, but it does come up from time to time. These are kinks that the company is actively working out.
Occasional Lesson Glitches - One in every ten lessons seems to miss the mark. Either the content will suddenly revert to something far too basic, or a lesson gets stuck repeating a question a dozen times (even when answered correctly the first time). Again, I think this type of thing will be smoothed out shortly.
For two children, Smartick ranges from $30-$45 per month, depending on whether you pay monthly, quarterly, or yearly. My children each complete their 15-minute Smartick lesson 5 days a week. This works out to be 10 hours of math tutorials per month (I like to work out the hourly cost for this sort of thing). While more expensive than using IXL, Prodigy, or Khan Academy, the reward system of what the user can do with their avatar in Smartick's virtual world and the games available make the program more engaging.
From the Mouths of Babes:
Emilia (age 10): "I love Smartick. It's so fun and you learn a lot of stuff. You also get to buy things and there's a school and a treehouse where you make friends. You get to buy a lot of stuff like a pet that you see with your picture every time and you also get to buy gifts to give to other people. The thing I don't like about Smartick is there's this timer that drives me crazy. You only get 15 minutes to see how many questions you can answer. And the more questions you answer, the more ticks you get. That's like money in Smartick world. But otherwise it's really fun to do and I hope other people get to do it."
Ivy (age 7): "Smartick is super fun because on the math part there's a timer and also you get to play games after a little while. And I think I should share Smartick with other people in the world."
The pros far outweigh the cons for this one. The program is engaging, interactive, and challenging. Smartick is not meant to be a substitute for math instruction, but a supplement to it. It's an exercise in mental agility. The fact that my children look forward to a daily math exercise is a testament to the program's efficacy. I definitely recommend this product. I'd encourage using the free trial and having your child complete a full two weeks before you pass judgement.
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