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5 Games and Apps That Build Math and English Skills

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By Tanner Higgin, Graphite

For educators who are interested in using games for learning -- specifically towards developing skills as they relate to the Common Core State Standards -- here are five games students can enjoy that we’ve found sync with standards.

1.  DragonBox Algebra 5+

DragonBox features an exceptionally clever design that’s so fun, and so elegantly accomplished that kids don't realize they're learning core concepts of algebra. The start is simple enough: students move colorful cards around a screen to solve puzzles; there are no numbers in sight. But by the time they’re done with the game’s 200 levels, they will be solving algebra equations that are comparable to what they might get in class worksheets. It’s particularly refreshing because, as one of the teachers on Graphite explains, “it’s one of the only games…that isn’t simply drilling math problems.”


2.  The Sports Network 2

It’s not easy to make a game about reading critically — one of the key CCSS skills — but The Sports Network 2 pulls it off. Students are thrown into the role of a cable sports show producer, and must make sure the show’s content is written well and on point. One of the side benefits of the game is how relatively accurately it portrays an actual job, so it gives students an insider’s look into the world of broadcasting and communications, and shows how language and reading skills can come in handy.


3.  Prodigy

Another comprehensive game for elementary grades, Prodigy fuses math with tried-and-true role-playing mechanics. Kids use math to wield magic and combat monsters as they venture through a fantasy-based world and level up their characters. It’s not ground-breaking game design, but when kids just need to hammer out some practice, Prodigy gives them the opportunity to do so within a more entertaining context than the traditional worksheet. It’s also designed to adapt to students’ answers, providing remediation when necessary to make sure they progress.



4.  Word Raider

If you’ve got students struggling with vocabulary, Word Raider is a good option especially for English language learners. While the mechanics aren’t quite as clever as DragonBox, it has a solid formula that focuses on important academic terms and visual learning. It’ll give struggling students valuable practice, and the Indiana Jones-esque temple exploration provides some fun context. However, since it uses the microphone, it’s best in smaller class settings or for use at home where kids can focus and there’s not a lot of background noise.


5.  DreamBox

For younger students, DreamBox is a comprehensive, game-based math curriculum oozing with style and full of well-designed, self-paced games that adapt to students' abilities. For classrooms that can have a wide range of differentiation, DreamBox allows kids to practice at their own level. One teacher review on Graphite also points out that DreamBox’s forward-thinking, research-backed design gets kids to “move from concrete to abstract thinking.”

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Tanner Higgin is Senior Manager, Education Content, at Common Sense Media, creator of Graphite ™, a free service for educators in search of the best apps, games, and websites rated for learning. This post is one in a series collaboration. Games included here have received high ratings on Graphite by educators and by the editorial staff at Common Sense Media. Go to Graphite to read full reviews of games and how teachers use them for learning in class.

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