By now, it should be obvious to just about every teacher and school administrator that the best technique for teaching and learning is to make class time seem like fun and games with as little blackboard work as possible. That’s exactly the idea behind Hooda Math, an online math center that has a slew of HTML-based games that can take a class from counting and identifying numbers to basic algebra, graphing and even some physics. The best part is that it’s all free, although the site does have ads.
The main interface of Hooda Math is simple, straight-forward and functional with a grid of games arranged by type. Think of it as a sampler of the site’s larger library of more than 500 games. The software is organized by grade, math concept dealt with and type of game. At any time you can search for the right game or just nose around and try a few out.
Because they are based on HTML coding, the games will work on just about any computer with a Web connection, from an elderly desktop or Mac to the latest iPad or Chromebook. That is, only if it has an updated browser.
The beauty of Hooda is that some of the games themselves are often thinly disguised knock-offs of popular games, making it easy to entice students to use them. For instance, Happy Birds becomes Flappy Factors where kids control the birds while working on multiplication factors. Either way, they are meant to be attractive to children and an interactive way to learn and practice math skills.
Unfortunately, the site lacks a consistent look and feel and each game needs to be learned from scratch. Be prepared for kids to require three or four tries before they get the hang of how many of the games work. More detailed instructions or instructional videos would have helped but might have been a turn off to some students.
Each game is aligned with the Common Core Math standards with its CC category and specific skill reference noted at the top of the game’s page. This can streamline preparing class lesson plans but an overall Common Core list or outline with the games that address each area noted would have been a big help in attempting to see where Hooda Math can fit into an entire curriculum.
While just about every game has different levels to strive for, the reporting part of the site is minimalist compared to other math sites, for some activities, like the Math Timed Test applet, Hooda Math does send out an email to teachers when a certain skill level has been achieved. It, however, can neither automatically take the child to the next game in the progression nor drop scores or progress into a school’s gradebook software.
On the downside, some of the games just don’t work well or were inconsistent. When I clicked on the answers on Skater Math, the game didn’t respond, condemning the animated skateboarder to continue to fall on each pass. Others worked fine every time I used them, but I occasionally encountered server errors, which can be frustrating, particularly for a teacher roaming around the classroom trying to give help to struggling students.
Even at their best, the games are displayed in small windows at the center of the screen, which dilutes the impact on the viewer. Full-screen representation would have been a big help.
The site has links to a good variety of tutorial videos that are aligned to the game at hand as well as a bunch that don’t seem to align with the online content. For instance there are some very interesting videos that explain how to solve word problems with linear graphs. Some of the best (at least for small children) have characters dressed in silly costumes in front of a whiteboard to explain the math involved. A hidden bonus is a series of six videos that show the basics of programming.
Ultimately, Hooda Math is a work in progress with the site adding games on a weekly basis. It is aimed more at early education than middle- or high-school math classes, but it presents a great variety of visual problem-solving activities, something that other curriculum services fall short on.
What Hooda Math does, it does well with the ability to teach a class without students ever suspecting they’re learning something important.
Free with site ads
+ Free access to over 500 math-based games
+ Excellent variety of activities
+ Organized by grade, subject and type of game
+ Good video tutorials
+ Downloadable versions of some games
- No way to consolidate scores and report progress
- Lacks automatic progression
- Ad sponsored