In general, Smartick is meant to be used outside of the classroom, so parents (or tutors) would purchase a monthly subscription for their child. Smartick is designed to be used alone, for 15-minutes a day, as a student works through exercises that have been chosen by the Smartick algorithm based on a student’s performance within the app.
When students first sign in, they’ll be presented with a welcome tutorial that will guide them through how to use the app and what to expect. Everything is written and spoken, and students can always click on the audio button to hear things read to them. Students will also need to take a level test when they first begin in order for the software to learn where they’re at and what types of questions to ask.
If students miss a question, the solution will automatically pop up to show them the correct answer.
However, there is no explanation or steps provided, so students are left with the answer, but not the reasoning behind it. For me, this was the most frustrating part of the app. If students are using this app to learn math, just providing a solution with no explanation is not particularly beneficial in many cases.
In other words, I think for students who are highly motivated, and already have some familiarity with these concepts, Smartick can be beneficial. But for those students who are learning new material, decades of research suggests that timely and personalized feedback is imperative to the learning process. While the tutorials offered at the beginning of each session can be helpful, I don’t believe they are enough to replace an actual tutor/teacher for students who are learning new concepts, particularly when no actual feedback is given for wrong answers.
On the positive side, Smartick does offer a wonderful range of activities and question types. Everything you could ask for from elementary and middle school curriculum is represented. Smartick does say they are “conceptually” aligned with the CCSS for math, however, they do not plan on ever being specifically aligned with each individual CCSS.
On a side note, they also have an incredibly diverse cast of characters within the app, which is wonderful to see, and something that is far too often missing in the edtech world.
Once students have completed their level test, Smartick will automatically assign problems based on the student’s needs. In other words, based on what students don’t know, Smartick will offer personalized questions and activities.
As students progress through lessons, they earn “ticks” which can then be used to make digital purchases for their avatars.
The app also contains a virtual world, where there are scientifically designed games to reinforce cognitive skills (perception, attention, memory, and logical reasoning). These games unlock at different times during the trial period.
As mentioned above, students will also be offered tutorials at the beginning of each day which will provide guidance on how to solve the types of problems they will be working with. These tutorials show students a variety of strategies for how to approach problems, and give step-by-step directions for how to solve certain problem types. These tutorial are great, but as mentioned above, they are not as beneficial as timely and personalized feedback would be for when students actually miss problems during their exercises.
While you could work with an organization like Donors Choose, or try to get grant funding to cover the cost, it’s always frustrating to see these types of apps that are so completely out of reach for so many students. While Smartick is certainly cheaper than enrolling a student in a Kumon math program, it’s still sad to see the app being this expensive.
Additionally (and even more frustrating from a design perspective) when students miss a question, no feedback other than the solution is provided. Aside from the tutorials at the beginning of each day, there is literally no scaffolding when students are working in the app. I find this particularly frustrating as no additional tips, strategies, or reasons for why a student might have missed the question are given. For an app that is being billed as a tutor/teacher replacement, this structure would make it incredibly difficult for students to learn more about areas where they are struggling. As mentioned above, I think Smartick is a solid resource for highly motivated students who just want drill and practice activities, but I don’t believe it’s a good resource for learning new material, or for students who may be struggling with math.
So, if you are interested in trying Smartick, I would recommend the free trial. But based on my personal experience and philosophy that education (and education technology) should be made accessible and affordable, I unfortunately cannot personally recommend the app at this time.
As always with my reviews, I have made every effort to conduct a complete and thorough review of the product, and how it would be used by students.
Note: Based on my experience with the Smartick App, the Smartick team wished to include the following notes, specifically in regards to my issue with the feedback provided by the app: “Highlighting the error and giving the solution is, in most of the cases, more than enough. The reason for that is Smartick’s content is extremely gradual (remember children do an average of 50 problems every day). For that type of precise scaffolding, that kind of feedback works. I believe that judging the feedback without the context, i.e. without taking into account the typical use of Smartick is not fair.”
I was not compensated for writing this review.