Rohan Mahimker & Alex Peters started off working on a 4th year engineering project at the University of Waterloo with divergent career paths on the horizon after graduation. However, a shared childhood of ineffective math worksheets and a common passion for education proved to be enough to convert 2 students into entrepreneurs and pursue the creation of Prodigy. It’s a free online and engaging math video game that aligns with the Ontario school curriculum for grades 1-8. What’s great about it is that it adapts to each individual student by running a diagnostic test when they first start playing, and then scaling the difficulty of the game based on their progress. The idea was to get kids addicted to math games, just as Rohan and Alex were addicted to Pokemon as kids.
Is it effective? A recent study by Rohan Mahimker compared students’ EQAO results in Ontario for 2014 in Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board. The use of Prodigy showed an 11.5% increase in grade 3 students’ ability to meet EQAO standards tested against inactive schools (did not use Prodigy).
Shoshanna Cohen, a Grade 2 teacher in Seattle wrote this kind letter (abbreviated) to the founders:
“I want to truly thank you. I teach 2nd grade in a dual language classroom in Seattle. I have MANY extremely low and unmotivated students and math is by far their hardest subject. I received an email from Prodigy Math about two weeks ago and signed up all of my 54 students. I have NEVER had such excited students. They love Prodigy Math and those who have computer access at home, are spending a great amount of time mastering its math skills. I am able to differentiate lessons for my higher students and go back to the basics for my lower students. I am thrilled with your program … and am extremely grateful to you that it is free. Your program has turned my students around. They are EXCITED about math.”
Rohan and Alex found the RIC Centre online and were able to get mentoring and advisory services for entrepreneurs from advisors Tim Scott and John Macdonald. As mentors, they helped the young entrepreneurs develop their first real business plan, and advised them on government programs to help secure funding such as VentureStart and OCE’s Market Readiness Program resulting in over $150,000 in funding. In addition, John made various introductions to several angel groups and continues to advise them on an ongoing basis with larger issues such as bottlenecks and where to source talent.
”Working with Tim, John, and the RIC Centre team helped us to establish the discipline and early processes to get Prodigy off the ground. As new graduates, their guidance helped us to put together and iterate on our initial go-to-market plan and acquire our first customers.”
After launching the product in 2013, they now have 1 million students (as of Nov 2014) signed up, including 75% of all grade 1-8 students in Ontario. In the past year, the product has been improved to be accessible in-browser and the team at Prodigy Game has doubled, resulting in a total of 14 employees contributing to the economic growth in Ontario. Currently, they are growing rapidly with over 10,000 new student registrations per day through word-of-mouth and they have big plans for 2015; they have aligned their game with the Common Core Math Standard in the United States and plan to expand into the US and be the dominant math product by 2017.
To learn more about Prodigy, visit their website.