Product I Love: Prodigy
Thursday May 21, 2020
Prodigy is a web-based platform that combines fantasy gaming with a built-in math curriculum for grades K through 8. The platform works by having kids answer math questions that earn them spells, which they can then use to battle monsters as they move through different worlds on the way to the Wizard Academy.
For me, it’s been a lifesaver over the past few weeks. Similar to many people, COVID-19 has my kids learning at home while I am simultaneously working. Many of the other online platforms endorsed by the school are cumbersome to use and outdated for today’s technology advanced kids.
As a product leader, Prodigy’s impact excites me given they have managed to build a teacher-approved, kid-approved, and mom-approved app. I’ve boiled down why they have been able to be so impactful to two things.
1. It’s Purpose Built
Prodigy’s mission is “to help every student in the world love learning.” Academic research has found that math performance is directly correlated to attitude. In fact, a child’s attitude to math contributes to math achievement in equal measure to IQ. When you ask kids what they like about Prodigy (I did some rudimentary qualitative research with 10 kids ages 8 – 12) they all give the same answer: it’s fun!
At Connected, we believe that having a product northstar is key to a successful product. That’s why one of the first things we do when partnering with clients is to help them define their northstar and their northstar metric. This helps product builders optimize for their core value (their purpose) over everything else. As a customer of Prodigy it’s clear that their northstar guides their every decision. I am not privy to what their northstar metric is, but I’m sure they have identified a proxy metric for “fun” and funnel their thinking through it.
2. Prodigy has Designed a Product that Delights Their Users
The best way to delight your users is to solve a problem (i.e. relieve a pain point) they’re having. For Prodigy this means solving for their three key users: students, teachers, and parents. When it comes to math, all three groups have a common pain point: math is often viewed as a difficult chore by students. By making math fun and accessible, Prodigy relieves that pain point for all three of their users. This leads to delight and has also enabled Prodigy to monetize their product.
Importantly, Prodigy was built for kids first. They created a successful math game by borrowing what kids love from gaming. This is where most educational apps miss the mark. Prodigy brings all the elements that my son love’s about Fortnite and brings math into the equation. It’s social, so kids can play with their friends and battle strangers online, players also earn more spells by answering math questions to help you battle monsters—which in turn earns players more coins to be used on treasures, pets, and other rewards. Every kid has access to these features, but only subscribers get the added features. This freemium model, means that Prodigy gains the interest of users and shows how impactful the platform can be before asking people to commit their money. For parents and teachers the subscriber settings allow to customize the level of math based on individual ability and view students’ progress, providing visibility into each child’s individual strengths and weaknesses. For our family it gives my husband and I some insight into where we should focus our kids’ attention.