There has been an explosion in learning tools for school-age children in recent years. When trying to decide on what to use for your child or in the classroom, it’s always worth considering the actors that have been on the market for a longer time. ABCya – a mathematics and English language educational games website – falls into this category, having been established in 2004. We’ll have a look at its features and whether it might be a suitable option for your needs.
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What is ABCya?
ABCya is an educational games website with a wide range of games categorized by grade level and subject. In 2004, Alan Tortolani, a public school teacher, having previously designed custom activities for his students and recognizing that they might also be useful to others, decided to start ABCya. This site draws in millions of monthly visitors, including children, teachers, and parents, who collectively engage in over one billion games each year.
With a little assistance from adults, children can easily explore a vast collection of games. A handful of the games are multiplayer, requiring children to create usernames (a passcode option ensures that only classmates or friends with the code can join). This is a great opportunity to incorporate social skills and learning, as well as make it more fun and engaging for children (and this is amazing for strengthening those neural pathways that are essential for learning). The platform also includes a video section with how-to guides for various arts and crafts projects.
Accessing the majority of the content is free, but you have the option to enjoy an ad-free experience along with more downloadable content by subscribing. The premium version of ABCya also unlocks access to the mobile app. While it is available on mobile devices, it offers only a limited selection of games and activities. Many games align with a diverse array of Common Core State Standards, and teachers can effortlessly find games that meet specific standards.
How to use ABCya
Simply select a grade level, ranging from pre-K to sixth grade, and then pick a subject: Letters, Numbers, Holidays, Strategy, or Skills. Afterward, choose a game that piques your interest and read the instructions (the instructions are sometimes read out by an AI voice). Please note that some instructions may be complex, so teachers or parents may need to provide guidance. Additionally, games offer different difficulty levels, which may require children to reselect their grade level to be able to complete the activity.
The user is free to use any grade level when accessing the learning platform. Children can access different grade levels as they choose activities to match their ability and skill level. A starting point or placement test is not provided, which gives children the ability to determine their ability level in different categories, which will help build confidence during the learning process.
An activity can be ended at any point, which is great for when the activity is not engaging enough. Time does not have to be wasted getting through mandatory activities or levels, which assists in making the activities more fun and not feel like school or homework. If a mistake is made, there is a sound or vibration to alert the child that it is not correct, and they are free to try again straight away, which is much better than re-doing the whole activity again, as many other platforms do.
Most activities have multiple level options within an activity; for example, a skip-counting activity can provide a variety of skip-count options. The child can choose any option, repeat it as many times as they want, and try all the options in one sitting. This is a great extension to the activities as they are not graded or provide opportunities to “level up” or increase difficulty.
What types of activities can I find on ABCya?
The choices can almost seem endless – which can be a bit overwhelming. There are plenty of engaging activities to choose from: designing skateboards, creating doughnuts as rewards, reading, counting, ordering, and drawing.
The great thing about this learning platform is that the activities are not just subject-based. You can also select a “skill” – like designing skateboards, reading, and matching definitions to terms. The core subjects that are covered by this platform are mathematics and reading, and these activities are also rich in choice of skill practice. This variety in types of activities creates a lot of engagement from the users and can extend usage time as there are so many different options to choose from.
There are also options available that extend these activities past the child’s desktop. There are printable worksheets, teacher resources, coloring pages, and activity pages available as well. These resources are, however, very limited as they are included in the subscription. The free version of ABCya offers the opportunity to download and print coloring pages only.
Review of ABCya’s pricing & costs
ABCya offers a free version of the learning platform, which gives you access to a wide array of features without any financial commitment, and you are not limited to just a few days or a handful of activities for testing purposes. You genuinely receive the full experience of the platform, with just some functionality turned off. However, note that the free version does come with advertising, which can be annoying.
A premium subscription is there to make the experience even better. With the subscription, apart from disabling the ads, you will have access to the fullscreen mode on the desktop, which makes the experience more enjoyable and convenient. You also receive access to all downloadable content (worksheets, activity pages, teacher resources, and more). And very importantly for some – you will also receive full access to the mobile version. While the mobile app does offer some activities that can be used without a subscription, they are limited.
ABCya offers two premium options: the family plan and the classroom plan designed for teachers. In terms of payment flexibility, you can choose from monthly, six-monthly, or annual subscriptions catering to your specific needs. The monthly subscription costs $9.99 and can be canceled at any time; the six-month option is $7.50 per month or $44.99 every six months, while the annual subscription breaks down to $5.83 per month or $69.99 for the entire year.
The premium classroom subscription is $25.00 a month or $299.99 annually – while this does seem pricey, it means that up to thirty devices can be connected simultaneously, allowing for a classroom set-up. It also provides access to all downloadable resources, which is a great addition to the classroom.
Advantages and disadvantages of ABCya
As with every learning platform, there are advantages and disadvantages to consider.
Both the mobile and desktop versions are easy to navigate, making it easier to use independently with certain activities. I, however, found the mobile version to be more user-friendly, especially with regard to screen visibility. The desktop version only provides a fullscreen option for premium accounts, and the scrolling can get on your nerves.
While most of the activities require you to be online, with the premium subscription, you have access to downloadable activities to print on the desktop version, as well as offline activities on the mobile app.
Some of the activities can appear very boring as it is just dragging the object until it gets to the right section – guessing can become a habit, and the child’s interest can be lost. But at least, if an activity is not engaging enough for the user, they can end it at any point and choose a different level or activity.
As mentioned before, this learning platform does not focus on staying on one grade level or excelling at a certain level, and this can be demotivating to children. To make up for this, there are hidden rewards at the end of certain activities to help incentivize users to engage in more activities. For example, you get to design and eat a virtual doughnut if you are able to identify the similarities and differences correctly in an activity.
I sought honest opinions from children of diverse grade levels to gain a broader perspective, and here are their insights:
- “I like that I get to make stuff.”
- “I don’t like it because there was too much to choose from.”
- “It’s so cool! I am in grade 2, but I can play games for grade 6. I must be very smart.”
- “If I don’t like something, I can just change what I am doing. I like that freedom in learning.”
- “I got to make a spooky pumpkin!”
- “I feel like a spy when I play. I cracked the code and got all the money.”
Is ABCya worth it?
As a teacher, I would love to use the printed resources in my classroom. It is great for guided or small group activities and naturally for the fast workers who are always seeking things to do when they are done with their work. The multiple-device access is great if your classroom has the resources. If you are like me and you don’t, you could send the access code home with children who need additional learning materials and support.
ABCya serves as a versatile tool designed for educators seeking to enhance classroom learning through an intuitively navigable platform. It is equally valuable to parents aiming to support their children’s learning at home, whether it is a particular subject or skill they are focused on. Even if it does not provide much in the way of tracking or more coherent learning paths, it is a user-friendly option for children looking to enrich their own learning experience. And the freedom to pick your own way can help kindle a genuine passion for learning.
The pivotal question here is, “Is it worth it?” With a substantial portion of the platform available for free, there is every reason to leverage it for educational purposes. No commitment is necessary; all you need is an internet connection to enhance a child’s learning journey. While the subscription option is reasonably priced for families, it makes the most sense when you plan to fully utilize the available resources. Educators might find it slightly costly to opt for the premium classroom plan, but it can make for a practical addition to your classroom toolkit.