Product Review of $martPath
$mart Path offers video lessons, assessments, and materials for educators who want to add a bit of financial literacy to their curriculum for first through sixth grade. Video lessons are designed to be presented to the whole class and introduce financial concepts in the context of silly stories. Younger kids are entertained by Lieutenant Maynard on his quest to capture Blackbeard the Pirate while they learn about spending money on what you need and saving to buy what you want. Older learners follow middle school characters as they face everyday challenges, like purchasing books for school, or tackle an out-of-this-world challenge, like saving enough to fix a time machine. There are also discussion prompts and interactive tasks. All levels include three lessons and a homework assignment. Although each level includes opportunities for decision-making and practicing delayed gratification, they differ in the more concrete financial content. The mathematics content corresponds with the standards for each grade.
The classroom teacher is the only one who needs to have an account — there’s no need for learners to keep track of yet another username or password. When it’s time for instruction, educators can find lessons complete with materials and a homework assignment. Links to printable versions of these activities as well as both the pre- and post-assessments are embedded right in the lesson plans. Learners can also access online assessments with a link and only have to enter their name. Assessment results display both the number of correct answers as well as specific items missed.
$martPath’s guided video lessons are best when viewed as a whole class to encourage lively group discussions and to help educators make sure learners grasp the most pertinent information. Levels contain three lessons, a pre- and post-assessment, and a printable homework assignment. Although this doesn’t seem like enough content for a full unit, it’s the perfect amount for those few days between curriculum chapters.
Because some lessons contain a bit of math, educators for each grade can use these financial lessons to either pre-teach specific math concepts or practice skills previously taught. Some content is flexible enough for educators to review earlier levels or push ahead for fun enrichment. The standalone videos could supplement the lessons or be used as inspiration for learners to make their own songs and skits to demonstrate what they’ve learned.
$mart Path videos are an easy way to deliver lessons, and embedding concepts into funny stories makes them more accessible to younger kids. Although the three-lesson format serves up bite-size material that’s easy to digest, it doesn’t allow for in-depth practice or provide opportunities for further exploration. The math is also right on point for each grade level, and calculators are used in lower-level lessons. Tasks in the higher levels offer more math practice than learning opportunities, so these educators should be prepared with their own supplemental lesson. It’s also nice that there are classroom activities, assessments, and homework, so educators essentially have everything they need.
Though each piece of a lesson is there to use, very few allow for higher-order thinking or student agency. Many assessments are multiple choice, and activities often only explore the surface level of concepts. The videos are passive, and although the animation and humor are great attempts at making potentially dry subject matter more interesting, the exposition is sometimes too long. Also, some characters (like the “dumb jock”) are a bit cringeworthy. And while the girl in the middle school video has slightly darker skin than the boys, overall, not all kids will see themselves represented in the characters. That said, the program offers solid information with some varied career and schooling paths, math practice (which many programs don’t have), and the full range of classroom materials.
Overall User Consensus About the App
Definite efforts to make material fun and add narrative, though older kids may find it cheesy. The videos can seem a bit long for the amount of information they provide.
Curriculum and Instruction
Opportunities for higher-level thinking, like decision-making, are sprinkled throughout. There are relatively few lessons, which limits the amount of content at each level.
Material is well organized and ready to use. With only one language option, no closed-captioning, and no option for using text-to-speech with online assessments, many learners will have trouble accessing this content.