Legends of Learning Selected by U.S. Dept. of Education for $8 Million Grant to Study Game-Based Learning

Fulton, MD, April 3, 2024 – Legends of Learning has been selected to partner with Impact Florida, a non-profit, non-partisan organization advancing excellence in classroom instruction, and WestEd, a national non-partisan leader in research, development, and service focused on education and human development, to examine the efficacy of game-based science instruction in Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS).

An $8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Education Innovation and Research (EIR) grant program will fund a five-year study to explore how a standards-aligned, game-based learning (GBL) experience will impact student performance on the fifth-grade state standardized science test. The study will include a year-long randomized controlled trial (RCT). Several prior studies of the Legends of Learning platform have already shown significant positive correlations between game platform usage and improvements in test scores. With WestEd leading data collection, analysis, and insights, this study will build upon an established body of evidence.

“We’re excited to be partnering with Impact Florida to test the impact of Learning Universe, our evidence-based, rigorous, game-based learning curriculum, with educators in the state,” said Legends of Learning CEO Dr. Vadim Polikov. “Students are struggling to stay engaged in school, especially post-COVID, and this has led directly to lower test scores in math and science. Games have the power to change that.”

Innovation in delivering education is of paramount importance given current proficiency trends in science education. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted teachers’ ability to engage students in attentive learning experiences. During this period, proficiency scores were negatively impacted, as Florida fifth-grade science performance fell from 55% proficiency in 2018 to 47% in 2021.

In response to pandemic-induced instruction challenges, teachers scrambled for instructional tools to engage a student population that shifted to more screen-based engagement for learning, social connection, and entertainment. Interactive content has become the norm: 6 out of the top 10 content sites used by teachers and students in the 2021- 22 school year were gamified or used games to teach.

“Impact Florida is thrilled to help support research on the potential impact of innovative tools like Legends of Learning and to work with Florida educators in doing so,” said Impact Florida President Mandy Clark. “Increasing engagement is important to student academic growth, and we’re eager to see how game-based learning can tap into students’ existing interests.”  

A prior study of the Legends of Learning platform by WestEd showed up to a 23-percentile point improvement in science achievement scores with usage of the GBL platform.  “This RCT will reveal the direct impact of the Legends of Learning platform on science achievement, building upon our prior findings of a positive association on science achievement with increased usage of the platform,” said Taunya Nesin, Director of STEM Networking and Partnerships at WestEd. “The methodology and scope of this study will help us learn more about best practices for implementation and use of GBL in elementary classrooms and the impact it can have on learning.”

The study will be conducted in partnership with Miami-Dade County Public Schools, one of over 300 districts across 49 states that have partnered with Legends of Learning.  Reacting to the award, Dr. Jose Dotres, MDCPS Superintendent, said, “We pride ourselves on building networks that collaborate to maximize the potential of every student in our district.  That collaboration extends to studies like this, which can provide us with insights that help accelerate student performance.  We’re excited to participate in this research.”

Approximately 280 science teachers and over 6,000 students are projected to participate in the study. The U.S. Department of Education’s Education Innovation and Research program will provide a grant of $7,997,993 to support the research, which will be matched by an in-kind contribution of more than $800,000 from Legends of Learning. 


To request an interview with Legends of Learning CEO Vadim Polikov, contact Jose Ramos at (925) 261-8586 or jose.ramos@legendsoflearning.com

To request an interview with Impact Florida President Mandy Clark, contact Trey Csar at (415) 215-4994 or trey@impactfl.org.

To request an interview with WestEd staff on this project, contact Gretchen Wright at gretchen.wright@wested.org. 

Student Player v2 Launched

As part of our grades 3-5 launch, we released a new version of our student game player. This new student player looks the same as the previous version, but offers a much more robust experience, including speedier, more reliable game performance and advanced game playing capabilities, including:

* Text to speech
* Multiple language support
* Translations
* 16:9 aspect ratio (most common aspect ratio for televisions and monitors)

In addition, the first 200 games for grades 3-5 are up on the platform in a beta release. We will be adding more games in March, completing the release.

Over the next few months, Legends of Learning’s development team will work on several new features, such as the ability to choose your own questions for gameplay, quick start playlists, and faster, stronger analytics. In addition, we will continue to improve our user interface based on feedback from teachers using the platform.

Community Is Re-Open for Business

Speaking of technical upgrades, the Legends of Learning Community just went through an expansive rebuild and restoration. When you reengage with the community, you will now be able to like and share posts and better communicate with fellow teachers.

The community is the best place to provide feedback to our developers, earn more coins, and win free swag. Log in (community.legendsoflearning.com) or sign up (https://www.legendsoflearning.com/join-us/)!

Finding the Riches in Game-Based Learning

By Caitlin Unterman, 8th Grade Science Teacher, Forest Middle School (VA)

Most in the education world believe that enrichment is the most important goal of a classroom. Teachers focus on creating opportunities that simultaneously enrich and engage students. However, many fail to recognize what is actually enrichment, and what is simply reinforcement.

Enrichment, by definition, is “the act of making someone wealthier.” I like to think this is wealth in the form of knowledge. Do a simple Google search and you find another definition of enrichment: “improving or enhancing the quality or value of something”.

Both definitions apply to our classrooms. And there is no better way to enhance the value of “something” than by adding what kids love best: games.

Another simple Google search can find you the EdTech definition of game-based learning: “Generally, game based learning is designed to balance subject matter with gameplay and the ability of the player to retain and apply said subject matter to the real world.”

Put enrichment and game-based learning together by definition, and you would get “Generally, game based learning is designed to balance subject matter with gameplay and the ability of the player to retain and apply said subject matter to the real world, while improving or enhancing the quality or value of education.” As an 8th grade Earth Science teacher, that sounds pretty sweet.

Importance of Enrichment in All Content Areas

Like the majority of teachers, my enrichment efforts are based on data. Strands of weakness and complex learning concepts take priority as I work to innovate and plan creative units to convey the concepts better. Try teaching radiometric dating and half-life curves to a bunch of 8th graders who were put into a High School Credit science class… That is quite a challenge.

Game-based learning has become the Aleve to my headache in that regard. Students are far more interested in their phones than any piece of paper I hand out. So, I moved towards digital learning.

Using the game-based learning platform Legends of Learning, I created a pre-test playlist on geologic time, added an assessment pack at the end, and downloaded my students’ performance data. After highlighting the weaker strands (subcategories within the topic), I made a new playlist. I taught the concepts per usual, emphasizing the weaknesses shown in the pre-test playlist data, and then launched the playlist again after my normal teaching lessons. (For an example of how to track student performance, check out the Hall of Knowledge here.)

An enrichment playlist covering geologic time.

Much to my surprise, weak strands were no longer categorized as “weak”, moreso, “improving”. Take a look at the Vanderbilt study conducted in partnership with Legends of Learning, and it speaks for itself. Weak strands can become enhanced strands through game-based learning enrichment.

How to Implement Games to Target Weak Strands

Some may think, “All of this is great, but where do I start?” Game-based enrichment isn’t something you just wake up and decide to implement one day.

Instead, consider doing some critical data analysis, at least once, before jumping right in.

The data analysis portion of the Legends of Learning platform allows you to break down each learning objective by student performance.

Teachers can download student data to track progress during enrichment activities.

From this, identify the weak strands. Your definition of “weak” may differ from mine, but usually I emphasize those showing 50% mastery or below. Think about those weak strands in terms of what I call the 3 Vs: Volume, Value, Vocabulary. Let’s break those down:


On average, how much time do you spend emphasizing a strand? One day? One week? Strands that are only the focus of one day of class may not be as crucial as larger units you spend weeks on. Take out the strands that are “one-dayers”.


Are the skills presented in this weak strand going to affect later learning objectives? Place an educational value on the learning objective. Is the concept crucial or supplementary?


Is the learning objective heavy on vocab? If so, take a look at the overview and curriculum for each game. Find the key vocabulary needed, pack the playlist, schedule the playlist to run over the weekend as “homework,” and collect data on Monday. You should see improvement.

View curriculum details for each game before using it for enrichment.

The key to game-based enrichment is finding the value in the innovative learning that is taking place. Don’t just plug in games that are fun and engaging. The games need to emphasize weaknesses within the content in order for enrichment to be successful.

What are your experiences with using GBL for enrichment?

Thank You for a Legendary 2017

Hello Legends,

A lot has happened at Legends of Learning in 2017, in large part because of teachers and educators like you. I would like to express my personal gratitude for everything that has helped make our science games a useful tool in schools across America, and around the world.

At NSTA, ISTE, and a number of state shows, we met so many incredible educators who are working to improve science learning in schools. This included many ambassadors who helped shape our games and platform.

A small convoy of legends even got the chance to witness the Great American Eclipse (at totality!) with some amazing students from Cobb County, Georgia.

Middle school science students and teachers from Cobb County, Georgia view the Great American Eclipse with Legends of Learning on August 21, 2017.

What stands out the most is what superhero teachers like you have done with the platform. Sharing innovative uses in the classroom and giving amazing feedback on potential improvements helps us make science classes legendary every day.

There is much to be proud of and far more to look forward to. None of it would be possible without the teachers who work tirelessly for the benefit of today’s students, those children who will become tomorrow’s leaders.

You can always reply to this email directly and tell me what you think of Legends of Learning. We are eager to help you and your science students succeed.

On behalf of the entire Legends of Learning team, thank you. Stay legendary.


Vadim Polikov, PhD

Founder & CEO, Legends of Learning

Vadim Polikov, Legends of Learning Founder & CEO

Test Prep Webinar:
How Richard White
Makes the Most of Science Games

On November 29, STEM Certified leader Richard White delivered a Legends of Learning test prep webinar. Richard is a teacher leader at Griffin Middle School in Cobb County, Georgia, where he has worked for the past 6 years.

With December quickly approaching, many teachers will enter a review period for end-of-year testing. Richard’s webinar provides helpful tips for Legends of Learning teachers to use games for test prep as well as for enrichment, and offers tactics to deploy science games as an engagement technique for distracted students.

View Richard’s test prep webinar and associated PowerPoint presentation below:

Test Prep Webinar Video

Link to the full video of Richard White's Legends of Learning test prep webinar.

Test Prep PowerPoint Presentation

Link to the PowerPoint presentation recapping Richard White's Legends of Learning test prep webinar.

About Richard White

Test prep webinar host Richard White and his family.

Richard is passionate about teaching and learning, and believes that there is some way to reach every student that he encounters. He has presented professionally at several local conferences, and is responsible for helping to train new teachers at Griffin. Richard joined the Legends of Learning platform in November of last year as an ambassador, and began testing games with his students as soon as they were rolled out. He has also presented on LoL at local conferences.

Young STEM Visionaries Share their Inspiration

This November’s STEM Visions Contest featured submissions from teachers across the country, from California to Oklahoma to Massachusetts. All of the entries demonstrated how much these legendary science teachers inspire their students on a daily basis.

The contest was an overarching STEM activity for students. Teachers launched playlists of Legends of Learning science games in class, then asked how students could see themselves pursuing a career in STEM fields. Entries were posted on Facebook (and some on Google Docs).

Students wowed us with their visions for the future. The most popular ideas for future STEM careers were in the fields of veterinary science, astronomy, marine biology, and engineering.

The Winners

With so many thoughtful, creative entries, it was difficult to select the winners. Ultimately, after much deliberation, we had a winning submission: Kimberly King from Green Fields School (Tucson, AZ)! Kimberly submitted 21 students’ STEM visions, showcasing an impressive array of ideas they have for how to impact the world in their future careers. View her entire album of submissions here.


For winning the contest, Kimberly will receive a $1000 grant on DonorsChoose.org, along with a full-year license for her school to use Legends of Learning!

Four more of the most impressive submissions were selected as runners-up. View their submissions by clicking the links below:

Veronica Hennessey, Simonds Elementary (San José, CA)
Joy Johnson, Lewis and Clarke Middle School (Jefferson City, MO)
Denise Galiano, Cedar Hill Preparatory School (Somerset,NJ)
Scott Beiter, Rensselaer Middle School (Rensselaer, NY)

Congratulations to our winner, Kimberly, our runners-up, Veronica, Joy, Denise, and Scott, and all of the amazing educators who entered the contest! More importantly, thank you to all of these teachers for investing in the future by inspiring their students every single day.

Legends of Learning Wins Amazon Startup Challenge

Earlier this month, Legends of Learning took home first prize at the Amazon Web Services EdStart “pitch day” in New York City. AWS brought in ten EdTech startups to present their products in front of over 100 industry leaders. Legends of Learning Founder Vadim Polikov and Co-Founder Josh Goldberg made the trip to Manhattan.

In a five minute presentation, Vadim and Josh showed attendees the look of the LoL platform and detailed our standards-based approach and commitment to equipping teachers with detailed data analysis. They fielded questions and took feedback from fellow EdTech experts, who submitted collective scores for each of the presenting companies. The audience was very impressed with the Legends pitch, ultimately awarding the company first place!

There were several other companies present. One company, Cell-Ed, presented their mobile software for teaching adults basic skills they need for the workforce, and won third place. Another, Learnmetrics, took second place when they showcased their powerful learning analytics tool designed to bring out the full potential of students and their schools.

Our team came back to Washington, DC with a few prizes and more than a few ideas for how to keep improving Legends of Learning for students and teachers. They were inspired by all of the bright minds around them, who share the goal of improving education for learners everywhere.

We would like to thank Amazon Web Services for hosting the AWS EdStart pitch day, and supporting Legends of Learning. You can read more about the event on their blog.

LoL & PhET Interactive Simulations Partnership

This blog is based off a press release issued earlier this morning.

Today, Legends of Learning and University of Colorado Boulder’s PhET Interactive Simulations project announced a partnership that will bring educational games and simulations to middle school science students. Ten interactive simulations for middle school sciences will be hosted on the Legends of Learning platform this month with more to be added in the future.

Combined with Legends of Learning games, teachers now have a comprehensive library of engaging content and interactive exercises for their classroom. Spanning Earth and Space, Life and Physical sciences, Legends of Learning now offers thousands of games, simulations and assessment items for middle school science classes.

“Partnering with PhET Interactive Simulations expands the opportunities we can provide to educators,” said Dr. Vadim Polikov, CEO of Legends of Learning. “With any new school year comes new possibilities. Simulations take Legends of Learning one step further.”

“The partnership with Legends of Learning is a wonderful opportunity to bring our simulations to more teachers and students,” said Dr. Kathy Perkins, director of PhET Interactive Simulations. “We are excited to provide teachers with an easy way to share both educational games and simulations in one place.”

Legends of Learning joining forces with PhET Interactive Simulations, a nonprofit science and math educational project at the University of Colorado Boulder, will provide educators with high-quality simulations that actively engage students in science practices and align with the subjects that educators teach. The simulations will be available on Legends of Learning later this month.

PhET was founded by Nobel Laureate Carl Wieman in 2002 to advance scientific literacy, and today its interactive, research-based simulations are utilized more than 80 million times a year by students and teachers. The simulations are designed to be highly interactive and engaging and to build real-world connections for students. For example, students explore forces, energy and motion as they engage in a tug-of-war, design their own skateboarding track, or shoot pianos out of a cannon.

Announced last week, PhET was awarded the 2017 WISE Award, recognizing and promoting innovative education initiatives around the world, by the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE), a leading international initiative for innovation and collaboration in education.

“PhET is a fantastic resource,” said Teresa Cobble, an eighth-grade science teacher from Atlanta, Georgia. “After being in the classroom for almost a decade, I still find it difficult to find resources that work together, are appropriate for the content I am covering and are engaging for the students. My students love Legends of Learning and the addition of PhET simulations will give them an even richer experience.”

Hear Caitlin Unterman’s LoL Best Practices

Caitlin Unterman, a middle school science teacher in Forest, VA, is one of Legends of Learning’s most active teachers. Now you can hear how Caitlin uses Legends of Learning in her classroom during a special webinar on October 23rd at 4pm EST.

She has used the platform since day one, and hasn’t looked back. Caitlin will discuss deploying games in the classroom, building playlists, test preparation, and performance analytics. Participants will learn:

1) Implementing game based learning for topic reinforcement
2) Replacing study guides with game based resources
3) Assessing content mastery through gaming

Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from one of our strongest ambassadors. Register for Caitlin’s webinar today!

About Caitlin Unterman

Caitlin Unterman was the VAST Earth Science RISE Award winner in 2016 and Lynchburg’s Teacher of the Year in 2015. She also loves horses and owns several of her own. She is an employee of Bedford County Public Schools.

Legends of Learning Community Incentives

Some teachers are asking how they can earn more coins for their game play. One way is to be an active ambassador in our Legends of Learning community (sign up or log-in).

To that end, we are happy to unveil our new incentives for the Legends of Learning Community for the 2017-18 school year. Coins earned through community actions are awarded at the end of each month. Here are the different ways you can earn coins.

In Community

  • First 10 comments and replies during the 2017-8 school year = 100 coins. Another 100 coins for each successive 20 comments.
  • Five original posts = 50 coins. Another 100 coins will be awarded for each successive 10 posts.

Social Sharing

In addition to the coins earned via in-product sharing, you can get more coins by linking to us in the following ways:

  • Blog post about us, or an inbound link via a badge from a website you control: 500 coins
  • Facebook share about Legends that tags our page on Facebook: 100 coins

Lesson Plans

We love lesson plans that include Legends of Learning games. Send us your lesson plan formatted like this, and once accepted (we peer review all student facing content), you will receive 100 coins. Send lesson plan submissions to aaron@legendsoflearning.com.

Special Missions

Game ratings: Legends of Learning is currently looking to have students rate specific games. For every game that you your class plays and rates, you will earn 60 coins. For a class of 30, that equates to two new games for playing one! If you are interested, email faye@legendsoflearning.com for a game assignment.

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