App review by Emily Pohlonski, Common Sense Education | Updated July 2017
Abacus Finch - Puzzlets
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Abacus Finch - Puzzlets

Engaging platformer with physical tiles builds some K–2 math skills

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Learning rating
Editorial review by Common Sense Education
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Grades
K–2 This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
Subjects & Skills
Math, Critical Thinking

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Pros: Kids will beg for this arcade-style game that offers new math challenges at every level.

Cons: Misses opportunities to use the Play Tray to encourage collaborative learning and visualization of math concepts.

Bottom Line: Pick up some early elementary school math skills through engaging gameplay paired with a physical puzzle tray.

Teachers can use Abacus Finch - Puzzlets as an extra way to practice math skills. Kids in grades K–2 will move at different paces through each level, not only because of their math understanding but also based on their video game experience. To encourage collaboration, have kids buddy up and share strategies for getting through each ruin. In the classroom, try using Abacus Finch as a math station, reward, or fun indoor recess option.

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Abacus Finch - Puzzlets is a traditional platform video game where kids drag their bird around ancient ruins, like the Tozi Jungle, collecting stars and avoiding bad guys. Periodically kids will use math skills -- such as addition, subtraction, composition, decomposition, and sequencing -- to move to the next level.

Abacus Finch also requires the use of Puzzlets, a set of actual tiles that kids move around in a Play Tray that connects to your Android or Mac device. The game provides cues along the way to direct students when to add tiles to their physical tray that then pop up and become part of their on-screen play. Place gems on a tray to add or a pickax to subtract, and watch the action play out on your hand-held device.

Abacus Finch is a lot of fun. Kids will keep coming back because they like exploring the different levels and trying to gather stars and eggs. Unlike Cork the Volcano – Puzzlets, the tray and tiles do not play a major part in improving the game or helping kids' understanding of math. Periodically the kids will turn away from their screens to add a few tiles; most of the play is focused on the app, however. Some tile use builds a basic understanding of multiplication, but the same thing could be accomplished on the screen without the expensive Play Tray. 

It takes a while to get to the math. At first, early elementary schoolers spend a long time figuring out their hand-eye coordination so they can explore the Tialoc Cliffs. They don't do any math until Level 2, and even then they only put the digits 1 through 5 in order. Once they get the hang of it, kids will want to play again. Thankfully there are 60  levels to keep them challenged; each one gradually increases in math difficulty.  

Overall Rating

Engagement Would it motivate students and hold their interest? Is it visually appealing? Would it inspire teachers to try something new or change their instruction?

Kids love to beat each level, exploring ancient ruins and hopping from platform to platform. It's so fun that students don't even notice they're doing math.

Pedagogy Does the tool help teachers promote a more student-centered experience? Will students gain conceptual understanding or think critically? Does it deepen teachers’ pedagogical thinking?

Concepts such as addition and subtraction are reinforced as kids add and remove gems. While math skills are necessary to play, kids spend most of their time hopping around platforms.

Support Can students and teachers get assistance when they need it? Is it created with people of different abilities and backgrounds in mind? Is learning reinforced and extended beyond the digital experience?

Tips are provided along the way, helping kids learn the different commands while they play. Abacus Finch is missing lesson guides or extensions for teachers.


Common Sense reviewer
Emily Pohlonski Classroom teacher

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