Common Sense Review
Updated October 2016

C0D3BR34K3RS

Quirky puzzler is a novel approach to algebra, offers little support
Common Sense Rating 3
Teacher Rating
Not Yet Rated
  • By changing the numbers in colored squares, doors unlock toward each room's key.
  • The game's goofy museum caper backstory is plenty of fun.
  • Tutorials do a good job of explaing each new mechanic.
  • Sadly, this is the only feedback that incorrect solutions ever provide.
  • Levels can require sophisicated, sequential multivariable algebra to solve.
  • The multiplayer mode lets players create their own puzzles and play other peoples' as well.
Pros
Tons of fun, genuinely challenging algebraic puzzles, and great graphics and gameplay.
Cons
Getting stuck means you can't progress in the game, and no help or hints for individual levels exist.
Bottom Line
When used with someone who's played through every level and can offer live support, this is a fun way to build algebraic intuition.
Galen McQuillen
Common Sense Reviewer
Researcher
Common Sense Rating 3
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 4

There's plenty of fun here, with great graphics, engaging gameplay, fun dialogue, and complex levels. Getting stuck on one level means the game comes to a grinding halt though, so without support the fun could be short-lived.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 3

This is a novel approach to algebra, with some fairly sophisticated mathematical challenges at its core (Diophantine equations! Wow!), but most levels only have one correct solution. It would be nice if tasks were more open-ended.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 2

There are plenty of tutorials for how the game mechanics work, and you'll find a hint or two along the way, but if you get stuck on a level, there's no support (online or otherwise), and the game won't let you progress. Brutal.

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How Can Teachers Use It?

There isn't a specific skill-based standard that C0D3BR34K3RS promotes, so it probably doesn't fit into any specific part of your math curriculum (maybe in middle school pre-algebra units, or when you're introducing variables). Instead, this is great for building up algebraic intuition. Keep it on a class set of iPads for kids to play through during otherwise lost moments in the day, or use for some extra challenges after assessments. Or, use it as a hook for lessons on systems of equations, functions, and multivariable solution methods.

In any case, because there's no built-in support for getting through tough levels, it would be a great idea for teachers to play all the way through C0D3BR34K3RS first, making notes about each level. Use these for the inevitable "I'm stuck on level 7!" moments so students can continue progressing to more sophisticated tasks without overwhelming frustration.

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What's It Like?

In C0D3BR34K3RS, players control two kids who have to solve algebra and number puzzles, dodge security guards, cameras, janitors, and IT guys, and avoid pitfalls and trap rooms. The gameplay takes place while breaking into a museum, a bank, and an evil burglar's villa. By standing on colored squares and adjusting the numbers in those squares, players complete equations to unlock doors. Changing one equation often affects multiple others on the same level, so it takes careful planning and sequential reasoning to build an algebraic strategy and solve each puzzle.

In addition to the numerical side of things, it takes quick taps and careful timing to dodge the various enemies who patrol the levels. Graphics and animations are crisp, fun, and funky, and controls are a breeze to use. There's even a multiplayer mode where players can create their own puzzles for others to solve.

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Is It Good For Learning?

Solving these puzzles requires some fairly sophisticated algebraic reasoning, with multivariable equations and systems buried in the core of every room. Further, the app develops sequential reasoning skills as changes to one equation cause others to change. Various enemies can alter things as well, so understanding how cause and effect can create chains of numerical actions is often the only way to get past a level.

Despite this, each level seems to have only one solution, and that solution is often hard to come by. Most kids will probably get through with trial and error rather than by careful reasoning. There's potential for real discovery learning here, but it could be strengthened with some open-ended challenges. Also, it's worth noting that despite the game's name, C0D3BR34K3RS involves very little code or breaking of it. There's some Boolean logic, but this is all about algebra.

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