Review by Debbie Gorrell, Common Sense Education | Updated December 2014
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Mild violence, frustrating levels distract from math strategy game

Subjects & skills
  • Math

  • Critical Thinking
Grades 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.
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Pros: The arcade style is appealing, and kids will likely enjoy playing with and collecting cards.

Cons: The more advanced levels could easily overwhelm and frustrate kids. Mild violence could be an issue.

Bottom Line: A unique, initially addicting way for kids to put their math skills to the test, but overwhelming advanced levels lack sufficient guidance and distract from learning.

If the overall theme of killing enemies with weapons is not an issue, Calculords could be used as an enrichment activity for kids to practice their math operations and problem-solving skills. The game is not fast-paced, so kids can work in pairs and strategize together as they complete levels. Create a class leaderboard and keep a record of cards and medals that kids earn. Set aside regular class time to discuss their progress and strategies.

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The game is a mixed bag of card-gaming, arcade-style combat, and number puzzlers. Kids are challenged to defeat alien enemies by using calculations to arrive at specific numerical values. Kids do calculations by selecting numbers and operations on a calculator, but once a number is used, it disappears and can't be used again. When they do their calculations correctly, kids can place cards in the battlefield, which consists of three "lanes," to help their armies fight the aliens and navigate dangers like minefields. There are different units involved in the game that ultimately affect the outcome. For example, there are HP and AP values. HP values are hit points, which represent how many hits an army can take before being destroyed. AP values are attack points, which represent the amount of damage the army can do in a turn. Medals are awarded for each enemy commander that kids defeat, and they collect cards for every battle won.

Calculords does a good job of challenging kids to use math while strategizing for maximum play value. Kids learn to use addition, subtraction, and multiplication in order to arrive at specific card values. Oddly, division is not included on the calculator, so kids can't use it to do their calculations. Aside from being defeated by the enemy, kids don't get constructive feedback, so they learn through trial and error. It takes a while to get the hang of the game, and challenges can quickly become overwhelming, which can eventually distract from learning. It’s also important to note that there is a tone of violence in the game, with a focus on killing with guns, tanks, and other weapons. This may be unsuitable in some settings.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Many kids will enjoy the arcade style of the game and its challenges, but moving through the levels can be painfully slow at times.

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

Using various operations to arrive at the same numerical value is a good way for kids to become fluent in math. However, challenges may become overwhelming, and kids don't get hints or helpful feedback.

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

The beginning of the game acts as a basic tutorial. More guidance for advanced levels could help eliminate frustration.

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