Review by Debbie Gorrell, Common Sense Education | Updated March 2014
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Chem Lab

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Decent tool for building chemical formulas, but gameplay is monotonous

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Critical Thinking

Subjects
  • Science
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
9-12
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Pros: Interactive way for kids to practice building chemical formulas; scores and times are calculated for each round.

Cons: Instruction is lacking, and the game isn't very engaging.

Bottom Line: Straightforward science tool can help kids who need to practice with chemical formulas.

If you're looking for a quick, interactive way for kids to practice building chemical formulas, then Chem Lab might be a good option. Ideally, kids will be quite familiar with elements, compounds, and building formulas. Have kids work in pairs or small groups, taking turns completing a round of five compounds. Challenge kids to get the highest score and lowest time. It could be fun to keep a record of all students' scores and times and create a class leaderboard. Continue practicing throughout your chemistry unit, or even throughout the year, to help kids improve fluency.

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Chem Lab is really quite basic. The home screen has a Start button and an information icon. Kids can tap the icon to view instructions for using the app and a cheat sheet of common elements and their symbols. When starting the game, kids are given the name of a chemical compound and must drag and drop elements into a flask to complete the chemical formula for the compound. Kids earn a point if they get it right, and each timed round includes five compounds. If kids get it wrong, the flask explodes and the correct formula is given. The game includes over 60 organic and inorganic compounds.

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Teaching instructions and explanations are lacking, so Chem Lab is best suited for practice. Although it's interactive, with drag-and-drop features, gameplay is repetitious and seems more like a drill than an actual game. The chemical compounds are randomly selected for each round, which means that learning does not progress in terms of difficulty level. One nice feature is that the rounds are timed and scored. This could motivate kids to improve and learn from their mistakes.

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Overall Rating

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

Basic graphics and repetitious activity probably won't keep kids interested for long.

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

Kids have to rely heavily on prior knowledge because instruction isn't built into the app. Correct feedback is given, so motivated kids can learn from their mistakes.

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

Kids will be able to easily navigate through this basic tool, but there's an instruction page just in case. A "cheat sheet" lists some of the common elements and their symbols.


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