App review by Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Education | Updated April 2022
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Well-thought-out coding platform for real game programming

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Based on 1 review
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10%| Warning Expert evaluation by Common Sense
Subjects & Skills
Math, Creativity, Critical Thinking
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Pros: The example programs are a great scaffolding tool to allow students to change little details within the programs and learn to code in the process.

Cons: Students need to be self-motivated to learn to program in order to invest the time needed to master Codea.

Bottom Line: Codea is a professional tool that has enough help features that kids can learn programming hands-on.

Point kids to the Getting Started section's Codea Wiki to try out the For Kids tutorial. It offers a step-by-step guide for beginners. A class could work through the tutorial together before students set off to develop on their own or with partners or small groups. Codea as a development tool itself is fabulous, but the ease of use on the touchscreen along with the visual pop-ups within the code and the immediate response to code errors make it a real winner for beginners. The tool is straightforward, though, with no game-like bells and whistles, so kids will need to find some internal motivation to work through it.

As kids get comfortable with the code, they can venture into the example programs and play around with the code, learning as they do so. Many programmers get started just that way: playing around with code from books, copying it, and then changing it up to see what happens. Since students can start with a tutorial, move into adapting existing code, and then go on to create their own original programs, Codea can reach many programmers at many levels.

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Codea is a coding platform for mobile iOS devices using the Lua programming language. Students familiar with programming can pick it up and pretty quickly start writing their own programs, such as games or other graphics, for the iPad. Those new to programming can alter sample programs to become more familiar with programming. Starting with a boilerplate that includes the two required functions -- setup and draw -- that serve as the hooks into the Lua program, kids then fill in the specifics of the program. Codea is visual, so as students type in the command, for example, COLOR, a pop-up appears for them to choose their color from the color wheel. Students will then see the code for the color they chose. On the website, there's a reference page with some resources, and there's a forum to check in with other users. If students export their work to Xcode, they'll have a real working app.

What's impressive about Codea is that it's a real tool for creation. Students will try to create, they'll fail, and then they'll try again until they get it right. It's hands-on learning in a real-world environment. Even students who aren't considering a career in programming will benefit from understanding how software code is written and how to tweak it to customize existing code. Students will have to problem-solve as they write the code. They are empowered to create whatever their mind can conceive: games, graphics, sound effects. Because there's a forum and some reference materials, motivated kids can find some guidance when they get stuck. And the ability to explore their work -- and see examples of working apps -- adds a layer of relevance. Though it's not a curriculum or even a teaching tool, it's a great app for students who love coding and want to take it to the next level.

Overall Rating


Creating a program isn't easy. Kids who aren't motivated by either the process or the end product may get frustrated with the tedious task of coding.


Codea gives kids the chance to learn hands-on coding. The sample programs, help tools, and boilerplate starter text for programs give kids a rich learning environment and teach skills that transfer into real-world application.


User-submitted example programs scaffold learning for kids by giving them examples to customize. A community forum gives them the opportunity to share their work and discuss and collaborate on ideas.

Common Sense reviewer
Amanda Bindel Classroom teacher

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Featured review by
Julie Y. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
South Portland High School
South Portland, United States
A great application for hard coding for iDevices.
This is a great program for hard coding of LUA. If you're looking for an introduction to the principals of coding- I would recommend something lighter that has a graphic based shell to it. Scratch is a good example of something that introduces coding principals but doesn't require actual typing of specific code. The step in between is something like Flash. It allows students to have a library and code off objects put onto a stage. Codea is better for actual traditional coding.
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