Review by Emily Pohlonski, Common Sense Education | Updated February 2017
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Collisions: Play Chemistry

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Game-based challenges build crucial chemistry concepts

Subjects & skills
  • Science

  • Critical Thinking
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Pros: Through engaging puzzles, kids discover chemistry principles themselves.

Cons: Sometimes frustrating gameplay will require extra teacher support.

Bottom Line: Learn about atoms, ions, and bonding through challenge-based gameplay.

Teachers can best use Collisions: Play Chemistry by pairing it with quality class discussions. Let each student try a challenge individually, then have kids come together to discuss what solutions did and didn't work. Try having students draw their solutions out on large pieces of paper or whiteboards.

As a class, try to come up with rules. For example, they may notice that the only winning models are ones where students filled one orbital at a time with an electron before adding a second. Let students return to Collisions: Play Chemistry to see if their rules work.

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With Collisions: Play Chemistry, students figure out how to play a game, but the rules of the game are actually chemistry principles. First students follow a tutorial and explore freely in the sandbox before they use tools to enhance their chemistry skills in a set of increasingly difficult challenges. Students learn about building atoms, atomic size, energy, covalent bonding, ions, and ionic bonding.

The Atoms module is free, but the others can cost a single teacher up to $395 per year for multiple classes. Districts with many teacher users can get bulk discounts.

Collisions: Play Chemistry highlights the three-dimensional nature of the Next Generation of Science Standards. While students are learning about atoms, they are also observing patterns and periodic trends. During gameplay, kids can get things wrong, get feedback, and keep on playing. If a player tries to put more than two electrons in an orbital, it will flash red. This helps students make immediate corrections and makes learning chemistry less intimidating. 

At times the game can be really frustrating. Students basically learn Hund's rule by guessing and checking, trying to drag and drop electrons they find into an arrangement that gets accepted. This is a chance for kids to use a model to predict relationships between electrons. However, teachers may need to provide additional support to make sure the student struggle remains productive and kids don't get stuck.

Overall Rating

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

Students can get immersed in the game; as with a puzzle, they're intent on finding the pattern that works.

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

Learning is carefully scaffolded. Each chemistry challenge has levels that increase in difficulty as students level up.

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

Hints and immediate feedback are available for students as they play. Game guides are available for teachers to download on the PlayMada website.

Common Sense Reviewer
Emily Pohlonski Classroom teacher

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