Review by Jenny Bristol, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2018
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Flashy financial literacy app lacks substance

Subjects & skills
  • Math
  • Social Studies

  • 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: Gameplay is familiar and fun for a while, educational intent is clear.

Cons: Lessons not well-integrated into gameplay and hide behind lengthy levels.

Bottom Line: This is more educational than your run-of-the-mill Bejeweled knock-off, but it lacks polish, and very little play time focuses on actual learning.

Teachers can use the lessons embedded in CreditStacker to devise their own lessons on debt, credit cards, and establishing and maintaining good credit. This game can then be a very light demonstration of paying off debt over time, if time allows. Also, remind students to use the pause button when they need to step away from the game so their progress isn't lost.

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CreditStacker is a financial literacy app that aims to teach kids about the importance of establishing and maintaining good credit, minimizing credit card debt, and keeping a good credit score. The game does this through a light theme of paying off different kinds of debt, such as house, car, student loan, and medical bill, by matching symbols, similar to the game Bejeweled. Players move through 15 levels that seem to increase in difficulty (and increase in the time it takes to clear a level). The goal of each level is to pay down increasing amounts of debt. In between levels, ads are shown. If players run out of moves on a level, the game shuffles the board, but it also plays another ad.

Occasionally during play, CreditStacker will ask players to answer a financial literacy question. The game also includes an option to read a large amount of text on the topic, or players can just listen to the voice-over, which reads the text.

While CreditStacker does contain a small amount of financial literacy information, anyone playing the app will spend most of their time making matches of like symbols rather than internalizing the lessons of personal credit, credit reports and ratings, debt, and credit cards. The educational intent of this app is commendable, but it hasn't been carried out successfully. The questions are pertinent but are shown haphazardly. Many of the levels take a very long time to complete. If students put the device down for very long without first pausing the game, their annual percentage rate (APR) will increase to the point where they lose that level and need to start it over, creating frustration and not actually teaching any lessons about financial matters. Even by level two or three, players spend so much time working to clear the levels that they might forget the lessons they're supposed to be internalizing.

Even if you overlook its lack of good educational integration, CreditStacker isn't ready for prime time. Too much time is spent on "eliminating debt" (aka matching up symbols) and not enough on having kids practice good financial habits. A lighter focus on matching symbols along with adding more content on financial literacy education would go a long way toward improving this app.

Overall Rating

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

Gameplay is very similar to Bejeweled, but there's little engagement otherwise; it feels as if the educational portions are unfinished. After the first few levels, completing levels turns into drudgery.

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

The financial literacy instruction in this game is only a weak overlay, and reading or listening to dry instruction on the facts of credit history and debt will likely not help the lessons stick.

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 game includes some basic instruction on how to play, but tapping the help button doesn't actually provide help. There are no extension lessons on the website or within the app.

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