Review by Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Education | Updated May 2015
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Gracie and Friends Treasure Bubbles

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Quickly assess small quantities with focused two-player activities

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Pre-K-K This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: Introduces the new element of working together with a peer or a teacher to complete the levels.

Cons: Once kids speed through the five levels, nothing new gets introduced.

Bottom Line: Despite repetition and potential coordination challenges, kids get good practice exercising fluency with quantity.

Get kids thinking about numbers with a variety of classroom activities that require hands-on participation in addition to any screen-based games. Infuse other topics with math talk and number awareness. For example, create piles during clean up and ask kids to quickly say how many items are in the pile. Rearrange and try again. Have kids pair up to play Gracie and Friends Treasure Bubbles. They can start by discussing strategy, for example, should they take turns counting and directing or should it be a team effort all the way through? Then have them practice coordinating their moves together. Gracie and Friends Treasure Bubbles can be a fun learning station as part of a more comprehensive and generalized unit on beginning math skills and number fluency. Download the whole suite of apps and use the printable worksheets to get kids really engaged and comfortable with small numbers. And, look out for a full teacher's guide coming in 2015.

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Gracie and Friends Jungle Gym is part of a suite of apps and off screen activities that aim to teach one very specific math skill: subitizing, or recognizing quantity without having to count. Kids practice recognizing quantity without having to count for numbers 1 through 5. This game is designed for two players, though with good coordination kids could play on their own. Each player must tap and hold a bubble wand to blow up two bubbles with the target number of treasures inside. Then, each player taps and drags a character holding a rope to pop falling bubbles that hold the target number of treasures in different configurations (for example, three treasures can be lined up in a row, or stacked like a pyramid). Levels progress in order from two treasures up to five, and then repeat for a second round. There's some built-in extra support for kids who make a few mistakes.

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Like all apps in this suite, Gracie and Friends Treasure Bubbles is sharply focused on one math skill: subitizing. Kids will get good practice quickly judging quantity as they filter which bubbles have the right number of treasures and which ones don't. The playing-in-two feature is a nice way to get kids working together with another kid or a grown-up. However, popping the bubbles requires some quick thinking and moving; it may be hard to coordinate choosing bubbles and moving in the right direction quickly enough to catch the bubble. Blowing bubbles is such a classically exciting activity for young kids that they're bound to love blowing and popping to their heart's content -- all without getting the floor wet with bubble solution. Yet, with only five levels and no variation in mode of play, even bubbles may start to bore kids. And, it would be nice to see the second round of levels up the challenge rather than simply repeat the first cycle. Overall, this is a free, super fun -- if short-lived -- and worthwhile part of the Gracie and Friends subitizing suite.

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Overall Rating
4

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
4

Blow bubbles and pop them -- anyone with experience with young kids knows that should be enough said. Yet, play is repetitive and it can easily get old if kids ever tire of blowing and popping.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
4

Clear instructions and explanations help kids first recognize quantity and then quickly pick out the right quantity among different options. Because kids play with a friend, they also get practice with teamwork.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
4

Scaffolded hints help kids who are having trouble. Play requires some manual dexterity and coordination. The developer's website has great learning extensions.


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