Review by Jason Shiroff, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2016
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Sandbox tool enables engaged, conceptual physics inquiry

Subjects & skills
  • Math
  • Science

  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (4 Reviews)

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5 images

Pros: Clean interface, flexible controls, and helpful tutorials.

Cons: Some text-heavy tutorials and lessons might leave some kids baffled.

Bottom Line: A robust, free pedagogical tool that's like a digital workbench where kids build and apply conceptual science knowledge.

Think of Algodoo as a way for both teachers and students to create, share, and remix interactives, virtual experiments, lessons, and demos that build conceptual understanding of physics. Use Algodoo as an assessment tool: Ask students to model their learning by designing models, experiments, or games that demonstrate what they've learned.

Since users can share their creations and lessons, teachers can also publish their work and their students' work, helping a larger global community and showing students how to participate responsibly online. Algodoo can also be a good brainstorming and testing tool; students can design models aimed at solving larger real-world problems, or they can design them as safe and cheap preparatory work for actual builds and projects.

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Algodoo is a 2D physics sandbox that lets students build working systems of environments and objects that all have interacting physical characteristics; it's like a blend of a toy box and laboratory, sure to lead to fun and discovery. In addition to the free web version, there's a paid iPad app.

Changing the density of an object, its mass, or the material from which it's made can greatly affect how it works, and students get to see these changes in action, effectively learning through experimentation. Attraction (magnetism), gravity, and light can also be tweaked, and students can create anything from simple scenes that illustrate a principle or two to complex machines like simple computers, sorting machines, and vehicles. While advanced users can do extraordinary things like create playable games, even beginners can have a blast playing around with just a few objects and settings to see how things like density or refraction work.

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It's terrific for teaching basic physics, since it removes some of the complexity and confusion of 3D, and it offers useful tutorials for new users. Less computer-savvy students don't have to worry about awkward camera angles or other 3D snags, making it easier for them to control and set up simple experiments. Since users can create and share specific lessons, it's also great for classroom teachers who want to prepare virtual demos that students learn from and remix in school or at home.

Algodoo is an engaging and supportive primer in basic physics that helps learners discover and toy with the logic behind everyday forces like inertia, momentum, and reflection. The number of variables users can control is impressive, meaning students from novice to experienced can always find new things to build and test.

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Overall Rating

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

Algodoo's 2D sandbox will appeal to kids who like to discover and tinker. The cause-and-effect relationships between what's designed and how things play out are clear and fun.

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

Experiment with basic concepts such as friction, gravity, and light. Algodoo's lessons feature built-in prediction and reflection questions to help players think through what they're learning.

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

Multistep tutorials teach new players all the basics, and it's easy to undo mistakes and to replay a scene. Projects on the Algobox community page help players learn to make more complex machines.

Common Sense Reviewer
Jason Shiroff Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

(See all 4 reviews) (4 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Darren D. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Cottonwood Creek Elementary School
Englewood, CO
Build anything with a 2D simulation
This is a great tool for students to construct and build 2D simulations and practice physics concepts. Based on classroom use, it would be recommended to use the tool with middle and high school students. There are several handy tutorials that students can work through in order to understand the toolbars. Using the tool to teach the engineering design process allowed for some hands-on learning and development of projects to showcase and review. Read full review