Review by Shaun Langevin, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2017

BrainQuake Math

Research-backed game builds number sense, may quickly grow stale

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Critical Thinking

Subjects
  • Math
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
2-6
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Pros: Initially engaging, math is central to the game rather than being tacked on.

Cons: Expensive for an entire class, students may tire of it if it's used too often.

Bottom Line: A worthwhile addition to math instruction, particularly for students who could use a boost in number sense and basic operations.

Teachers can use BrainQuake Math to engage and motivate students who are working on number sense and basic operations, though many of the game's later levels would challenge most students and teachers. Teachers will want to take some class time to have students discuss and share different strategies to solve these puzzles, which will lead to valuable learning. The game dovetails well with work on number lines. You will find yourself asking things like "how many jumps" or "turns" of 3 would it take to get to that number?

The game would be best used in short 10-minute bursts to avoid frustration or having it get old too fast. It may be a part of math centers or morning work, for example. Once BrainQuake Math is purchased, you own it and students can rotate on a yearly basis or as needed. Still, the cost might be a little hard to swallow for a game with such a limited scope. If purchasing BrainQuake Math for an entire class isn't possible, it's worth the cost for students who just need something extra or different to work on their numeracy skills.

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BrainQuake Math is a web-based math puzzle game (and iOS and Android app) that deals with developing number sense. At the start, students are given brief directions about turning their small gears either left or right. This then rotates the large gear, and when students land on the correct number, they get a key. Getting all of the keys frees a Wuzzit. Freeing the Wuzzit gets the students a star, but students can get up to three stars and more points if they solve the puzzle with the fewest possible moves. For example, a student might have two small gears, one with a value of 3 and the other with 6. Turning these will move the larger gear by that amount, which has keys located at 6, 12, and 15. What should a student do? They could rotate the 6 gear twice, which would take care of the keys located at 6 and 12. One rotation of the 3 gear would get the student to 15. Of course, the student could also have rotated the 3 gear five times, which would have gotten each key.

There are three stages, each with 25 levels. In each of the stages, levels start off easily and increase in difficulty. In addition to keys, the game eventually adds bonus items like jewels or ladybugs. Landing on these increases a student's score, but acquiring them isn't necessary for completing the level. This adds a nice bit of challenge for students who already have strong number sense. Filament Games does provide a teacher dashboard, which tells you what levels students have completed as well as what skills those levels relate to.

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A Stanford study done specifically with BrainQuake Math involved a group of students who played, self-guided, for two hours spread over one month. The BrainQuake group showed an increase in written test scores -- just from playing the game with no added instruction.

The game uses very little written language, leaving students to discover the ins and outs of the game on their own; English is the only language available. Some aspects of the game could be better demonstrated: Students may not realize that choosing to rotate a small gear several times counts only as one move, which is an important piece of information to get the best score possible. Some also may not realize the importance of rotating the cog left. Later levels do get quite challenging, which may frustrate some students while delighting others.

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Overall Rating
3

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
3

Students will enjoy solving number puzzles to free the Wuzzits, but brief sessions are necessary to keep the game from getting stale too quickly.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
3

Rotating gears to solve puzzles builds number sense, but teachers will want to add their own touch to reinforce and extend the skills and strategies beyond the game.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
2

The game doesn't rely heavily on written directions, so some students may need certain aspects of gameplay explained to them. The dashboard doesn't give much information beyond what level they're in.


Common Sense Reviewer
Shaun Langevin Technology coordinator

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