Review by Erin Bell, Common Sense Education | Updated September 2012
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Build-a-lot

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Financial management made fun via real estate-themed building sim

Common Sense says
Teachers say (2 Reviews)
$avg_user_learning_rating
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Grades
7-12 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: A casual, relaxed presentation makes intimidating subject matter accessible to wider audiences. Perfectly balanced levels continue to challenge players without frustrating them.

Cons: Nothing significant enough to mention.

Bottom Line: Fiscal responsibility, city planning, and budget management are taught in a casual and engaging way.

Build-a-lot is suitable for individual play by students interested in learning more about real estate, city planning, and budget management. Teachers could run a friendly class-wide competition to see which students can earn the highest scores or raise the most money. Teachers could organize role-playing scenarios around the themes of real estate (buying and selling properties) and construction, assigning roles such as mayor, city planner, blueprint architect, construction worker, and real estate agent.

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Build-a-lot is a casual, easy-to-learn building sim that introduces kids to the world of real estate. Kids will build and upgrade a variety of buildings on vacant lots, including residential houses, banks, sawmills, museums, and skating rinks. To do so, they'll need the required blueprints, enough workers to do the job, and building materials, all of which cost money. The mayors of each of the eight towns give players specific goals to complete in each level, such as building four Tudor-style homes, earning a rental income of $60,000 per month, or earning $250,000 in total cash. There's also a Casual mode, where the goal is to raise a certain amount of money in as short a time as possible. 

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The nice thing about Build-a-lot is that kids don't have to know a lot about real estate, or be skilled number-crunchers, before playing this game. There's a thorough and dynamic tutorial, and the pace is just right in terms of introducing new concepts in a manageable way. Kids can learn about fiscal responsibility as they manage a budget, control spending, and generate rental income. They'll learn time management as they're challenged to complete goals in a certain amount of time, and they can replay a level as often as they like to test out new strategies. Each town presents unique goals that keep things fresh to the end. For such a potentially dry subject, Build-a-lot is extremely accessible, as well as challenging.

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Overall Rating
4

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

Build-a-lot draws kids in with fun gameplay and supportive tutorials, making the niche subject of property management accessible to a wide variety of players.

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

Players are encouraged to replay rounds as often as they wish, or can opt for a more relaxing casual mode. Levels become progressively harder, so players always feel challenged.

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

The game has a great tutorial and provides help throughout. Players can choose their difficulty.


Teacher Reviews

2
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Featured review by
Laura F. , Other
Other
Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School
Oak Lawn, IL
2
Build Little Knowledge with Build-A-Lot

In an Internet filled with sims, the price tag for Build-A-Lot is a big turn-off. Granted for the price tag, you do get a product that can save progress, is stable and provides technical support. From an educator's perspective, a paid simulation will allow for some sort of report to be provided to the teacher, to help analyze gameplayer decisions. This is not a feature that is currently available in this game and a key element in progress monitoring and assessment. Another key element of the game is strategy, and from a teaching perspective, this is where the true learning lies. However, the inability to track and analysis these decisions is an important facet missing from a paid app.

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