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

Financial management made fun via real estate-themed building sim

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Learning rating
Editorial review by Common Sense Education
Community rating
Based on 3 reviews
Privacy rating
Not yet rated Expert evaluation by Common Sense
Grades
7–12 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.
Subjects & Skills
Math, Social Studies, Character & SEL, Critical Thinking

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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. 

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.

Overall Rating

Engagement Would it motivate students and hold their interest? Is it visually appealing? Would it inspire teachers to try something new or change their instruction?

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 Does the tool help teachers promote a more student-centered experience? Will students gain conceptual understanding or think critically? Does it deepen teachers’ pedagogical thinking?

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 Can students and teachers get assistance when they need it? Is it created with people of different abilities and backgrounds in mind? Is learning reinforced and extended beyond the digital experience?

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


Common Sense reviewer

Community Rating

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Featured review by
Laura F. , Other
Other
Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School
Oak Lawn, United States
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 i ...
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