Review by Jenny Bristol, Common Sense Education | Updated January 2014

International Racing Squirrels

Feature-rich finance game can be overwhelming

Subjects & skills
  • Math

  • Character & SEL
  • Critical Thinking
Grades 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.
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Pros: Money management skills woven into an engaging package.

Cons: Slow start, and learning can get lost amid all of the information offered.

Bottom Line: It's a jam-packed, but not perfectly designed, experience best used for refining existing skills rather than building new ones.

Teachers can best use this game as a way to apply -- rather than learn anew -- lessons on money management skills, banking, taxes, employment, interest rates, and bank accounts. Since students will likely be toying with some concepts but not quite nailing them down or reflecting on them, design some curricular wraparound that gets them to do so. Facilitate discussions after each session that get students to share tips about what works and what doesn't, drawing on their excitement for talking about play and then using these andecdotes to illuminate and define some best practices for money management.

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International Racing Squirrels is a point-and-click financial management sim rather than a more familiar third- or first-person racing game. Students need to watch their financial bottom lines as they try to grow and pay for their teams by applying for savings accounts and credit cards, comparing interest rates, and managing the funds between the accounts. There's a ton of features (maybe even too many) that drill down into the details of money management. Racers' rents, salaries, and training must all be budgeted. At every turn, students must make critical decisions that test their thinking skills while also forcing them to exercise sound financial judgment, weighing the risks of paying more for bonuses and entrance fees, for instance, in return for a chance at big profits.

With no help other than brief textual instructions, students will be thrown right into the thick of it. There's a ton to experiment with and explore, but it's easy to feel overwhelmed, and it's also easy to get distracted from the important lessons of money management in favor of reckless play. The beginning of the game also feels ill paced, taking awhile to ramp up. A more well scaffolded and quicker-paced introductory tutorial could be a huge improvement. There's definitely some good learning to be had about very practical issues that all students will face, but there's a concern that only diligent students who pay close attention will get enough out of it to make it worthwhile in a classroom.

Overall Rating

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

Kids will go nuts for the racing team management and challenging races. The screen is always busy, however, and it may be unclear what to do next.

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

Kids practice math and build money management skills, and there's enough visual flash to keep them interested.

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

There are no help files or explanation of complex concepts during play, so kids must rely on the initial instructions. The go-go-go pace will entertain some and overwhelm others.

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