App review by Jenny Bristol, Common Sense Education | Updated November 2013
Molecubes

Molecubes

Molecular puzzler is clever but lacks some science nuance

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Grades
6–10 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
Science, Critical Thinking

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Pros: Logic puzzles present interesting challenges.

Cons: Science content is a bit oversimplified, and students may get frustrated.

Bottom Line: It's a good logic game but doesn't go deep into the science, so teachers need to evaluate whether the balance of 21st-century skills and science content is a good fit.

Teachers can use Molecubes as an introduction to basic logic puzzles, or as a minor lesson in how pressure and temperature affect the state of matter. It's recommended that teachers supplement play with lessons on pH experimentation as well as the basic properties of matter. To motivate learning -- and to get students extending their critical-thinking skills -- have students investigate ways that the game represents and simplifies science by identifying and teasing out things in the game that sidestep complexities. 

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Molecubes is a somewhat interesting and educational logic puzzle game that has students solve levels by learning and applying knowledge of states of matter, flammability of materials, and pH and litmus tests. Students move an avatar within a small grid, pushing blocks around by changing them from solids to liquids/gases/flammable materials, and sometimes changing the pH. Using the blocks plus fire and litmus test strips, kids try to clear obstacles to complete each level. It's a sound and creative reimagining of familiar puzzle mechanics through the prism of chemistry.

While an amount of learning is built into the game, there are some distinct limitations. The pH science is lackluster and often counterintuitive. Science is sometimes deprioritized in the interest of puzzle design, forcing players into one specific solution despite multiple possible solutions and, strangely, reducing the efficacy of the logic.  

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?

The mechanics are a bit basic, but the puzzles engross students with interesting challenges and gradual progression. The audiovisual experience isn't top-notch, but it's not distracting. 

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?

Molecubes weaves basic chemistry lessons with transferrable logic skills, but it could dig deeper into content. 

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?

With no outside resources or extensions, Molecubes stands alone. But it has a thorough, helpful tutorial.


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