Review by Caryn Lix, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2014


Quick, creative problem-solving activity serves limited purpose

Subjects & skills

  • Critical Thinking
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Pros: Gets students thinking critically.

Cons: The lone level means limited development of thinking skills.

Bottom Line: Provides a quick, engaging problem-solving activity for elementary-level classrooms, but is easily outshined by many games kids are already playing at home.

Ponder would be an effective introduction to problem-solving in a math class, or to approaching problems in critical ways in any subject area. Students can discuss what to do when a problem doesn't seem to provide the information they need to solve it: Where can they look? What approaches can they try? 

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In Ponder, the player is a robot in a room with some switches, a door hidden behind lasers, and another (sleeping) robot. The goal is to open the door and escape the room. That's all the instruction that's provided, which forces players to discover how to escape through trial and error. By manipulating levers and buttons, the player eventually is able to wake the sleeping robot to get an important clue, remove the lasers, and escape the room.

Kids who are accustomed to more direction might find Ponder frustrating at first; however, the puzzle isn't really that difficult, and the lack of instruction forces kids to think their way to a solution. With a bit of creative thinking, most students should have no trouble escaping. That being said, some contextualized and timed support for struggling learners would help. And while Ponder is too short to really sink one's teeth into, it's an interesting problem-solving activity that's an easy sell. The big issue is that this kind of critical thinking is already such a big part of many of the games kids are already playing at home for fun, so, in comparison, Ponder may seem simplistic.

Overall Rating

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

Cute, well-designed puzzle will engage kids but not necessarily intrigue them.

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

Students explore the room, using trial and error to solve the puzzle. It's hyper-focused and a bit limited.

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

Figuring out what to do can be confusing, as the game doesn't provide instructions but lets players find the solution themselves. A little extra help would support the experience without undermining the outcomes.

Common Sense Reviewer
Caryn Lix Classroom teacher

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