Review by Sol Joye, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2013

Refraction

No-frills fractions game leaves a lot up to teachers

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • Math

Skills
  • 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.
3–4
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Teachers say (2 Reviews)
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Pros: Simple to use and aimed at conceptual learning.

Cons: No teacher dashboard to track student progress, and one-dimensional gameplay.

Bottom Line: Splitting lasers is a fun and interesting way to frame fractions, but Refraction could use more scaffolded connection to how students will actually use fractions.

Teachers can use Refraction to introduce fractions, but it'll probably work better as a post-lesson practice tool. This way, students can better understand what Refraction is trying to do by merging fractions with laser bending and splitting. Used as such, it's an ideal tool particularly for homework -- it's likely to get students more excited than traditional exercises, doesn't take up an extended amount of time, and doesn't require any software or purchases. As an at-home tool, however, it would be even better if there were a teacher dashboard where you could track student progress when they play at home or in class. 

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In Refraction, students bend and split lasers around obstacles in an effort to solve a puzzle and save stranded animal space explorers. But Refraction isn't just a puzzle game -- it's also about fractions. As the puzzles get more difficult, students not only bend the lasers around obstacles to reach their goal, they also split the lasers into separate weaker beams, fractions of the original full-strength laser. In theory, this puzzle-solving helps students learn and apply the ideas of basic fraction manipulation. There are helpful instructions and hints throughout, though no major documentation is included.

While an engaging and somewhat beneficial format for learning and applying fractions, this is no slam dunk. What Refraction needs is an intuitive and explicit connection between the action of splitting and bending the lasers and the manipulation of fractions outside of the game. This could take the form of additional levels that get students working with fractions in more authentic settings, until students are using fractions in a clear, numeric system as is required outside of the game. As it stands, this missing formative step is left up to the teacher, limiting Refraction to homework or supplemental practice.

Overall Rating

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

While initially engaging, the repetitive nature and one-dimensionality can wear thin quickly. Solving puzzles a few levels at a time or as supplemental activity to more in-depth learning may work best.

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

While the puzzle solving nature is useful in practicing the fundamental concepts of fractions, learning is not explicit enough to guarantee retention. Unfortunately, it starts to feel like antiquated drill and kill design.

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

Support is very limited. There is no dashboard to progress. Starting instructions, pop-up hints and tips do aid players when getting started, but beyond that players are on their own.


Common Sense Reviewer
Sol Joye Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

(See all 2 reviews) (2 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Allyson V. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
I thought the game was great for teaching refraction, but had nothing to do with "fractions" as advertised. It was great for learning logic and being able to use angles, which we teach in our geometry unit, but I was looking for a game for fractions.
Its easy enough that kids could do it on their own and would do it on their own. It seems to be addictive so kids would probably use it again and again. It teaches logic and geometry. I'd use it as fast finisher and as a motivator for slower kids to get their work completed. I might also use it as a reward for good behavior in the classroom.
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