Review by David Thomas, Common Sense Education | Updated November 2013

Tikiquations

Puzzler provides accessible entry into chemical equations

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Grades
8-10 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: A playful way to ease students into a tough topic.

Cons: Not much guidance to help deal with tough spots.

Bottom Line: It's a great example of educational game design, easing students into the tricky business of balancing chemical equations through a clever and engaging puzzle mechanic.

Tikiquations provides an excellent introduction to balancing chemical equations. The fruity approach to the logic problems makes solving the puzzles and equations fun. But teachers will need to step in to provide much-needed support, explaining the processes underlying the game and helping out when students get stuck. At some point, students will need to see the math to really understand how to balance equations in the wilds of the chemistry classroom. Whether Tikiquations works best as a follow-up/practice exercise for students already familiar with the concepts or as an amusing introduction to a tough subject will depend on the students' levels and preferences -- both are viable routes. Since things do get challenging, having students pair up could be helpful in easing some of the frustration.

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Tikiquations is set in a stylized cartoon jungle where two hungry animals demand an equal share of fruit. If one creature has two kiwis and the other only one, then adding fruit to the needy side brings the buffet into balance. Things get tricky when fruit baskets enter the equation. For instance, players might need to balance two oranges on one side with three oranges on another with a basket of three fruits. These mechanics aren't just motivated by fun puzzle design; Tikiquations is ultimately a puzzle game with a purpose. While it's a solid puzzle experience in its own right, what students are actually doing as they juggle fruit from one side to the other is learning about chemical equations. As students progress, they'll see fruit is slowly replaced with chemicals. Before they know it, their animal friends aren't just helping them divvy up fruit but also helping them gain chemistry competency.

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Balancing chemical equations can be tough and intimidating. Tikiquations does a good job of making the process feel more like a game than a math problem. But this is both a benefit and drawback. Though the game does a great job of making chemical equation balancing into a puzzle, and the jungle theme helps reduce science anxiety, there's insufficient support to help players through the 28 included puzzles. Without this extra help, it's easy for students to guess their way through the challenges as they bump up against increasingly difficult scenarios. While it's cool to see kiwis and bananas disappear and ammonia molecules and nitrous acid take over, students can find themselves a bit baffled as to the best approach to solving the intimidating formulas.

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Overall Rating
3

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
3

It's plenty of fun, but getting stuck might lead to frustration.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
5

It does an excellent job of blending learning and fun by connecting the balancing of chemical equations with casual game mechanics.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
2

Although the game's character does offer suggestions during play, the advice is usually far too general to be of use; later levels could use more instruction.


Common Sense Reviewer
David Thomas Director of academic technology

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