Review by Emily Pohlonski, Common Sense Education | Updated May 2018

Variant: Limits

3D calculus game has fun virtual world, frustrating feedback

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.
10–12
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Pros: High-quality virtual environment may entice reluctant math learners.

Cons: Students may spend more time wandering around the fantasy world than actually learning calculus.

Bottom Line: Despite some glitches, students who don't love math may love this game, and learn a little about limits along the way.

Teachers can use Variant: Limits as a way to draw in reluctant math learners who enjoy 3D games. Students new to gaming will need to orient themselves to using the letter keys, particularly for diagonal movement. The game itself does not provide direct math instruction. In the first two levels, students can proceed independently. But by level three, students will need to learn the calculus concepts from their teacher first before practicing with the game.

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Variant: Limits uses game-based learning to help students explore limits, a key pre-calculus and calculus concept. Students play as Equa, a young woman who has lost her memory but is trying to save a planet from a nearby star emitting solar flares. Two other beings, Celare and the Preceptor, act as guides. 

Students can wander freely through the virtual world or they can press the space bar to light up a navigation path. This path will take kids to a puzzle, or math task. If a player gets the puzzle right, gates or bridges are powered up. This lets kids into another part of the game and one step closer to saving this unknown world.

In Variant: Limits, students play in a high-quality 3D virtual environment; gamers will find the experience comparable to games created for entertainment. There are four zones, each addressing different learning objectives related to limits. Once students have mastered an objective, they can move on, so the game continues to challenge.

At the initial levels, players can guess and check to figure out how to solve a puzzle. While students find out if they get a puzzle wrong, the feedback isn't specific. For example, when identifying a graph with continuous and discontinuous limits, the students don't discover which portion of the graph they labeled incorrectly. This can lead to frustration, which is magnified by glitches that periodically cause Equa to be stuck and unresponsive. To fix this, players have to exit and start over. 

Overall Rating

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

Students have fun exploring Equa's virtual world. The fun tends to drop off quickly when Equa gets stuck and players can't move her around.

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

Players get a chance to figure out math concepts; each time students get a puzzle wrong, they're forced to adjust their game/math strategy. 

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

An entity called the Preceptor provides gameplay directions while in a puzzle, but specific coaching on the math skills isn't always provided.


Common Sense Reviewer
Emily Pohlonski Classroom teacher

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