Common Sense Review
Updated March 2015


Puzzler's use of real code fills niche in crowded learn-to-code genre
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Common Sense Rating 4
  • Short instructions lead off each level
  • Write code to send the monkey to her goal
  • Make a mistake, and get an error message
  • Grab the bananas and complete the level!
Charming art mixed with serious programming challenges.
Limited range of covered concepts, and tough puzzles could use a better hint system.
Bottom Line
A great introduction to coding with solid teacher support that gets kids using a real programming language and digging into some meatier concepts than other early coding tools.
David Thomas
Common Sense Reviewer
Director of academic technology
Common Sense Rating 4
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 4

Cute cartoon graphics welcome wanna-be programmers, although there's not much story/character for context. The slowly increasing level of puzzle difficulty keeps players focused. 

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 4

Clever programming puzzles move the player through each new concept, usually providing just enough difficulty to challenge without frustrating. This bite-sized learning makes bigger concepts easier to digest.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 4

An excellent curriculum guide supports teachers, and players can type themselves or use buttons to enter code. But when a student gets stuck, the limited hint system leaves students leaning on peers, teachers, or developer support.

About our ratings and privacy evaluation.
How Can Teachers Use It?

Teachers will find CodeMonkey offers a friendly but challenging introduction to computer programming, with a bit more rigor and knowledge transfer than can be found in the early-elementary coding tools that don't engage with actual scripting. The easy-to-read code and easy-to-follow connection between the code on the right-hand side and the action on the left make it a perfect platform for talking about some core concepts in programming. Kids will enjoy the challenging puzzles and the cartoon setting. To implement, teachers can rely on the full set of lesson plans included in the classroom version and use the dashboard to track student progress. Teachers should also encourage students to take full advantage of the game's solution-sharing feature to help struggling students get past challenges. High-achieving students who finish early can also be encouraged to design challenges for their classmates. To level up students' coding abilities, teachers should look into JavaScript so students can compare the two closely related languages.

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What's It Like?

Students help a monkey retrieve her lost bananas, journeying through a whimsical map full of procedural coding puzzles. Each level is viewed from a top-down perspective, and students must write and "run" code snippets on the right side of the screen to steer the monkey across each level on the left side of the screen. This two-sided style helps students instantly see the results of their work. Each new level introduces an additional piece of code or a new function, or challenges the player to put the pieces together for themselves. After players get the gist of the interface and puzzles, the focus is on getting each solution to not only work but work well so they receive the maximum number of stars. Students can share their best solutions and even create challenges once they've finished all the puzzles, while teachers -- with the paid classroom or school version -- can track students' progress and help students with an answer key of all solutions.

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Is It Good For Learning?

CodeMonkey was designed to help introduce kids to programming using the CoffeeScript language -- a simpler, more intuitive version of JavaScript. Borrowing many ideas from the classic code-learning platform Logo, this puzzle game keeps the mood light and ensures each level builds on the level before. This incremental approach to puzzle-solving makes CodeMonkey feel more like play and less like drilling and practicing code concepts and syntax (even though kids are dealing with real code). Because of this, CodeMonkey is an excellent introduction to coding for younger students who need more of a challenge than the drag-and-drop, block-style programs provide (e.g., Scratch or Hopscotch). Be advised, though, puzzles can be tough and will stump students. While there's a lot of support -- teachers have the solutions, peers can share theirs, and the developers are available for consultation -- a better hint system/more helpful debug messages would be welcome. 

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