Website review by Emily Pohlonski, Common Sense Education | Updated May 2021

Frax

Out-of-this-world adventure helps fraction concepts blast off

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Grades
3–5
Subjects & Skills
Math, Critical Thinking

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Pros: Kids are actually excited to play their next mission and therefore learn more about fractions.

Cons: There's no multilingual or audio support around directions.

Bottom Line: This adaptive, game-based approach helps kids develop deep fraction understanding.

Teachers can use Frax as part of math rotations. At their independent stations, students can work at their own pace on Frax. Teachers track student progress using the class and individual reports on the teacher dashboard. Then teachers can use this data to tailor their small-group instruction to what each student needs.

Since the game presents early fraction concepts using blocks, have kids use manipulatives to reinforce this approach. Since one of the missions within the game centers around a competition to load the correct blocks onto trucks, you can have kids challenge each other by creating questions like those in the game, which comes at those concepts from another angle. And then, as kids begin to connect the concepts around whole numbers being comprised of parts, let kids construct visuals or their own games to illustrate these concepts so that they can build understanding in their own way.

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In Frax, third through fifth graders join a team of ferrets as they explore the galaxy on the FFS Sable. Kids must use fraction concepts to complete each mission. While completing missions, students earn tokens. Tokens can be used to "buy" items in the store to decorate their student cabin. They also earn trophies for their trophy room.

Frax scaffolds early fraction concepts by providing online manipulatives, and all of the math fits into the storyline. For example, kids drag blocks to fill up ships with fuel. They figure out that they can drag four of the one-fourth blocks to create a whole fuel block. Students drag and rearrange blocks that are to scale. Kids also compare fractions as they trade space gems at the market, and answer fraction-related questions at the end of each mission as glowing space orbs seek answers from the ship's feline mascot. Within each mission, mechanics adjust to come at the concepts from a variety of angles. Regular feedback is provided throughout tasks: If kids get a question wrong, they get a tip and an opportunity to try again and earn half the points. To move onto the next mission, kids need to wait until the next day.

What sets Frax apart is how it features fraction concepts by truly embedding them within an engaging story. And then it cleverly scaffolds each concept by switching up mechanics and questions, just as practice might get tedious. And though the manipulatives are virtual, the process of selecting, dragging, and dropping serves the same purpose as the hands-on variety. These visuals are crucial -- helping students to see that one fourth is smaller than one third -- a concept that many kids struggle with. Each task gets progressively harder. And then, at the end of each mission, a short assessment takes the form of alien beings asking a cat questions, which keeps kids in the story.

Though it's similar to Cyberchase Fractions Quest, Frax's storyline and the characters are more engaging. Students truly want to see what happens when the story unfolds. After completing a mission, students have to wait another day before moving on to the next mission. This keeps kids wanting more and also allows kids to regularly revisit fractions concepts over many days without burning themselves out in one sitting. Frax also gives teachers the flexibility to move students ahead who already understand, and assign specific missions. Though it could use a few more ancillary resources, a social element (maybe in the form of off-screen challenges?), and accessibility and multilingual supports, it's definitely one of those rare products that can truly move conceptual understanding forward, all while kids have fun.

Overall Rating

Engagement

A captivating storyline and fun rewards draw kids in. Clear directions and visuals help kids persevere through tough missions.

Pedagogy

Thoughtful scaffolding helps kids build crucial ideas. Based on research, lessons are built to counter challenges that students face when learning fractions.

Support

Throughout each mission, students get visual and written cues to support their learning. Currently Frax is offered only in English and doesn't feature any supporting materials.


Common Sense reviewer
Emily Pohlonski Classroom teacher

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