Despite its name, ClueFinders 5th Grade is not about finding clues. The four characters are stuck on a mysterious island, and what they are collecting aren’t clues, but CrypTiles. CrypTiles are basically points, and when a student collects enough, he or she solves the mystery.
ClueFinders develops fifth-grade skills in everything from logic and language to math and map reading. Each activity contains four levels of difficulty, so the game can suit a range of abilities. The program automatically makes the tasks harder or easier based on the student’s success. By clicking on Laptrap, a robotic character, students can get an update on their level and location.
Unfortunately, some of the activities lack adequate instructions. For example, the Biosphere Chambers activity has students select a predator and a prey, then based on a specified reproductive rate, estimates the number of predators that can survive. However, the activity doesn’t provide any how-to informational guidelines beforehand, and as a result, students simply have to guess at the correct ratio of predator to prey until the simulation works. In all of the ClueFinders activities, if the student gives an incorrect answer, there is no explanation available.
A few of the activities are poorly designed. The Poison Garden activity was particularly problematic, especially its U.S. geography section. The game tells the student to go from a starting point to an ending point, while following rules about areas to avoid. Unfortunately, whether or not the student successfully avoids a state depends upon how the line is drawn. Answers that are in fact correct sometimes show up as incorrect because of how the program renders the line.
In addition, the CrypTile Story activity, where the student puts fragments of a sentence in the correct order, is somewhat arbitrary. While there may be a best version of a sentence, many other versions could make sense.
Clue Finders 5th Grade also includes a second CD-ROM of printable worksheets and an interface to track student progress.