How will the updates to Courses E, F, and Express affect my classroom?


Why did these courses get updated? is dedicated to providing an entertaining and effective learning experience for our students.  To maintain this quality, we are committed to listening to user feedback and monitoring anonymized data to make sure that issues are addressed as quickly and reliably as possible. 

On September 20, 2017, we analyzed puzzle attempt and completion data and determined that the introductions to our upper-elementary courses (Courses E, F, and Express) were not doing an adequate job preparing thousands of students with the early CS concepts of sequencing, loops, nested loops, or conditionals. The students who joined our pilot last year had more prior experience coding than the students enrolling this fall. Thus, we realized that our ramp up stages are moving too quickly. 

What was changed?

Since these concepts are foundational to the rest of the lessons, we decided to take immediate action and repair the entry points.  Our changes were as follows:

  • Add a more robust “ramp-up” to Courses E & F, consisting of 9 foundational stages.
  • Edit the “Introduction to Online Puzzles” stages in E, F, and Express to better prepare students to jump into the rest of the course.
  • Add lessons addressing debugging, persistence, and frustration to E, F, and Express
  • Edit the “Conditionals with Farmer” stage to have a smoother progression through `while`, `until`, and `if/else`.
  • Swap the “Debugging in Collector” stage for “Debugging with Scrat” to give a debugging experience that is better aligned to what students will have learned.
  • Integrate levels that provide a more guided introduction of loops into the beginning of the Express course. 

In making these changes, we used a feature called “Puzzle Swap” which lets us to show the improved levels to new students, while allowing students who have made progress to keep the levels that they have already seen.  This caused side-effects for some classrooms, which are addressed in the FAQs below.


Q: The stage numbers shifted.  What happened?

A: We added some new ramp up lessons to Courses E, F, and Express.  If you’re looking for one of the old lessons, here is a simple table to help you locate them.


Course Name

Old Lesson Number

New Lesson Number

Course E

Any previous lesson number

Add 9 to the previous number

Course F

Any previous lesson number

Add 9 to the previous number


Lessons 3 & 4

These have been removed/replaced


Lesson 7 and beyond

Add 1 to the previous number

Q: Where did my Artist Project from Express go?

A: For two days, the Artist Project levels in Express were replaced by a different puzzle progression. We have found that both sets of puzzles have strong appeal, so we have combined them into one big progression in Lesson 6.  If you were missing the opportunity to complete an Artist Project that you already started, take a look at puzzles 12 and beyond.  They’re back!


Q: I’m seeing unexpected puzzles in my student's lessons. Why?

A: This is one of the side-effects of puzzle-swapping. In order to make sure students don’t lose code or progress if you tried a handful of puzzles in one lesson and not tried the others, you will get a blend of old and new puzzles in the same progression.  We are working on a fix for this, but in the meantime, please complete the puzzles as you see them.  


Q: My students are seeing different puzzles in the same course. Why?

A: This is also a side-effect of level-swapping.  If you made progress on a puzzle and your neighbor did not, you will see the old puzzle and they will see the new one.  In an environment which encourages collaboration (which we do!) this can be confusing.  

We are working on making this experience better.  In the meantime, since both puzzles should be trying to teach the same main concept, try working together to solve both!  Which puzzle was harder?

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