## Friday, February 1, 2013

### Dragon Box - the Revolutionary Algebra App

Dragon Box, by WeWantToKnow AS - I vividly remember the days long ago, when I was in middle school learning algebra. There was “y”, there was “x”, there was “x+y=5”, there was “1/x + 2/y = ⅓”, and so forth. Most middle school students would not find learning pre-algebra or algebra that exciting. On the contrary, they might find it quite boring. Sitting and learning a bunch of letter and number combinations, which have no meaning to the students whatsoever, is just not appealing or engaging. In addition, the equations and formulas being taught are abstract; they are not something concrete that the students can relate to. It is the teacher’s job to teach the material in a way the students can relate to… to make it meaningful to them.

As we are moving further into the 21st century, students are expecting that their learning include digital devices. In addition, it is becoming increasingly common that the content being taught is presented in a way that includes online gaming, simulations, and/or augmented reality. What better way to teach abstract content, such as algebra, than to teach it with games?!? Teaching with games motivates and engages students.
Dragon Box is highly beneficial for students in middle school. Although, those who are younger and even adults who are “young at heart” will enjoy it as well. I gave my son, who is in seventh grade, a chance to field-test the Dragon Box and I played it as well. We both enjoyed it immensely! Even more so, it was quite addicting! Rather than giving a problem such as “x+y=5” to solve, the app game starts at a very basic level. For instance, instead of starting with solving equations and problems, the game first teaches the user how to discriminate between two characters and to separate them. It affords the opportunity to practice the same steps that are involved in Algebra. However, they are presented in such a exciting way, that the user would never know it. This includes such steps as applying the same strategy to both sides of the equation, looking for like terms, and changing whole numbers into fractions. It also gives step by step directions early on and directs the user as how to proceed. Instead of characters such as “x” and “y,” the game uses avatars and other objects. This is so important and beneficial because these things are concrete and much easier for children to relate to, as opposed to just random characters that are more abstract. A child has a greater chance of retaining the skill or content being taught when it is presented in a meaningful way, that he or she can relate to, as opposed to something abstract which has no connection whatsoever.
As I said, after my son had the chance to play Dragon Box, I decided to play the game and found it to be very addicting! If algebra had been taught this way when I was in middle school, I would definitely have had so much more fun and success! I love how it uses little avatars, fish, animals and other objects to act as the symbols (representing the numbers and letters). The app’s development was clearly well thought out, it’s very thorough and impressive. There are a few steps or directions that are added in here and there, but not on each level. Eventually, I got stuck on a level….  Which brings me to this – I have one suggestion that would make this app even better. Currently, there is no support or directions within the app itself. When the user gets stuck on a level, there are no hints, suggestions, or help as to what would be the next step. It basically just starts over and over again, keeping record of what steps worked and didn’t work. A walk through or user guide within the app would be very beneficial. Overall, Dragon Box is a great app. My son really enjoyed playing it and so did I, for that matter!