Guest Review by Josh Young – DragonBox and DragonBox+

29 Aug

Hi again!

If you’re wondering who I am, my name’s Josh, and I’ve come across from Mathematical Mischief (again), to bring you another maths app review! 🙂

Today, I’m covering DragonBox and DragonBox+, two apps developed by We Want To Know. They’re a small, French-Norwegian startup who are aiming to develop a new generation of digital learning games. Considering that the App Store is massive, it’s a high target to set in such a diverse environment.

Now, one might think upon opening DragonBox, that it looks nothing like maths. In actuality, it is a very, very, very clever con act. I mean, if it was just a maths app, do you sincerely think that any 8yr old would play it? Instead, the underlying motives of the game are hidden within the mechanics of the game, 🙂

So what is DragonBox?

DragonBox Title Screen – App Screenshot

DragonBox (and it’s enhanced app, DragonBox+) starts off as a simple title screen with a dog in a box. Once you start, you select a character and end up at a level selection screen.

The early levels show tutorials and instructions upon what to do. They’re artsy, clever, and intuitive, and most kids will be able to understand how the levels work. Ideally, to sit with a parent or older sibling that understands basic algebra would be best – having that extra bit of assistance would be useful.

The trick to DragonBox is its intuitive controls and manner of teaching the topic material.

In DragonBox, there’s 100 levels to try out (separated into five different level packs of varying difficulty), and there’s also an extra 100 levels (making that 200 levels) in DragonBox+. Unfortunately, there isn’t a section that tells you what each section is about, which is a bummer, but the level packs themselves tend to alternate between easy and more difficult problems, on about a ten level basis. I found this incredibly beneficial – in Level 1, you may learn what a zero is, then as you proceed, you might apply it with multiplication.

How on earth is it maths?

See, the clever part about DragonBox is that it encourages students to apply maths visually.

Let’s take, for example, this equation:

a\times y=b+c

If we would like to isolate y in this equation, we simply divide both sides of the equation by a. Then we obtain the solution:

y=\frac{b}{a}+\frac{c}{a}

Now, answer this: Do you honestly think any 8 year old wants to play that on an app? The answer to that is, indicatively, no.
What the designers of DragonBox have done is to mask this by using visual aids and cards as a device to practice these skills.

Now, the image below is of a level in-app.

The clever thing about DragonBox is that the maths is hidden within the app itself. – App Screenshot

Now, in this level, you can see that this level is represented by separate objects. Separate objects represent addition, whereas linked items represent multiplication. In this case, to solve the puzzle, you have to put a tomato under the linked objects (which represents division).

That is exactly the same as the equation above – but as it’s tackled in a visual aspect, no kid is going to think that they’re doing math. By hiding the maths in app, the child is learning about maths, but they aren’t being subjected to the archaic teaching styles that you see in the classroom these days. That’s not to say that the old styles don’t have their purpose – but in a modern digital environment, they aren’t nearly as useful in an adaptive, fun environment.

Pros:

  • Intuitive design, very kid friendly, fun and engaging. The music and design of the game invites the player to hatch and grow a monster for each level played in the pack – something that is pretty cool.
  • Actually confronts algebra in a roundabout way.
  • Develops critical thinking and analytical skills – critical for understanding basic algebra and higher forms of mathematics.
  • Ability to save multiple profiles – beneficial for schools or families.

Cons:

  • Lack of directional outcome for some levels – ok, so in Level 1.1 I’m told that I want to get the box by itself. Thirty levels later, an x replaces the box and I’m not told any different. A bit of division based on outcomes (i.e. multiplication, addition, subtraction, division, working with zeroes) would be a far better way of separating the levels distinctively.
  • The difference between DragonBox+ and DragonBox – Ok, so I’ve completed DragonBox, and I buy DragonBox+… only to find out all of the original levels are exactly the same as the original app. The only thing that really is + about it is that there’s a hundred extra levels – and if you’ve bought the first game, you’re paying twice as much for the same quantity of levels!
    • Advice: If you’re sure you want to get the app, get DragonBox+. It’s a little bit more at the time of purchase, but you save the frustration about having to buy another app to get the rest of the levels.

Verdict

All in all, DragonBox is a well developed, cleverly designed app that is sure to engage (and conspire) children of all ages involved with basic algebra.

Title: DragonBox
Publisher: We Want To Know AS
Price: $2.99
Universal – will work on both iPhone and iPad.
DragonBox
Title: DragonBox+
Publisher: We Want To Know AS
Price: $6.49
Universal – will work on both iPhone and iPad.
DragonBox+

Also available on the Mac App Store and Android.

You can find me at Mathematical Mischief, on Facebook, or Twitter. 🙂

All the best,
Josh

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3 Responses to “Guest Review by Josh Young – DragonBox and DragonBox+”

  1. jean 28/04/2013 at 5:01 am #

    dragonbox 12+ just released, much more comprehensive. Starts off the same on the 2 first chapters, and then signs, parenthesis, fractions, factoring etc… FYI

    • Josh Young 06/05/2013 at 2:31 pm #

      Ooh – I’ll have to take a look. 🙂

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  1. Guest Blog – King of Math: Junior, reviewed by Josh « On Sarah's iPad - 04/01/2013

    […] On Sarah’s iPad with maths app reviews. In the past, I’ve done reviews on apps such as DragonBox and Math Formulas. I’m hoping you’ve all had a great holiday, and I’m thinking […]

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