DragonBox+ Algebra is an interesting puzzle game that focuses on teaching children the basic principles of basic algebra along the way.
This is a an app which I have completed, and my feelings towards it varied depending on how far I had gotten during this game.
This app consists of five chapters, each with twenty levels that each include a fantasy creature who slowly evolves as these questions are completed. Four personalized accounts can be created, complete with an avatar to keep track of different players' progress - ideal for school settings as well as home with multiple players as well. An important bonus section, also including five chapters, is also included, as is a variety of different languishes.
The first impression is how high quality a game this is, with soothing yet suspenseful music and a mildly distressed, textured and pleasing-to-the-eye background screen which is the backdrop for these puzzle questions that users will be gazing at for some time.
This app is scripted, and one follows along the text explaining first how there are two sides of the screen and one box, plus other tiles that have a variety of images such as monster faces, birds, dragons or dice. The object is to isolate the box, removing the other tiles from the box side, until this box stands alone. To do so, add the opposite tile, removing this from the puzzle.
It is here that those with a background in algebra will understand how these puzzles are slowly forming algebraic equations, adding opposite tiles together, much like one would add negative numbers in the interest of subtraction, or how one must add the same tiles to both sides of the screen as you would to both sides of an equation. Later, the box is changed to a “X” and division of fractions is also touched upon as is multiplication.
I do wonder if this app is not overly theoretical as very little to no math is included in this app. This application is not about solving these questions but whittling down these problems until the equation reads “X = ...” Now students could presumably use their math skills to solve these problems, making my mind journey back to high school math with a teacher who would only take a point off if the last line of addition was incorrect but the other work shown was accurate.
To me as an adult, this app is a very nice exercise in answering these problems “algebraically” instead of with arithmetic - a concept this same teacher was at a loss to articulate, a failing of his I remember to this day.
I have enjoyed this app a great deal, feeling that it would have gone a very long way if I had been taught with this app during this math class. I do have my doubts that although children with no math basics will find this app fun and novel, they will not also find DragonBox overly theoretical in terms of being able to understand math beyond being some sort of parlor trick. I also feel the idea that a child as young as my five year old son could solve or truly understand a math question reserved for high schoolers dubious as these questions do not solve any real math, being devoid of numbers, while teaching these concepts in a way that some may take to heart, possibly with very good results.
Having gone through the first two chapters, it is too early to tell if my son will gain an understanding of algebra from this app, even with my explanations of how this app relates to later math - an important insight for this app to be anything more than an interesting exercise in problem solving. I do believe that this is a time that “not knowing the child is learning math” takes away from this experience. It would also be nice if these problems could include the solutions as without any hints or answers, users can hit a frustrating impasse.
I do highly, however, recommend this app to top math teachers who can thoughtfully explain how this app relates to algebra, alongside questions that include numbers which can follow through and solve during the teaching of algebra itself.
I also recommend this app to homes where parents or other adults can sit with their children and help them work through these levels, explaining how these parameters relate to later math, giving them a bit of a head start, but I do not think this app can live up to its potential without added instructions.
I would also like to note the importance of the bonus levels, not only as the content here is quite high (including five complete chapters, much more that I expected from a “bonus” section of an app), but it is here that much of what is being taught “clicked” for me in terms of true algebraic significance.
Even if my son is too young to fully grasp what this app ultimately has to offer, I would still be quite happy for him to complete these puzzles as an exercise in logic instead of algebra - still thought-provoking and still wonderful for pre-math and thinking skills in general.
I do hope that what my son may learn from this app he takes with him into algebra, such as performing the same functions on one side of an equation as the other, but I do think he would need to re-visit this app at a later time to gain full insight into what this app has to offer.
I do not find these points flaws in this app, but please do not expect preschoolers to truly solve high school algebra. They may possibly be able to isolate X, but this is not to equate an answer for what X represents, and I am ambivalent as to could recreate the experience with a pen and paper. I prefer for my son to look at this app as a unique logic game for now and an algebraic teaching tool later on when this app can take on more relevance.
One note I would like to make, however, is that this app can be at times un-responsive when adding tiles together, to the point that those not certain of their correct answers may try another way of solving these problems - an issue that I hope can be smoothed out in an update soon.