Thinking Inside the DragonBox
Type of technology: App
SAMR Model Rating: Substitution
Grade level: K-12
Subject area: Math
Cost: Depends on the version, $4.99 or $7.99 each
As a high school math teacher, I can usually look out at my students and can see at least one of them zoning out. When I ask them why they aren’t paying attention, they usually say something along the lines of, “Math is so boring! Why do we have to do this?” But that all changed the day I tried DragonBox.
DragonBox is an app on the iPad that, according to their website, “is a unique approach that uses motivation-based learning techniques to give children a deeper understanding of how and why things work.” Students solve puzzles and work at their own pace and at their own level through them to learn and practice mathematical concepts. But the best part? It’s a game! There are different versions (based on what you want to teach) and different levels or “chapters” in each version. The students work through the levels in order to grow their dragon or defeat a “boss”. And as they work through each level, they start solving more and more difficult math problems and learn more complicated concepts.
There are 5 different versions depending on your students’ ages and math level:
- For students from 4 to 9 years old (so Pre-K to about 4th grade), there is:
- DragonBox Numbers, where students learn what numbers are and what they can do with them – $7.99
- DragonBox Big Numbers, where students learn about long addition and subtraction – $7.99
- DragonBox Algebra 5+, where students solve basic linear equations – $4.99
- For students ages 9 and up, there is:
- DragonBox Algebra 12+ which builds on Algebra 5+ with more advanced equations- $7.99
- DragonBox Elements (my favorite!) which is all about Geometry! $4.99
There are also bundles that are available for multiple games.
By now you’re probably asking yourself, “ Why is she so obsessed by this game?” Good question!
I teach Math 2 right now, which is a majority Geometry. I have used Elements in my classes to reinforce and introduce Geometric concepts. In this game, students have to use definitions, theorems, and postulates to create and collect different shapes. They then use these shapes after each section to defeat the level “boss.” Each level builds on the definitions, theorems, and postulates from the level before and therefore students begin to use them in more complicated and complex ways. Each new concept is introduced as a “new power” and the students are encouraged to determine some of these “new powers” on their own, thus having an inquiry-based approach to the game. Here are some screenshots of some of the levels:
This level is one of the levels in the first section of Elements. In the bottom left corner, it shows students which shapes they are trying to create. Students connect the vertices to create and collect each shape.
This level is in the second section of Elements. Now students are using properties of shapes in order to create more. In this case, students are using the definition of isosceles triangles in order to show that the sides of each triangle are congruent.
Now, students are using properties of radii in circles and vertical angles in order to create equilateral triangles.
The entire time my students played this game, I kept hearing the same exclamations: “Mrs. Mooneyham, this is fun! This can’t be math!” I was so ecstatic that they were engaged, and learning! Many students would turn to their neighbors to help them. They used the vocabulary and theorems associated with each level correctly, after just a few minutes of working with them! They didn’t even realize that they were learning! And they were begging to keep playing!
Now, although it was all fun and games the first time we played it, I made sure to have a class discussion about what they discovered. We had just started proofs in our current unit and some students were still struggling with the concept. I chose one of the levels that I knew a majority of the students had mastered and showed it on the Apple TV. I asked the students what I needed to do in order to pass the level and wrote what they told me to do on the board. Each time they told me to do something, I asked them why I was able to it. I then wrote that reason on the board next to the statement and action I did. By the end of the level, we had a two-column proof on the board! It showed the students that they use proofs all the time, they just didn’t realize it.
After trying this game out in my class, I plan to use it every year to introduce Geometric concepts to my students. And I plan to use it and the Algebra 12+ version as an intervention with struggling students. Try it out and see how engaged your students can be with these pivotal math concepts!
Check out their Educators page on their website for more information on how you can use this app in your classroom!