DragonBox teaches algebra without calling it algebra. The object is to manipulate the two sides of the screen so that the box is isolated on one side. As you progress through the levels, the box eventually becomes an x.
I think the concept and execution are nothing short of brilliant. I worry that the questions I’m going to pose below may highlight a deep pedagogical deficiency on my part, but after working through all the levels, and introducing my 8-year-old daughter to the game, I do have some questions.
At first, I had a really hard time understanding what was going on. I wanted to see the box and cards as variables, coefficients, and constants. They didn’t work exactly the way my algorithmic training wanted them to. I had a hard time separating my prior and totally engrained training from the game. Does the fact that I was taught equation solving in an algorithmic way, and the fact that I practiced those methods over and over again, actually hinder my ability to understand this concept at a deeper level?
My 8 Year Old
She loved this game. She progressed through the first two worlds and enjoyed it, despite the fact that she’s probably not developmentally ready for algebra yet. Her comments were that she didn’t see how this was math, and that she didn’t see what it was that she was supposed to be learning. I took one of the levels she had completed, and translated it into a concrete mathematical equation, and tried to walk her through it. It didn’t work. What’s the bridge between this brilliant app, and the concrete? Is the next step apparent to older children and to better teachers than me? I’m embarrassed to admit that I’m not entirely sure what my next step is, after my students play with this app.