Thursday, December 26, 2013

Analysis of the DragonBox App

We recently started solving equations in our junior high math class.  I decided to use the DragonBox app this year to help with the basic ideas of solving equations.  DragonBox is a game designed to teach the player the basic rules of solving equations while they play the game.  A preview of the game is here.

So to start our study of solving equations, the first thing we did was play DragonBox for about 20 minutes in class.  During this time the students mastered the first chapter of the game and more importantly got hooked on the game.  The game is very well designed to hook a student.  The rules are simple and explained quickly in the first couple levels.  It starts off giving the students early success but quickly works its way up in difficulty.

However, the biggest positive of this game is that it encourages the use of their intuition in solving equations.  Students almost always have ideas on how to solve equations, but rarely get to really use them to much.  By starting with the game, the student gets to fully use their intuition while the game moves their ideas into the basic rules of solving equations.

The other biggest positive of this game is that there is no penalty for errors, just like any video game.  The students will make errors, but they just get to reset the level and try again.  This is a huge plus and really helps teach a "growth mindset" or "grit" for a student.

While playing through the chapters I made a list of the emphasized ideas.

Chapter 1
There are two sides to each equation.
Opposites cancel each other out.
Whatever is done to one side, has to be done to the other side.

Chapter 2
Dividing (putting an object under another object) simplifies the two objects into a 1.
Whatever is done to one side, has to be done to the other side.

Chapter 3
Multiply (place an object next to another object) to eliminate division.  
Eliminate constants first.  (eliminate non-attached cards, before cards attached to the dragonbox)
Whatever is done to one side, has to be done to the other side.  

Chapter 4 & 5
Slowly formalizes the notation of solving equations
Whatever is done to one side, has to be done to the other side.  

Overall, this app does not fully teach anybody how to solve equations.  However it does give a great introduction to solving equations.  It lets the students use their own ideas to learn and work it out with no penalties for errors.  

I have set up the DragonBox app as an option for a task to complete on each of my levels.  I set it up so the student would have to at least complete chapter 3, which is where all the ideas have been introduced, just not formalized.  I often find, that if a student works through the third chapter, they are hooked and want to finish the game.  

Level 4 (A) - Complete all 5 chapters
Level 3 (B) - Complete 4 chapters
Level 2 (C) - compete 3 chapters

Of course some students, did finish the first chapter, never touched the game again and just watched the video and did worksheets.  All students are different and this app is just another tool to help all students learn in the wild crazy world of junior high math. 

The Math Hatter:  "There is a place.  Like no place on Earth.  A land full of wonder, mystery, and        
                              danger!   Some say to survive it, you need to be as mad as a hatter."


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