Dragon from the game Dragon from the game Dragon from the game

Why was DragonBox Algebra created?

As every math teacher or parent knows, teaching algebra can be difficult. Before students even enter the classroom they are filled with negative thoughts about algebra. It’s hard. It’s boring. It sucks! There are hundreds of tweets every hour talking about how much people hate algebra.

Unfortunately, algebra is also the biggest hurdle students must clear before learning more advanced mathematics in university or beyond.

This is why we created DragonBox. We want to remove the negativity surrounding algebra by making it as simple as possible to understand and learn algebra´s big ideas, with or without help, at your own pace.

This is not about creating a game, an educational app, or using technology or tablets in the classroom.

It is about listening to the students and creating the best possible resource to learn algebra from a student's perspective.

It demystifies algebra and gives the player confidence in algebra.

How does DragonBox help you learn algebra?

Mathematics is the result of a several centuries of development by brilliant minds. Its own language has changed over time. What might seem simple and logical to teachers, who understand the language, can seem overwhelming and confusing for students.

In addition, the order in which we teach mathematics is also the result of different policies and pedagogical ideologies, which do not necessarily account for the optimal setup to learn these subjects.

DragonBox was conceived with the belief and the vision that human beings are hardwired to learn extremely complicated concepts. By placing the student at the center of the learning process one can engage the brain of the students in an optimal manner, achieving results in agreement with the marvelous capacity of the human brain.

Therefore, DragonBox does not teach mathematics in the “right order”. It starts by teaching algebra before arithmetic.

DragonBox initially uses pictures rather than numbers or variables to demonstrate the ''game'' in algebra before spending time on the mere formalism that is used in classrooms. Some teachers and parents have the impression that the game does not teach mathematics. On the contrary, the game is focusing on mathematical rules from the very first level to the very end of the game.

DragonBox is based on the vision that children should be trained to think creatively. Players discover algebraic rules and play with them. They have to use the rules to solve puzzles which leads to a lot of trial and error. It also encourages a tremendous amount of high level thinking, which can be difficult to achieve in a classroom setting.

But learning is not only about rules. It is about discovering what works, and what doesn´t.

This approach might frighten some people, but not children. This is simply the way people learn.

How was it designed?

DragonBox was designed by Jean-Baptiste Huynh, a math teacher, and Dr. Patrick Marchal, a cognitive scientist.

The concept for the game came from observing students in a classroom combined with modern research in cognitive science and new understandings of how people learn.

The key principles used in designing DragonBox are:

  • Students learn more when they are engaged.
  • The most important factor to learning is feedback.
  • Feedback should be immediate to be effective.
  • To feel mastery is key to staying motivated.
  • Students should be presented with challenges that match their level of mastery.
  • Students should be assessed in a formative, non-intrusive way.
  • A safe environment is the key to learning.
  • Peer learning is very effective.
  • Discovery or experiential learning is much more effective than instructional-based teaching.
  • Students learn differently and at different paces.
  • The language we use to teach mathematics is a barrier to understanding.

We have also conducted hundreds of hours of testing and refinement based on childrens' feedback to make sure the final product is as effective as possible at teaching algebra.

DragonBox is also the subject of ongoing research and testing by the Center for Game Science at the University of Washington. This research is being used to refine our current products and develop future products.

Does it work?

DragonBox does a fantastic job at reducing what would normally take years to learn down to a couple of hours.

That said, while children will get a real sense and mastery of what algebra is about, they will miss an important part that needs to be explained:

  • To transfer to pencil and paper the knowledge acquired in the game, children must be explained how to rewrite equations line by line (equivalence).
  • It is also important to link what they learn in the game with arithmetic, by explaining at the end of the game that they divided, added numbers.

In house preliminary tests indicate a very high level of transfer to pencil and paper. But don´t take our words for it, test it yourself and your children!

As parents we know that children already spend enough time in front of a screen that’s why we wouldn´t create a game that doesn´t work.