It's no secret that I love math. I have reviewed many math apps designed for juniors. Some of them really impressed me, including my app pick for today: DragonBox Algebra 5+. It starts as a fun little game, but slowly evolves into a great tool for learning algebra.
Leave the DragonBox alone
You start with a simple game which asks you to leave the DragonBox alone. If you can do that, you will see a dragon hatch and grow. You work your way through the levels with increasing difficulty before you get to meet the fully-grown dragon at the end of each chapter.
The game divides the screen into two areas: left and right. To complete a level, you need to make sure that there is only a single DragonBox left in an area. For example, if the DragonBox is located on the left-hand side, you need to make sure that no other objects exist in that area. Other objects may exist within the area where there's no DragonBox.
To remove an object, you need to find another object that negates it. The game uses objects with the same picture yet of contrasting color to represent this. In algebra, it's like calculating (a) + (-a) = 0. Simply drag an object on top of its negative to create a black hole object. The black hole object represents zero in algebra. To complete a level, you also need to clear all black hole objects.
The game increases the difficulty gradually. It starts by introducing objects on the bottom bar that you can apply to both areas. In algebra, it's like adding a new operand to both sides of the equation. The goal is to clear objects that are located in the same area where the DragonBox lies. You can also flip an object before placing it on the board to become its negative.
Each time you add a new object on one side, you need to add that same object on the other side. For example, if you add (-5) on the left side of the equation, you're required to add (-5) on the right side as well.
Then, the game introduces multiplication and division gradually. It starts by gluing two or more objects to represent multiplication. Then, it allows you to put objects underneath other objects to represent fractions.
Just like in algebra, you try to eliminate objects by converting them into their operational identities. For multiplication and division, that identity is one. Drag a divisor to its matching dividend to convert them into an object representing the number 1. Then, you can clear all objects representing the number 1 that are glued (multiplied) to another number.
Once you're ready, the game slowly replaces the DragonBox with the variable x. The end goal is still the same: make sure that there's only one x and that it's alone on one side. The game also slowly replaces the objects with die faces before finally resting on numbers and letters. It also replaces the black negatives with (-). Once the game uses the equal sign (=) to represent the line between both sides, you're already familiar with solving algebra equations.
Parents Need to Know
This game is not about honing your algebra skills. Instead, it focuses on introducing algebra by using game metaphors. You won't even feel that it tries to teach you algebra. Each time you do better in the game, you're actually improving your algebra skills too. Once you have completed all the levels in the game, you've also mastered the basics of algebra equations.
The game supports multiple profiles allowing you to track the progress of more than one child. It's perfect if you have more than one child at home.
Things I Like
I like the way this app introduces algebra concepts one by one. It's so subtle that you won't notice it unless you're specifically looking for it. For this reason, I'd suggest you to play each level sequentially. You wouldn't want to miss an important milestone in this well-designed game.
It's uncommon for an app designed for juniors to have a Mac version. For older juniors who may only have access to a Mac and not the iPad, this is a perfect solution. I have been playing with the Mac version and I like how it plays when set to fullscreen mode.
I am impressed by the way DragonBox teaches algebra. I'd highly recommend this to anyone who want to learn algebra. You will be surprised at how much you can learn in a few hours with this app. I haven't let my son played with it, but I'm sure I will be amazed by the results.
App was provided for our honest review.