DragonBox App Helps Kids Learn Algebra

For many students, learning algebra is a boring thing; there are hundreds of tweets every hour talking about how much students hate algebra. Teaching and learning algebra can be difficult, but a computer program is seeking to make learning and teaching algebra more interesting.

Zoran Popović, a computer scientist at the University of Washington, created a video game to help kids learn math and remove the negativity surrounding algebra by making it as simple as possible to understand and learn.

The video game, DragonBox, is a Norwegian game app that introduces algebraic concepts with ­animal-faced cards, then builds up to numbers and computational signs. The video game was developed earlier this year by Popović who first became known for his popular online game, Foldit, which challenges players to create intricate protein patterns by bending and rearranging amino acids into new shapes, writes Julia Greenberg of Wired.

In DragonBox, kids are given a mix of cards and a box and they follow simple rules to get rid of all the unnecessary cards. Eventually, the player is left with a box on one side of the screen and an irreducible number of cards on the other—the equivalent of solving for x. As harder concepts are introduced, students who need more time on a level get additional problems; those who understand it move on.

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, according to DragonBox App website.

In an experiment with DragonBox Adaptive in Washington, an average of 93% of K–12 students successfully mastered concepts after only 90 minutes of gameplay, and they did not want to stop. Popović uses this method as the basis for an entire sixth-grade math curriculum in trial now in Seattle and next year in Brooklyn and Brazil. He wants to use digital tablets to help teachers adjust their lessons to individual performance.

MIT's Education Arcade and the Learning Games Network teamed up to develop a new video game that they hope will engage kids to start thinking. The new free video game, Quandary, is designed to teach ethics while aligning with Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts for third through eighth graders, writes Katrina Schwartz of Mind Shift.

Also, GlassLab, a nonprofit video game development group in California is building six educational video games. The game development group is based at the California campus of publishing powerhouse Electronic Arts (EA) and has received a $10.3 million grant to create video games that they expect will change the way kids learn.

GlassLab designers have teamed up with educators and scientists to create the next generation of educational video games that can teach skills and concepts beyond rote memorization. The games will allow kids to learn how to construct a wind plant and how to build a solar power plant in a virtual world.

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