Review by Debbie Gorrell, Common Sense Education | Updated May 2014
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DragonBox Elements

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Innovative game-based approach to teaching geometry

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Critical Thinking

Subjects
  • Math
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
3-8
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (1 Review)

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Pros: Engaging puzzles encourage kids to explore important geometric concepts through gameplay.

Cons: Hints and practice opportunities are lacking.

Bottom Line: Kids build fundamental geometry skills as they play, but connections to classroom math will require teacher support.

DragonBox Elements provides a great opportunity to encourage kids to learn through exploration. Use it in the classroom to build on knowledge from more formal lessons. Kids could work in pairs or small groups, but when you register a user, the app asks whether the user is right- or left-handed -- so it’s a good idea to group kids accordingly. You could have kids explore a level and then follow up with the teacher's guide to discuss concepts. Then, have kids complete the level again as reinforcement.    

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Dragonbox Elements begins with a simple, nicely animated background story about a monster taking over a tower, offered in 17 different languages. Kids have to collect critters in order to build an army and fight the monster. They do this by solving puzzles. Kids can choose from two challenges: normal or hard. Once they choose a challenge, kids work their way through 10 puzzles in order to progress to the next level. The levels are organized into seven chapters, and kids learn new powers, or rules, in each chapter. As kids solve the puzzles, they develop an understanding of different geometric concepts. However, the game does not review or reinforce the concepts directly, so if you want kids to be able to transfer what they learned to another learning environment, it's important to use the teacher resources on the developer's website.

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Learning is based on the exploration of definitions, properties, and relationships of geometric shapes through Euclidean proof. By solving puzzles, kids explore concepts including congruency, line segments, triangles (isosceles, right, scalene, and equilateral), quadrilaterals, circles, pairs of angles, and parallel and transverse lines. Each level progresses to a new concept that builds on the previous level. For example, kids learn the definition of a triangle in the first level by tapping three vertices to draw the three sides of a triangle. In later levels, kids learn about isosceles triangles and equilateral triangles by exploring their side lengths.

The critters in the puzzles that kids need to set free and collect appear in the same general form of the shapes that kids need to identify. This may not be obvious to some kids, so pointing this out could help those who are struggling as they try to solve the puzzles. Using the teacher's guide on the developer's website is essential if you want to reinforce skills and help kids fully understand what they are learning.

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Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

The graphics are beautiful, and kids will find the puzzles challenging, fun, and hard to put down.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Concepts increase in difficulty as kids progress through the levels. A practice mode would be useful for applying knowledge.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

There is plenty of information and learning support on the developer's website, but the game itself could use some hints.


Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Jason J. , School district administrator
School district administrator
Beautiful, Engaging App for Geometry

The Elements game engages students highly and provides a stunning visual interface to maintain that engagement. The lesson outline provided on the http://wewanttoknow.com/elements/ website delivers information to teachers and parents for using the app with children. The games lay a foundation for geometry that assists children with concepts, but need additional supports that scaffold learners during the process.

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