Review by Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Education | Updated November 2015
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DragonBox Numbers

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Explore the concept of numbers through puzzles and fun gameplay

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Critical Thinking

Subjects
  • Math
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
Pre-K-1
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Pros: Hundreds of puzzles ensure that kids can't zip through this app in a heartbeat.

Cons: Other than height, not all Nooms have a quick visual clue as to what number they represent.

Bottom Line: Though there are a few kinks, kids experience fun gameplay while internalizing fundamental number concepts.

The DragonBox Numbers website offers a learning guide that explains the pedagogy behind each aspect of the game and suggests some ways for teachers to support kids' learning through the app. It's worth taking a quick look to orient yourself and understand more about what the games offer. Teachers can create up to four accounts on each device. Though it's ideal that kids would play under their own accounts, it's not vital. As learning is meant to be seamlessly embedded within the experience of exploration and gameplay, let kids freely explore the games. Stand by, however, to provide help and support in kids making the leap toward explicit understanding of what they're doing. Ask questions such as, how many different ways can you make the number 10? How can you make numbers bigger and smaller? Let kids play with 3-D math manipulatives to encourage the same kind of learning off the screen.

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DragonBox Numbers surreptitiously introduces kids to basic number concepts through puzzles, challenges, and free play. "Nooms" represent each number from 1 to 10. Kids can stack Nooms, have them "eat" each other and turn into different Nooms (for example, 3 eats 5 and becomes 8), or slice them into smaller Nooms. In the sandbox, kids freely experiment with the Nooms against a number line. In "ladder," kids build a Noom to reach a star on a number line, which gets more challenging as they want to avoid or pass through certain points along the way. In "puzzles," kids create pictures using the Nooms in certain ways. All activities earn coins that kids can use to "buy" more levels.

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Silly Nooms get kids interacting with and manipulating numbers in this set of creative games. DragonBox Numbers joins the other games in the DragonBox series as a stellar example of seamlessly incorporating important mathematical concepts into a fun game environment. The three play areas offer a good combination of free exploration and goal-oriented challenges.

The games purposefully do not have any explicit help, but sometimes it feels like a little explanation would actually help avoid confusion. For instance, the Nooms could have some defining feature, other than their height, that helped identify which number they are. This would also help make difficulty levels on which kids must construct Nooms to match the target Noom identified only by its face make more sense. And, the support that's included is inconsistent: For example, when kids add a number 2 Noom with a number 3 Noom, sometimes it says, "two plus three, five," and sometimes it doesn't. Parents can sign up for an account to get reports on what their kids are doing, but that function is not currently up and running. And it would be nice to be able to turn the background music off. Despite these issues, there's definitely great potential here.

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Overall Rating

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

Nooms are fun; tons of options for interacting with them should keep kids engaged and interested. There are also 350 challenges to complete, plus many things to discover along the way.

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

Stack, combine, compare, divide, and sort numbers by playing with Nooms. A free-play area with a number line joins puzzles and challenges that require kids to manipulate the numbers in certain ways.

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

Explicit support for kids during gameplay is inconsistent. The developer's website has a teacher's guide, which gives information for how grown-ups can support kids' learning with the app.


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