Date: Dec 23, 2012 1:17 AM
Author: Paul A. Tanner III
Subject: Re: Dragonbox

On Sat, Dec 22, 2012 at 8:34 PM, Michael Paul Goldenberg <> wrote:
> Pretty sure that a cell phone at home isn't a computer in class and that this guy's little girls aren't getting this in class, but it's probably still the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine).

From the link:

"All right, kids! Raise your hand if you like algebra! Hmmm. Now, raise your hands if you like Angry Birds! I see. What if I were to tell you that Angry Birds had been surpassed in the App Store ? by a game that involves solving algebra equations? Because that?s what DragonBox did.

Do I have your attention now?

Well, okay, I should clarify: when DragonBox pre-launched in Norway, where it was developed, it shot up the charts and became the #1 most purchased app in Norway. I honestly don?t know how many Norwegians play Angry Birds (though apparently it?s still a lot). But that doesn?t make DragonBox?s accomplishment anything to scoff at. More importantly, the app works.

Within a couple hours, most kids playing DragonBox will be able to start solving simple algebraic equations, and what?s more, they?ll be having fun and they may not even know they?re learning algebra at first. Also surprising is that they don?t even need to know basic arithmetic to play the game. I showed DragonBox to my five-year-old and she loved it, and didn?t even want me to play ahead because she wanted to be the one to unlock all the levels."

I'm impressed! (And I did not know that this was developed in Norway. Good things going on there, as I've been saying for so long.)

It seems to me the creator is doing something along the line of what I've been talking about here at math forum for about a decade, which is that educators should be teaching people to see and take advantage of what is there to be seen and taken advantage of to make some of algebra much easier, namely that some of basic algebra can be viewed as a game of moving around the game pieces on a game board according to rules.

It could be called "Algebra Without Numbers" - a suggestion for a name made to me ten years ago in LA by someone training new teachers in LAUSD, after I showed him my ideas.

I'm very happy to see this general idea actually finally being taken up and made widely available to students.

It also confirms another thing I've been saying for years, which is that teaching math with variables - symbols that are not actually numerals - can be successfully done even with elementary school aged students, that it might actually work better in some instances when trying to teach certain things than always having to use actual numerals. These certain things I have in mind are of an algebraic nature, where seeing underlying patterns is what is to be focused on, where if actual numerals are used the mind has perhaps more difficulty getting past the numerals to see the underlying patterns.

I can only hope that this is only the beginning, that this taking advantage of what is there to be seen and taken advantage of becomes a normal part of the curriculum for all.

Message was edited by: Paul A. Tanner III