Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A review of dreambox

This week is Thanksgiving break and there are no Math Club meetings. Instead I thought I'd write down my thoughts about dreambox.com, an online math app. I've experimented a little bit with computer programs with my sons in the past with everything from Splash Math, to Khan Academy. My favorite one so far by far is http://dragonbox.com/ which doesn't attempt to be comprehensive but actually manages to be both entertaining and instructive.  However, two weeks ago my younger son's school started a trial license of dreambox and I've been watching him interact with the it since then.


This program attempts to walk a student through a complete curriculum and covers the years K-8.   The student gets an avatar and explores among four different themes: pixies, pirates, animal friends and dinosaurs. Each themed area has a a series of quests where usually 6 different items need to be found. By practicing different types of problems the student finishes these stories gaining additional bonus points and character cards along the way. The actual problem sets (at least in second grade) seem fairly mainstream and concentrate on numeracy via number bonds, place values,  regrouping etc.  After each set is finished a more difficult one will eventually be offered until the curriculum goal is mastered. This typically take 4-5  sets of approximately 6 problems interspersed among various curriculum strands.

Overall this is the best curriculum replacement I've seen so far. Its compelling. My son voluntarily asks to play with it and it gets him to practice a fair amount very painlessly. The story framework that they scaffold the exercises with keeps him interested and is a lot better than some of the previous apps I've mentioned . There's also a fairly high quality set of different exercises to work on the various skills.  On the downside, while it usually has enough repetition for mastery, its not particularly adaptive. Once going you work through the sequence of problems regardless of whether you could handle them at a different pace or just skip the easy ones. (I haven't confirmed whether it repeats if too many problems are missed but I suspect that's the case.)  I also find the narrative structure to be a bit repetitive but that doesn't seem to be an issue for my son so take that one with a pinch of salt. It also doesn't require much supervision. For instance, when doing Khan Academy I heavily edited the flow and interjected instruction etc.  That isn't really necessary here although I still like to watch him work on the problems to get a sense of how he's thinking and whether there are any issues to address.  If he keeps up with maybe I'll update in a few months with how the game progresses and whether some of the other topic beyond addition/subtraction are also worthwhile.

Part 2: http://mymathclub.blogspot.com/2016/01/an-update-on-dreambox.html

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