Most math edutainment software drops math drills inside an engaging story line. While fun, this kind of software has been hit or miss when it comes to whether kids learn new math concepts or just revisit ones already mastered.
Now, with DreamBox Learning K-2 Math, parents can offer their youngsters an individualized math curriculum within a game context by just logging onto the Internet. This online learning product looks like an interactive adventure game, but it masks a substantial kindergarten through second-grade math curriculum based on the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) standards.
What makes this game unique is that it adjusts to the child's needs as he or she plays the game. And it is all online, with nothing to download.
Parents set up an account for their child by going to www.dreambox.com. Thereafter, the child chooses an avatar from 36 possibilities and selects an adventure. Themes include dinosaurs, pirates, pets and pixies.
Kids enter this cartoon world by moving along a path that resembles a game board, with each space representing a math activity. At any time, kids have a choice of several different activities to explore, with all directions spoken aloud. As they play, the game constantly accesses their math knowledge, gaming ability, need for hints and pace, and then presents a sequence of activities that is appropriate. The game has 360 individual activities and there are more than a million paths a child can take.
Not only does DreamBox Learning individualize a child's learning, but the math game play engages the child in building the correct solution, usually by using virtual math manipulatives. This game play is not about clicking the right answer, but rather about making the right answer.
For example, in one activity, kids will be asked to help build math flashcards. The game offers math counters (groups of little movable dots), which kids drag to a grid called a Tenframe. The engine behind the game watches carefully to see how the child constructs these flashcards, and uses that information to present the next set of lessons. If a child makes the number "5" by dragging one group of five connected counters instead of dragging one counter at a time five times, that child is further along in the curriculum and the game adjusts accordingly.
Kids are motivated to engage in the math activities because in doing so, they move the story along. They also earn certificates of achievement and coins that can be used to play separate carnival games.
For parents, the game provides a substantial "Dashboard" where they can review their child's progress. The Dashboard explains the goal of each curriculum module and shows how well the child is doing. The game will also e-mail parents with tips about how to reinforce math in everyday life.
DreamBox Learning K-2 Math is a powerful learning experience because it is so personalized. The game's ability to adjust on the fly to add more help, or skip over areas already mastered, is phenomenal. It's like having your own personal math tutor inside a game.
Because of this adaptive presentation, it is good for all kids in the targeted age range of 5 to 7. If a child is very good at math, he or she will revel in the challenges presented. Likewise, if a child is struggling, this game knows to offer the math concept in different ways, or, if necessary, to back off from a too-difficult concept and explore it again later.
DreamBox Learning K-2 Math is great for any family who likes to use the computer for learning. It would also work well in after-school programs or even in schools.
Families can sign up for a free two-week trial before buying the monthly subscription of $12.95. If you buy a six-month subscription, the rate drops to $8.33 per month. A subscription is for one child, but sibling discounts are offered.