DreamBox Learning K-2 MathFall 2009 Website
Customized learning begins with the selection of an avatar and a visual password icon. Young learners are shown the four different worlds to be explored: pets, pirates, dinosaurs, and fairies. Within each world are several different storylines where players will have to collect six different pieces (nails, lumber, cloth, etc.) to repair a pirate ship in order to complete the adventure. These stories provide solid motivation to complete the math activities.
The Dreambox Learning math activities are more than elementary questions and answers. Different math tools guide the child to thoroughly explore the concept and figure out the answer - a far cry form simple rote memorization. The minimal visual design of the math manipulative screens keeps maximum focus on the math tool at hand. Using tools like 10-frames and math racks, the child is challenged to move pieces and beads to count, model different numbers, and explore addition and subtraction concepts. These activities adjust to a level based on the child's progress; help is readily available. Wrong answers are neither scolded, nor scorned. Patient and careful prompting are the rules of good teaching. Correct answers are not spoon-fed, and solving a problem is appropriately, not inordinately, applauded. Each activity has an animated progress meter that usually ends with a humorous animated surprise reward.
While there are several different activity variations for each tool, the same (albeit skillfully crafted) roster of tools are used over and over again. Admittedly, practice makes perfect and different levels yield deeper understanding. But not all youngsters grasp those concepts. Those exposed to a plethora of digital "learning" games may expect more alternatives.
Despite how well the activities in the game are handled, the lack of variety may make it difficult for some to justify the $12.95/month subscription. Those truly excited about math or those in need of remedial help may find the game worth the cost of the subscription. Parents take note: be sure to check the settings in the Parent Dashboard; you can expect a regular stream of notification email about your child's activities and progress.
Of the math standards set by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), Dreambox Learning addresses Numbers and Operations. While Dreambox Learning thoroughly explores this standard, it leaves others, like Geometry, Measurement, and Data Analysis awaiting a sequel.