DragonBox: This Is How You Gamify

This is gamification. DragonBox Algebra 12+ is a shining example, top to bottom, of what gamification in education should look like.

Take this quick video tour of this app, and then let’s take a closer look at what’s going on here . . . .


DragonBox develops a user’s fundamental skills in algebra before teaching its context and application. The app initially introduces algebraic rules with “monster cards” and dice. Once students become familiar with eliminating zeros and cancelling out opposite monsters, the monster cards are slowly replaced by letters and numbers. After that, students are introduced to equal signs and plus signs, and by then they are so comfortable with the rules of algebra that they can easily solve the problems. 


In essence, this is how Mr. Myagi taught Daniel-san karate. Fundamentals. Practice. Context. Application. And we know what happened to those mean Cobra Kai guys after that. Algebra barriers, be warned! 

I had the opportunity to chat with Matthew Good (Olso, Norway) from the DragonBox team. Here’s part of our conversation: 

Adam: How did you get started in education? What made you decide to create DragonBox? 

Matthew: The founder of the company is Jean-Baptiste Huynh. He grew up in France but has spent much of his life in Norway. He has a varied background including a Masters degree in IT and mathematics, 10 years working as a stock portfolio manager and then spent 5 years working as an economics and math teacher in the Norwegian school system. 

He created DragonBox after getting frustrated seeing student after student enter the math classroom with a look of fear or apprehension. He also began to wonder why so many of his intelligent students would fail math. He concluded that the problem was with the math was taught. The formal language surrounding math can make the entire subject opaque to many. DragonBox is the result of stripping that language away and distilling algebra to its basic element. A puzzle game with a set of rules you have to follow. 

Adam: How big is the DragonBox team? Are you the CEO? Did you create the technology yourself or are you the visionary or are you both? 

Matthew: Jean-Baptiste is also the CEO and visionary behind the company. Much of the game design was created by him with the help of Dr. Patrick Marchal, a cognitive scientist who has worked with a number of video game companies.

Adam: What’s your advice to educators or parents who are using Dragonbox? 

Matthew: The first and most important thing that we tell educators and parents is just to let the kids play! We have found that many adults get frustrated the first time they try DragonBox because they have a preconceived idea about how it should work. When kids get their hands on it, they don’t feel any of the same frustration. After the kids have played through it, or at least part of it, then the teacher or the parent can provide guidance on what it means. As a side note, we are trying to work on supplementary material that teachers and parents can use to help transfer the rules learned in the game to real life exercises.

DragonBox Algebra 12+ Overview


Elevator Speech
DragonBox Algebra 12+ is an educational game that secretly teaches kids algebra. It is the must-have learning tool for teachers and students. It’s perfect for giving your child a head start in mathematics and algebra. Children as young as 4 have solved equations meant for a 12 year old! 

Rather than simply being a “”gamified”” flash card system where students are required to remember the answers to a number of questions, DragonBox allows player to experiment and discover the rules of algebra within the context of the game. Players must use creativity to discover the best way to finish a level. 

It is also a comprehensive educational tool that teaches the full range of grade school algebra from the basic “balancing the equation” up to more complicated concepts like brackets, fractions and parameter creation. 

Product Results
In informal testing with schools in Norway we have seen that after playing the game 80% of kids in the class were able to solve equations. 

We are currently working with the University of Washington to test the game and also to develop new tools. 

Also see the Dreambox testimonials page here:  http://dragonboxapp.com/testimonials.html 

Grade Level
6 to 9 

Subject Area
Math – Algebra 

Top Users
Kyle Pearce – Tecumseh Vista Academy K-12 – tapintoteenminds.com

Narvik Kommune in Norway 

DragonBox Algebra 12+ is a multiplatform app. It is currently available on iOS and Android. Soon we will be releasing a MacOS, Windows and online flash version of the app. 

We have a support email that all users can contact. The email is monitored almost constantly and responses are sent out as fast as possible.

Pricing Model
The app is currently available for $9.99 USD on the App Store, Google Play and Amazon Android Store. 

Featured Media
There are a number of videos available here: http://dragonboxapp.com/video.html .


Bravo, and thank you, Matthew. My son (6th grade) and I are having great fun with this app. I hope you come out with a TurboTax edition, too!

Adam Renfro

Adam was a classroom English teacher for ten years and began teaching online in 1998. He now works for the North Carolina Virtual Public School, the 2nd largest virtual school in the nation. Adam has blogged for Getting Smart since September of 2011.

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