Educational games have been around almost as long a video games have as a genre, but there still seems to be debate about how much game to include in all this educating. While some developers take the “chocolate covered broccoli approach,” obscuring the teaching moments in as much fun as possible, the makers of geometry game Dragonbox Elements have succeeded in making the teaching moments the fun.
Using Euclid’s Elements as inspiration, Dragonbox Elements teaches the fundamental rules of geometry by establishing those rules as the rules to solving puzzles, which when you think about it, is really all math is. Puzzles, governed by rules. Just like any good video game.
Before starting, you are prompted to create an avatar. There are four characters to choose from and in addition to giving your character a name you can also choose the difficulty level and whether you are left handed or right handed. This is great for parents with more than one kid playing the game, or a married couple like me and Rick who share one tablet.
Things start out simply enough, with identifying and tracing different shapes. However, from there things start getting more complicated with the addition of rules about angles, lengths and parallels. While the game is designed for children 8 and up, younger children would probably also have fun with the first few levels, although they probably wouldn’t be able to apply what they learn in the game to school lessons yet.
The lessons are divided into levels and every twelve lessons there is a new geometric concept added to the puzzles. In this way play progresses up a precarious mountain. Each proof you solve rewards you with little geometric warriors who will aid you in your battle against evil.
Also every twelve lesson are little boss fights where you drag and pitch all the little warriors you created at evil glowy spider things. It’s a great little reward for mastering math concepts and keeps the “game” in educational game well.
Theorems are introduced as powers and as the levels progress you’ll need to be able to identify which rules apply where and when as well as what powers need to be introduced to reveal new rules. The work is straight up math study, but the puzzles are so well crafted and compelling that you won’t even realize you’re learning, you’ll just want to get to the next level. It’s brilliant for teaching mathematical concepts without the numbers that can often scares kids off math, as well as being a very compelling time waster for those of us who left geometry at school years ago.