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DragonBox Big Numbers

App review by
Christy Matte, Common Sense Media
DragonBox Big Numbers App Poster Image
Clever math resource-management game requires some patience.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Kids will get a lot of practice with counting, adding, and subtracting multi-digit numbers, as well as resource management. They'll have to save up to earn new items and make decisions about their priorities. It's not ideal for kids who are just learning to add or subtract, unless an adult is helping out.

Ease of Play

By design, there are no instructions. Some kids may be confused about what to do to get started, even with the prompts.

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that DragonBox Big Numbers is a resource-management game designed to give kids practice with multi-digit addition and subtraction, carrying and borrowing, and how to save up to meet your goals. It's in the DragonBox series, and the developers intend this app as a follow-up to DragonBox Numbers. There are no directions, and things are slow to get going, so kids will need to practice some patience. Parents can sign up for an account that is supposed to involve updates on kids' progress, but at the time of the review, no email updates had arrived. They can also create profiles for up to four kids per device. The game profiles ask for an age, but it doesn't seem to impact the level of gameplay, which steadily increases regardless of skill level. The game requires a lot of waiting, especially early on. No reading is required, but the app can be played in eight languages, including French, Spanish, Chinese, Norwegian, Dutch, Finnish, and Swedish. The only spoken words are numbers. Read the app's privacy policy to find out about the types of information collected and shared. 

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What's it about?

DRAGONBOX BIG NUMBERS transports kids to Noomia where they can collect resources and help the Nooms build new worlds. It starts simply: Kids collect apples from a single apple tree. They then add their apples to their basket by grouping objects into ones, tens, and so on and writing the total number (using a finger) on the screen. Once they have enough, they head off to the mountain to give the apples to the mysterious Noom who lives there. He asks for more and more resources until he finally grants a new world where they can trade apples for coins. The game progresses like this as kids can buy more apple trees, trade apples for other objects, seek out new resources, and slowly unlock all six worlds. They can also help Nooms outfit their homes with special items by giving them gifts. As kids move through the game, the math moves from adding and subtracting (counting) objects to doing addition and subtraction with real numbers. And as resources become more readily available, they'll use multi-digit addition and subtraction, as well as carrying and borrowing. It will take all the resources, as well as gifts from thankful Nooms, to reach the final goal within any reasonable amount of time. Once the game comes to its satisfying end, kids can continue to play once it's over or start from the beginning.

Is it any good?

Though it ramps up slowly, this intriguing math-based world expands into complex, multi-level practice where the math skills are baked neatly into the experience. DragonBox Big Numbers is, overall, fun and motivating. Unfortunately, the early stages of the game move quite slowly. The original apple tree takes more than 30 seconds to grow new apples, which means a lot of waiting with nothing else to do (though there's nothing wrong with practicing patience). Throughout the game, kids have to do a lot of tapping, as that's the main way to collect resources. As the game progresses, however, it's hard not to become excited over the next world to unlock and the new resources to discover. The math component is well-integrated and increases in difficulty at a good pace. Though the app prompts kids, it never really explains what's happening, so it's not great for introducing the concepts and is better for practicing or looking at the concepts in a new way. In terms of quirks, some of the number shapes that the app recognizes won't be familiar to all kids and it doesn't always recognize the written numbers, so kids may have to try more than once. Also, each digit is stated out loud as it is written, but often the last number overlaps the total number, making for a confusing audio result. Ultimately, despite the grind of tapping, the hefty price tag, and other imperfections, this well-constructed and expansive app offers a world with depth and charm, which makes it a solid choice in the crowded space of math apps.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how much kids learned. Do you think DragonBox Big Numbers is a good app for learning? Why, or why not? What did you learn? 

  • How do you like this app as compared with other apps you could play? If you had or have limited screen time, would you pick this app over other apps on your device? Why, or why not?

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