WWC review of this study

The Impacts of Three Educational Technologies on Algebraic Understanding in the Context of COVID-19 [DragonBox 12+ vs. Business-as-usual]

Decker-Woodrow, Lauren E.; Mason, Craig A.; Lee, Ji-Eun; Chan, Jenny Yun-Chen; Sales, Adam; Liu, Allison; Tu, Shihfen (2023). AERA Open v9 n1 p1-17 . Retrieved from: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED627889

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
    , grade

Reviewed: December 2023

At least one finding shows strong evidence of effectiveness
At least one statistically significant positive finding
Meets WWC standards without reservations
Algebra outcomes—Statistically significant positive effect found for the domain
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
Significant? Improvement

Algebraic Knowledge Assessment (posttest)

DragonBox 12+ vs. Active Control Problem Sets with Post-Assignment Feedback

2 Weeks

Full sample - Full sample for DragonBox;
716 students





Evidence Tier rating based solely on this study. This intervention may achieve a higher tier when combined with the full body of evidence.

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.

  • Female: 50%
    Male: 50%

  • Suburban
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  • Race
    Native American
    Other or unknown
    Pacific Islander
  • Ethnicity
    Not Hispanic or Latino    
  • Eligible for Free and Reduced Price Lunch
    Other or unknown    


This study took place in grade 7 classrooms from one large district in the southeastern United States and included 9 suburban middle schools and 34 teachers. For students in the 8 schools providing in-person instruction, the study occurred during math classrooms. For students in the one school providing virtual instruction, the study assignments were given as part of the student’s home learning assignments.

Study sample

A total of 1,439 students were randomized evenly to either intervention (DragonBox 12+) or comparison condition, with 720 in the intervention condition and 719 in the comparison condition. The analytic sample included 350 and 366 intervention and comparison students, respectively. The study included 48 grade 7 math teachers in 10 schools. Approximately 50% of the students were female, 51% White, 25% Asian, 4% Black, 1% American Indian, less than 1% Pacific Islander, and 18% of students had other or unknown race. The sample included 15% Hispanic students. The sample also included 9% students with individualized education programs.

Intervention Group

DragonBox 12+ is an educational technology game aimed at introducing advanced algebraic concepts to students aged 12 to 17. Through this education program, students are tasked with isolating a box containing a dragon, which is equivalent to solving equations for the variable 'x.' The program also includes the use of discovery-based learning, integration of embedded gestures, utilization of multiple representations, provision of immediate feedback, and the implementation of adaptive difficulty. DragonBox 12+ is designed so that students do not perceive it as a traditional math game. In the initial stages of the game, numbers and variables are intentionally absent. Instead, students manipulate cards adorned with images of monsters, all while adhering to the principles of algebra. As the game progresses, the monster cards are gradually replaced by algebraic symbols. Intervention students were provided with a total of nine sessions throughout the academic year, each lasting for 30 minutes. They were given a two-week timeframe to complete each session. These sessions were divided into four in the fall semester and five in the spring semester. Both before and after the intervention, students underwent assessments that lasted between 40 to 45 minutes, covering topics such as algebraic knowledge, mathematics anxiety, and self-efficacy. All interventions and assessments were conducted online, with students working independently at their own pace using electronic devices. For students receiving in-person instruction, teachers allocated dedicated instructional periods within mathematics classrooms for the study assignments. Students who were receiving virtual instruction had the study assignments integrated into their online learning activities. The mathematical content included arithmetic and algebraic equation solving. A countdown timer was integrated into the system to ensure that students spent a similar amount of time using the technology. Students had the flexibility to pause and resume the timer, allowing for breaks and resumption at their convenience.

Comparison Group

Students in the comparison condition received the same mathematical content as the intervention group, including arithmetic and algebraic equation solving. Comparison students also completed assignments using the same types of technology offered to the intervention condition students. Students in the comparison condition received feedback after their assignments, rather than immediately during the exercise.

Support for implementation

The authors did not outline any support for implementation.


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