How I Use It
I use it to create small groups in my second grade class, and have successfully introduced it to parents of pre-kindergarteners - eighth graders. In my classroom, I can work with one group and have others on DreamBox, knowing that they are working on something productive and appropriate to their level. We have school plus home accounts, so that students can pick up from the same place at home.
Dreambox also provides a great deal of information to teachers on the back-end, including levels of concept proficiency, areas where individuals students are struggling, and the usage over time. This is helpful both in planning small group and individual follow-up work and in having conversations with parents about what their child is working on.
I find it very useful for both ends of the spectrum in my class. If a child seems to demonstrate understanding, the program will advance them. But if that understanding proves shaky the following day, DreamBox automatically adjusts, providing hints, or allowing a longer look at the image, for example. There is a great deal of fluidity in how the curriculum moves -- it's not a lock-step sequence -- which means that children have the right amount of support and challenge each time. There is also plenty of room for learners to move onto more advanced curriculum. I had a first grader last year who moved into the third grade curriculum mid-year, which meant he was working on partial products in multiplication.
The program can be accessed via the website or the iPad app (wifi required) and students can move seamlessly between platforms without losing any progress.
I've tried other programs that claim to be adaptive, but nothing compares to DreamBox. The program adapts the game while the child is playing it, analyzing each pause, mouse movement, click or error. The DreamBox curriculum goes deep, teaching strategies for manipulating numbers that are based on research into how mathematicians think about number. One of main curriculum consultants behind DreamBox is Cathy Fosnot, founder of the Math-in-the-City program in NYC and author of the Young Mathematicians at Work series and the Contexts for Learning Mathematics curriculum from Heinemann. Her work is rooted in years of collaboration with Dutch mathematicians from the Freudenthal Institute, leaders in Realistic Mathematics Education. DreamBox scaffolds understanding of mental math strategies embedded in realistic contexts and supports children in seeing the math in the world around them. This is not about rote memorization of facts and formulas, it's about building a network of number relationships, understanding why strategies work and using models and contexts to move from concrete to abstract thinking.