I know I’m not the only Gen-Xer who grew up on Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books. I only had five of my own, but I read and re-read and re-read those, especially The Cave of Time. (My love for time travel fiction started very early, apparently.) And I probably checked out others from the library.
More recently, I read Neil Patrick Harris’s autobiography, set in the format of a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure (CYOA) book. (It’s a fun read, as well.)
But, even more recently, I learned about a fun mashup between CYOA and math. (I love math. Many of you probably do too.)
Wait… Math and CYOA? What Is It?
The Dregg Disaster: An Algebra I Gamebook combines Choose-Your-Own-Adventure awesomeness with math problems. It’s a much larger book (measuring 9″ x 7″) than the usual CYOA books, so it will even lie flat while you work out the included problems.
The premise here is that you read a bit of the story, make a choice of how to proceed, and then solve a math problem to figure out which page to turn to next. And sometimes you have to do a problem just to get to the next scene. They even encourage you to find the answer in any fashion that works for you, since, with math, there are usually many multiple ways to get the correct answer to a problem.
Unlike traditional CYOA books, this one is broken up into four different chapters, so it’s important to turn to the page in the correct chapter. That’s pretty easy to do, though, because the chapter is clearly labeled at the bottom of each page, and the sections are easy to spot from the page edge. And, of course, there’s the math element. There is even a link in the back of the book for bonus math problems! (Score!)
There is also an Adventurer’s Advice section at the back of each chapter, helping you through the problems if you need assistance, along with a list of Algebra I concepts that are covered. This book includes such fun as solving equations with like terms, graphing linear inequalities, factoring trinomials, and finding a missing value in a set of data, given the mean. You know, all the fun math stuff we learned in 8th or 9th grade!
But don’t worry: Like traditional CYOA books, this one has plenty of storylines, twists and turns, and possible (fictional) death. You’ve been warned!
How Does It Work?
Like with any other book, you start reading a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book by reading the first page. At the bottom of the page (and each other page), you are given a math problem or two to solve. Some pages just have one problem, where you need to solve it to continue, whereas others have a choice between two problems, taking the story in one of two possible directions.
The book’s first page has a single problem to solve, whose answer takes you to the next page in the story—an easy introduction to how to navigate the book. But then the story goes on, and soon presents you with a choice between two next steps in the story and two corresponding math problems. You can choose which direction you want to go next either by the story options or by the math problem. Whenever the reader is presented with two problems, though, they are the same type of math problem, so there’s no skipping your least favorite Algebra I problems here!
When you arrive at a new page, it tells you from which page or pages you should have arrived, which tells you if you solved the problem correctly and keeps you on the right track.
If you write really small, there’s room to solve the problems in the book, but it would be a lot easier to solve them on scratch paper (or graph paper, as necessary). If you don’t want to have to solve each problem every time you re-read the book in the future, you could always just write the answer in the book, or keep a separate list of chapter/page numbers with answers. That way, you could even make it a challenge to hit all of the possible storylines.
Is It Any Good?
This action-packed story is a fun adventure for readers. Kids will learn or be able to practice their Algebra I skills, while older students or adults will be able to refresh their memory on basic math concepts. It’s also a fun way for adults to see how much they remember from school and see which problems they can do in their heads.
I love the combination of math and story, but needing to stop reading and work out problems (some of which are a bit complex for those first learning Algebra I) may pull you out of the story. Perhaps a future CYOA/math pairing will include a more integrated concept of the math problems being somehow to the storyline. That would be extra cool.
Still, The Dregg Disaster combines two of my loves together, and that’s always a good thing. I’ll be staying tuned to see what might come next from this fun series.
How Can I Buy It?
The Dregg Disaster: An Algebra I Gamebook is for sale now for about $20. It would be a fun thing to give as a gift, or maybe even work through as a family over the holidays.
Note: I received a copy for review purposes.