TOS Review: A+ Interactive Math

A+ Interactive Math Review

My kids and I have struggled through math for years. In elementary school, I did okay. But once they got to higher math, the struggle began. Recently, I have been concerned about my kids having “gaps” due to my own personal errors. So, I was really excited to get to try the Adaptive Placement Test and Individualized Lesson Plan from A+ Interactive Math. The program is designed to identify gaps in your child’s in your child’s learning and create a targeted lesson plan to help the catch up!

A+ Interactive Math Review

Basically, you sign up your kids and choose a grade level (for my son, we used Pre-Algebra, although I am told higher levels are currently in development). Your child signs on and takes a series of “mini” tests. Each one took my son about 10-20 minutes. After they complete the tests, a program is designed based on their individual needs. After completing the program, students should be caught up in about 3 months.

Lessons include multi-media lessons that utilize audio, video, and text presentations. Each lesson also includes built-in review that covers needed concepts based on your child’s performance. Automatic grading and tracking makes things easy for parents and worksheets provide extra practice. Step-by-step solutions help students (and their parents) identify errors and make corrections.

For parents, the program allows them to review each test and see how their child performs. It also tells you if the student is on grade level or not. The reports are VERY detailed, telling you how many times the student attempted the test, allowing you to look at each problem and view their answer and the correct solution (if they got it wrong). It also tells you how much time was allotted for the problem (in many cases around 5 minutes) and how long it took your child to solve the problem.

Each test targets a specific area. For example, in Pre-Algebra, tests cover topics like fractions, exponents, parabolas, expressions, and polynomials. I found the detailed reports to be tremendously helpful for me. For starters, it allowed me to really see what my son needed to work on, and it gave me step by step solutions to the problems, so I could get them right too! Also, it helped me in terms of figuring out what to focus on with him.

In addition, parents can access summary reports and progress reports for each area. These reports tell you how many questions students attempted, how many they got right etc. It also tells you whether or not the students need an adaptive lesson plan based on that area. The student lesson plan for my son in the area of exponents included interactive lessons and online worksheets designed to help him catch up. Progress reports show you how close your child is to reaching their goals in each area. For my son, the lessons and worksheets were very instructive, and easy to complete. By that I mean that instead of being filled with anxiety and struggling for hours, he was able to go through the lessons and complete the worksheets on his own the majority of the time. I was available (as in present in the room) for help when necessary, but really, he worked through this mostly on his own. If your child is easily frustrated, worksheets can be saved and worked on in stages.

For my son, this program took about 20-30 minutes per day. For us for math, that’s pretty good. Seriously, with our regular paper-and-pencil math program, we spend a good 40 minutes trying to work through it together and usually end up fighting (or crying) by the end.

I feel like by the time we complete this program, my son will be in a really good place as far as Pre-Algebra goes, putting us in a good position for next year. This program also only costs $29.99 for one student, with the price going up for each additional student. I would definitely pay this because I think it is worth it. I just wish they offered even higher levels like Algebra I and Geometry for older students (like my high-schooler!).

You can learn more about A+ Interactive Math through their social media pages here:
APlus TutorSoft on Facebook

A+ TutorSoft on Twitter

A+ TutorSoft on Pinterest

To see what other members of the crew thought of this, and the Family Math Program, click here:

A+ Interactive Math Review/

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TOS Review: Pattern Explorer (The Critical Thinking Co.)

Critical Thinking Company ReviewDo you enjoy playing those brain training games or doing crosswords? Me and my boys love that stuff. I think there is a lot of value in puzzles and other activities that get your brain to think in unusual ways. For this review, my youngest got to check out Pattern Explorer Level 1 from The Critical Thinking Co. Aimed at grades 5-7, it provides a number of different activities that help children recognize patterns and develop mathematical reasoning skills.

Critical Thinking Company ReviewThe book is set up around five themes, with eight activities per theme. Typical activities include Number Ninja where students complete Sudoku-like puzzles or work out equations to make the answer correct. Pattern Predictor asks students to find the pattern with numbers or shapes. Other themes include Equality Explorer, Sequence Sleuth, and Function Finder. The activities are similar as far as how they are done, but they get progressively more complex as time goes on.

When my son first started working in the book, I did each activity with him, going over the instructions and working the first problem together. After introducing him to each of the themes, I let him take over. I checked his work using the answer key, and was available to help him out if he got stuck.

I usually assigned him one to two pages a day that he did before his regular math as sort of a “warm up”. Generally, it never took him more than 10-15 minutes to complete the activities and he enjoyed doing them. I will say that as we got further in, the activities became more challenging, and there were times I needed to refer to the answer key in order to help my son. He was particularly good at the sequence and number activities and probably struggled most with the function and equality activities.

I feel like the activities in the Pattern Explorer book are great preparation for algebra. Kids really have to play with numbers to get them to fit and learn how to recognize the patterns, much like they do when solving equations. Determining the functions and balancing the equations are also excellent preparation for upper level math. The hints for each activity were also very helpful, since you can use them to give your child clues when they get stuck, without revealing the answer.

I think you could definitely use this book as a supplement to a math curriculum, or as some quick and fun practice during school breaks. We also found it very helpful for those busy days when we are doing “car schooling”. It could also be used to provide an extra challenge to younger students who are really good at math. Pattern Explorer costs $14.99, which seems reasonable to me. To find out more, connect with the Critical Thinking Company on social media here:

The Critical Thinking Company on Facebook

The Critical Thinking Company on Google+

The Critical Thinking Company on Twitter

The Critical Thinking Company on Pinterest

To find out more about this product and the others that my fellow Crew members got to check out, click here:
Critical Thinking Company Review

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TOS Review: IXL

Christmas Book Review

While I have found many online programs to be hit or miss as far as instruction goes, I think they can be very useful as a supplement to the instruction I provide. I have been pretty happy with our main math program so far (my youngest is in Pre-Algebra) but I do feel like he could use some extra practice on some topics. So, for this review, I was glad to get a chance to check out IXL for their math and language arts programs.

IXL offers practice on a variety of skills organized by grade level. What I really like about it is the fact that you can have your child work at any level you want. So, if your child is slightly above or below grade level in an area, you can have them practice skills they need. My son worked mainly on the 8th grade math topics. Skills are organized by topic, such as measurement, problem solving, linear functions, single-variable equations etc. You do not have to follow the lessons in order, which is a big help.

I had my son use IXL three-five days a week for additional practice after math. I would choose a topic that corresponded with our math lesson at least three of the days, and then we would spend two days working on things that he needed help in (mostly fractions). He would usually work on this after completing his math lesson. It worked out well for us because IXL only took him about 10-15 minutes to complete. The lessons are pretty simple, the student completes a series of practice problems. Students earn points as they complete problems, and the lesson is complete when they earn a certain amount of points. They are awarded more points for solving problems faster. When they get problems wrong, they lose points.

If a student misses a problem, they are shown the correct answer, and then given a brief explanation of how to solve the problem correctly. Then they complete another problem. Now, IXL does not provide instruction in the form or videos or detailed explanations. The idea is that they are getting the instruction from you. However, IXL will provide plenty of extra practice with some reinforcement.

IXL Language Arts works in much the same way. Topics covered for 8th grade include serial commas, verb tense, context clues, analogies, and more. The lessons follow the same structure, with the student completing a series of practice problems and getting instruction when they get an answer wrong. The instruction they get is very clear, with examples. I found that my son was able to follow the lessons very well, and only occasionally needed further clarification.

The math practice in particular was very effective for my son. It was nice that we could get in extra practice on topics he is struggling with without having to take extra time away from math. Also, while I like our math program a lot for its instruction, it does not include a lot of practice, so IXL was a great supplement.

For parents, IXL emails you reports about your child’s activity for the week, and you can log in and look at their progress reports. These tell you how much time your child spent on each topic and how they are doing as well. The Trouble Spot report identifies particular areas that your child needs more practice in. I found these reports to be helpful, especially because I mainly had my son log in and practice on his own.

IXL offers math for grades Pre-K-12 and language practice for grades 2-8 and has monthly and yearly subscriptions. They also have mobile apps available. A one subject subscription costs $9.95 per month while a two subject subscription costs $15.95 per month. Yearly subscriptions are $79 for one child in one subject and $129 for one child in two subjects. Additional children cost $2 more per month or $20 more per year. I think that if you are looking for extra practice that is easy to do and manage, I would definitely recommended it.

To learn more about IXL, connect with them on social media here:
IXL on Facebook

IXL on Twitter

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Check out what other members of the crew had to say about IXL here:
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TOS Review: Standard Deviants Accelerate

Standard Deviants Accelerate Review

As my boys get older, I find myself looking for more and more creative ways to get them excited about learning, and to work in classes that are a little outside of what I can offer them. It seems like online learning is becoming more and more the way of the future, and while it is not my favorite thing, I have decided to try and embrace. So, I jumped at the chance to review some of Standard Deviants Accelerate Homeschool Courses from the website Standard Deviants Accelerate. Designed for ages eight through adults, they offer a wide variety of core and supplemental classes.

Standard Deviants Accelerate Review

I had my 8th grade son take the nutrition course as an elective, while I poked around in the English Composition course and some of the AP courses, to see what they might have to offer my older son. Each section of the course begins with a “big picture” activity aimed at getting students thinking about what they are going to learn about. These activities are designed more for classrooms, with larger groups of students, but with a little tweaking, you can make them work. The nutrition course was made up of eight chapters, each divided into short daily lessons. There are enough lessons to do one each day of the week, but, because they are short, you could also break it into three days and just double up on the lessons.

The nutrition lessons had a short video, which my son said was only so-so, then it moved into reading and other activities. Kids can take notes right on the computer and save them for later in the program. Vocabulary lists were included, and at the completion of the reading, students work on a diagram, and then take a quiz. Basically, my son easily completed each section in 20 minutes or less, and he enjoyed them. The quizzes were good because they marked which answers they got wrong, showed them the right answers, and then took them back to the lesson where the information was to reinforce the learning.

As a parent, I was able to access his quiz and diagram grades. This made it easy for me to keep track of where he was. The first time he did a diagram and quiz, he did not really take it seriously, but I was able to see that he scored low, and have him go back and redo it. The course covered a lot of information, from vitamins and minerals, to food safety and nutritional disorders. I felt like it worked really well for my son and fit into our “health” credit area.This course is aimed at grades six and up and works well as a middle school elective.

Standard Deviants Accelerate Review

The English Composition course I looked at is aimed at grades nine and up, and although it has a similar set up to the nutrition course, it has a lot more meat. Not only does it cover the “how to” of writing, it gets into the types of writing, and touches on rhetoric, research papers, and other topics you would expect to be covered in a high school English class. The AP courses are designed to prepare students to take the AP test in that particular subject. It goes over how the test is set up, how it is scored, and strategies students can use when taking the test. I looked at the AP History and English courses because those are the AP tests I took in high school, and I think they would be helpful to prepare a student who is nervous. I wish they offered an SAT prep course because I would absolutely sign my oldest up for that one!

Standard Deviants Accelerate Review

The pricing for Standard Deviants Accelerate varies. Core Curriculum subjects cost $99.00 per year, or $24.95 per month. AP courses cost $14.95 a month. This flexibility is nice, because you can decide how you want to complete the course and pay accordingly. If you need to take a break from a few subjects or you just want a good way to supplement your instruction, I would recommend you take a look at what Standard Deviants Accelerate has to offer.

Learn more about SDA on their social media pages:
Standard Deviants Accelerate on Facebook

Standard Deviants Accelerate on Twitter

Standard Deviants Accelerate on Pinterest

To see what other members of the crew had to say about this product, click here:
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TOS Review: VideoText Interactive

Oh upper level math, you will be the death of me….Well, not really, but sometimes it feels that way. I managed to scrape my way through algebra in high school, but honestly, geometry felt like trying to learn Chinese. I swear my friend and I passed because we were in a class full of trouble makers at the time and we kept our mouths shut and the teacher was grateful. So, this year, I was trying to figure out what to do with my 10th grade son for geometry. Thankfully, I was offered a chance to review VideoText Interactive, which provided the answer to my question.

With Geometry:A Complete Course I was given online access to the course for a three year time period. The geometry course includes six modules with a total of 176 lessons. Once the course has been completed, students can claim credits for geometry, trigonometry, and pre-calculus. It is recommended that students complete the Geometry course after finishing VideoText Algebra. Depending on where your child is in their math sequence, this could be used for grades 9 and up.

In general, lessons follow the same format. In some cases, there will be a quiz on the previous material before students can start the next lesson. In that case, the parent administers the quiz and then reviews it with the students. There are two versions of each quiz, so if my son did not perform well on the first quiz, he and I would review it together, and I would have him take quiz two before moving on. From there, students watch the video lesson. As the video plays, the objective for the lesson is displayed to the right of the screen, reminding students of the focus of the lesson.

The lessons themselves were not long, and my son found them easy to watch. I usually watched the videos with him, mainly because if he had a question I needed to know what to do as well. Occasionally if I was busy, he could watch a video on his own, and then I could rewind and review it if he needed help, but I found it best to just watch them together. We also found it helpful to print out the course notes page prior to the lesson. This is a page that includes important information that your student can refer to when working on the problems. My son liked to use this page to take notes.

After watching the lesson, students complete the worktext page, which is basically practice problems. You can choose to print these out if you want, but in the interest of saving ink, my son completed the work in a notebook. The worktext is simply a textbook PDF and some of the assignments were lengthy, so I usually had my son complete the odd or even problems. One of the things I really LOVE about VideoText is the complete solutions manual. You get all the answers to every problem, which makes it easy to figure out mistakes. I found this VERY helpful.

Now, as the parent, you receive a separate login from your kids. As the parent, you have access to complete PDF’s of all of the course notes, solutions manuals, tests, and answer keys. You also have full access to all of the same lessons your child does. I found this convenient because if there was something I wanted to print out I could find it easily. The only drawback I really found to this program is the fact that there is no automatic grading. You have to record your own grades. It would be great if there were a scoring option, but other than that, I think this is a really solid program.

My son didn’t “hate” it (and he loathes math, so that says a lot). It was easy to accomplish in the sense that the program is well set up and easy to use. You just log in and complete each days lesson in order, so it takes very little prep on the part of the parent. The instruction is very clear and precise, and the length of the videos make them easy to watch.

The cost, however, could be prohibitive for many families. At $299, VideoText Interactive is not cheap. Honestly, if it weren’t for the fact that I got this as a review, it would definitely NOT have been in our budget for this year. However, that cost does include pricing for two students for three years worth of material, so when you think about it that way, it really isn’t bad. At any rate, I would say that it is worth a look.

To see what other members of the crew had to say about this Geometry course, as well as the VideoText Algebra course, click here:


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TOS Review: Time4Learning

Online learning has so many advantages. Lessons are prepared for you, grading is done for you, and all your child has to do is log-in. For this review, I was very excited to get a chance to try out the Time4Learning website with my 7th grade son. We got a six month subscription for the seventh grade and have been using this for his main math, science, and vocabulary curriculum for this school year.

For my son the program is really easy to use. Once I registered him, he simply logged on each morning and got to work. When he logs in, he clicks on the lessons tab and this pulls up all the subjects available. In science, he studied electricity and magnetism. The lessons usually consisted of a short reading passage with a series of multiple choice questions at the end. I thought the information was a good basis for a science program, but for a 7th grader I felt the need to beef it up with some books from the library and some additional experiments. Currently, science on Time4Learning only goes up to 6th grade, so 7th and 8th grade students will be working on the 6th grade lessons in this subject.

I really liked the vocabulary section of the Language Arts program. It had sections on synonyms, antonyms, prefixes, suffixes, idioms, and Latin and Greek roots. Vocabulary building is something we have been working on, and this is one of the best programs I have found so far. My son enjoyed the animated lessons, which I thought were very focused and well done. I watched the lessons as he did them and I thought the instruction was spot on for a 7th grader. Typically he would do the lesson one day and take the quiz the next day. I also liked that the quizzes were automatically graded and I could look at his score on my on log-in (but more about that later).

The math on Time4Learning was also GREAT! We stared with the first section, number systems, and studied exponents. We were moving along fine until we got to fractions with exponents. At that point I realized we needed to review fractions. Time4Learning makes this easy because you have access to the grade above and below your child’s level. We switched to 6th grade math and completed the section on fractions before going back to his regular grade level. I think this is one of the BEST features of the website. It makes it so easy to customize your child’s learning in each subject. If your child is ahead in math, move them up a grade. If they are struggling in Language Arts, move them down one level. This flexibility makes the teaching so easy! Math was similar to vocabulary in that my son would complete a lesson one day and take the quiz the next.

When he finished up his work my son enjoyed playing on the Playground section of the website which features all kinds of games and links to fun websites for learning and playing.

Another thing I love about Time4Learning is the parent resources. Parents have access to detailed lesson plans for each subject the child studies. You can use these lesson plans to plan additional activities if you want, or search the lesson plans for a specific topic you want your child to study. Parents can also access and print a list of spelling words, a reading list, and a list of items needed for science lessons.

In the Student Records section, parents can schedule their child’s activities, adjust the grade level and timer settings, and view a record of their child’s work. I found this very helpful. After we got comfortable with how the program was run, my son would often hop on the computer if he got up early while I was making breakfast, and get started. When he did this I simply logged in on my parent account and looked at what he did that morning. Quiz grades were also provided. I noticed a couple of lessons in vocabulary where my son did not do so well, so I had him go back and do them again.

On the whole, we are loving Time4Learning. This easy to use program is a great way to simplify your homeschool if you are having a busy season. It is also an excellent addition if you just want to do a few subjects on the computer. I will say that this program is best suited to kids who enjoy learning on the computer. I have tried computer-based programs with my older son and they were all a complete failure. He enjoys computers, but he just does not like doing school on them. Fortunately, my younger son absolutely loves “computer school” so this program worked great for him.

Time4Learning has a program for grades PreK-8th as well as a high school program. The subscription for grades PreK-8th costs $19.95 per month. I think this is reasonable for what is offered. You could use this as your main curriculum or as a supplement. The Time4Learning website has demos available if you want to check it out.

To see what other crew members had to say about Time4Learning, click here:

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TOS Review: Math Mammoth

I was pretty happy with our math program this year, but there are always some areas that need some extra practice. That’s why I was happy to find out I was going to get to review some products from Math Mammoth. I have used Math Mammoth’s complete curriculum in the past, and I really liked it. For this review, we got to try some titles from their supplemental Blue Series.

Each Blue Series worktext focuses on a specific topic. We got to use the Geometry 1, Geometry 2, and Fractions & Decimals 3 worktexts.

The Geometry 1 worktext is intended for grades 4-5, but I used it with my 6th grade son who needed some help with angles and shapes. The worktext provided him the opportunity to practice drawing and measuring angles, triangles and other shapes, as well as extra practice in measuring area, volume, and perimeter. I appreciated the really clear drawings and directions Maria Miller includes in this book. Geometry was probably one of my least favorite parts of math, and I was having a very hard time explaining the concepts to my son. After working through this book with him, we both understood the topics a little more! Lesson length varied, but there is always plenty of practice. Some days we broke the lessons in half, and others, we completed a full lesson. The Geometry 1 worktext is available for download for $7.00, and as a hard copy for $12.70. I like using the PDF download because you can easily choose and print the lessons you want.

Geometry 2 gets deeper into the geometry concepts of measuring circumference, quadrilaterals, ratios and proportions, and using a compass. It is intended for use with grades 6-7. Again, the explanations are very clear and detailed and we found them easy to follow. The section on congruent and similar figures was particularly well-explained for my son. We did break some of these lessons into smaller chunks, as the questions required a little more work. We will continue to use this book over the summer, and I think my son will have a very solid understanding of geometry by the time we start school again next year. The PDF download for Geometry 2 costs $5.80 and the hard copy is available for $10.40.

Fractions and Decimals 3 is for use with 6th grade students. This worktext covers all major operations using decimals up to six digits. It was very good extra practice for my son in this area. Even though he understood how to do the problems, he often “lost” his decimal along the way and ended up with the wrong answer. After the additional practice using Fractions and Decimals 3, he learned how important it is to keep track of where the decimal belongs! The worktext also includes instructions for using mental math to compute decimal problems.

Fractions have given us a bit of a headache as we have gotten into using bigger numbers and mixed numbers etc. The fraction practice in this book gave my son new ways to solve fraction problems, particularly with multiplication and division, where he was struggling. He also got a lot of practice simplifying fractions, which was another concept he was struggling with. Fractions and Decimals 3 also addresses the metric system and scientific notation. This worktext is available as a PDF download for $7.00, and as a hard copy for $12.70

All three of these Blue Series books include links to useful websites that provide additional practice and information. I think they would make a great supplement to any math curriculum. Blue Series books come in a wide range of topics, from addition and subtraction to place value, integers, and measurement. If you have a child that just needs some more help on one particular topic, I would highly recommend you check out the Blue Series books. They are very affordable and do a great job of giving your child a new way to look at a topic.

To see what other members of the crew had to say about the Blue Series and all of the other Math Mammoth products we got to try, click here:


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