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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Too Much to Do, Not Enough Time

The topic of our blog cruise this week is “sneaking school into the busy days.” You know those days, we all have them. There may be two (or three) doctors appointments scheduled. Perhaps you need to visit a sick friend, drop something off to your husband at work, and go to the grocery store and the bank. You look at your planner and say “How are we going to get anything done?”

Well, the good thing about homeschooling is the flexibility. And this is how we squeeze in some school time on those days. First, I look at my plans and ask myself what absolutely needs to be done. For example, if we have a science experiment that day, I may move that to another day of the week. Completing an experiment in the car or on the go is difficult and will only stress me out, so its better to wait until I don’t have so much to do. If there are any time consuming hands on projects going on, I will also move those. Completing a lapbook in the doctor’s office waiting room isn’t going to happen.

Next, I decide what can be easily transported and pack that in a backpack. We have some textbook/workbook subjects like math (CLE) and grammar (ACE) which can be done pretty much anywhere. So we throw those in the backpack with some pencils and bring them with us. In general, my kids can bring their math, grammar, and science books with them. They then work on those while we sit in the waiting room.

The car is a great place for reading or discussion. Sometimes we will use the drive to review spelling words, discuss history projects, listen to a book on tape, or my kids will do their individual reading. They do have Nooks which they bring with them. These can also be used for reading and other school activities. If I know we are going to have a remarkably long wait, I will bring my laptop so my son can watch his math DVD.When in the grocery store, or running other errands, I try to use that time to review math facts and other things that can be done while walking and talking.

Now look, there are some days that are so crazy that all we actually get done is reading and some math, but that’s okay. The next day, when things calm down, we just pick up where we left off. I try not to stress too much on busy days. When I first started homeschooling it would really bother me if we didn’t get everything done, and it turned me into a crazy person. Life is messy, and I have learned to go with the flow. I know we will get done with what we need to by the end of the year. And I sometimes think that God allows interruptions to my schedule for a reason.

How do you school on busy days? Leave me a comment and let me know. To see what other crew members have to say on this topic, 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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Lonestar Learning–Target the Question

Lone Star Learning is a Texas based company that creates learning materials and products for kids in the areas of math, reading, science and vocabulary. For this review, we got to use one of their online products, Target the Question Digital Edition.

This program provides short, daily practice in math problem solving for kids in grades 1-7 (they also have a Spanish version of the program for kids in grades 1-5). Bascially, your child will log in every day and complete a problem related to the weekly story, scenario, or data set. The idea came from a similar program for teachers to use on their bulletin boards, where they would post a “scenario” or “data set” for the week and then have the children use that to solve a short word problem each day. (i.e., they might post a chart showing the populations of 5 major cities, then, on Monday, ask students to solve a problem related to the size of the biggest city vs. the smallest city, on Tuesday, they might ask the students to find the average population etc. etc.)

When you gain access to the Target the Question program, you also get to download a file that goes along with the program. The download includes weekly problem solving worksheets, which you can print and use for you child to record their work and then file in a binder, as well as reference sheets and answer keys. I found the download to be a nice addition to the program, and we printed the reference sheets and the weekly worksheets.

I used this program with my 6th grade son, and while he is good at math, he could use some extra practice with word problems. He liked that Target the Question did not take up a lot of time. He could complete each day’s problem in about 10 minutes. This meant that there was no arguing about getting it done!! He liked to use a white board to work the problem, and then transfer his answer to his weekly problem solving sheet. I felt the problems were appropriate for his age, and good practice for him. There were a variety to the types of problems he did. In the first week, he worked with a data table showing the amounts of rainfall for different cities. In the following weeks, he worked with a “sign” from a local restaurant showing prices, discounts, specials etc. He also had scenarios regarding distances travelled in a week, numbers of books read etc. etc. I would usually let him log on and work the problem himself every day and then check his answer. If it was correct, we logged out and moved on, if it was wrong, then we would work the problem together to figure it out.

Some of the problems were easier than others, but I found he did have to really THINK when working on them. This was good practice in finding important information, deciding what operation to use etc. All of these are things he needs to work on. I know that as he gets older (and in real life) most of the math he is going to really use will involve word problems, and I have been looking for ways to add daily practice in this area for us, and Target the Question definitely filled that need for us.

A one-year subscription to Target the Question will cost you $59.99 (they also have other options for a two year or more subscription as well). When you think about it, that’s not a lot for an entire year of math practice. If you have a child who needs to work on problem-solving, and you want a program that is effective AND easy to implement AND won’t cause a lot of stress, I think this is worth it. To find out about all the subscriptions available click here:

http://store.lonestarlearning.com/shop/targetthequestiondigital/

To see what other members of the crew had to say about Target the Question and the other products from Lone Star that we got to check out, click here:

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**Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

Math 911

Math 911 is a program created by Professor Martin Weissman, a former New York City math teacher. The program is designed to teach upper-level math using a mastery approach. Students work through each section of the program (including exams) on the computer. Math 911 does not include games or graphics, it is a straightforward tutorial math program designed to help students master upper-level math. I used the algebra program with my son for this review.

This program doesn’t include instruction in the form of lessons or videos. When the student accesses Math 911 they are given a list of topics. Once they click on a topic (i.e. “equations”), they immediately begin to work problems related to that topic. If they get a question correct, they move on to the next one, if it is wrong, it is not counted in their score. Students can click on “see solution” and then go through the problem step by step to “see” how to solve it. They then work more problems of the same kind.

Dr. Weissman believes that the mastery approach is very effective, especially for struggling learners. I tend to agree, because it eliminates the feeling of always getting the answer “wrong”, which leads to frustration. Math 911 provided a good source of extra practice for my son. Math is not one of his strong points, and while we are using another algebra program, I find that he sometimes needs extra practice on certain types of problems sometimes, and this is a good resource for this practice. I had him go through those sections that he struggled with in his daily math for review before we moved on to another topic.

Because it doesn’t provide step by step “instruction” in the form of lessons or videos, I don’t think I could use this as a complete math program for my 9th grader. However, it could easily be used along with another program for practice, or perhaps with something like Khan Academy (a free math video website).

The Math 911 Algebra I course can be downloaded for free at the website. To upgrade to the Premier Version, which includes several other courses like College Algebra, Statistics and Trig, the cost is $49.95. With this subscription, you also get free technical support! Math 911 is currently running a special where you can upgrade to the Premier version for $9.95, which is a great deal. Scroll to the bottom of the page on the website for the coupon code. For more information about this product check out the website here:

http://www.math911.com/

To see what other members of the crew had to say about this product, click here:
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**Disclaimer: I was given free access to this product for the purpose of writing this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Math Essentials

Math Essentials, founded by math teacher Rick Fisher, strives to make teaching math easy and practical for parents. His award-winning series includes middle school and high school level math products. For this review, I got to use the No-Nonsense Algebra and the Mastering Essential Math Skills Geometry books with my boys.

First, let me say (as I have mentioned before), upper level math is one of the areas that stresses me out. I did okay in high school algebra, but it wasn’t easy, and geometry might as well have been an alien language!! Therefore, I am always looking for math programs that are clear and easy to understand, and hopefully offer some type of supplemental support when necessary.

No-Nonsense Algebra meets these criteria. The workbooks are very well done, with clear, concise instruction and helpful examples. The lessons are (mercifully) short, with about 10-20 practice problems, depending on the lesson, and a few review problems as well. At the end of each chapter there is a chapter review. I found these helpful, because if I found my son (a 9th grader) struggled with remembering how to do a certain type of problem, I could simply review that section with him, and then use another source to provide him with additional practice problems. The solutions are also located in the back of the book, which is great because you don’t have to buy a teachers guide to get the answers!

However, the best thing about this program, to me at least, is the fact that when you buy the books, you are given access to a website that has video lessons for each chapter!! Seriously, I have looked at DVD and online based math programs before, and most of them are very expensive! I am so grateful to Rick Fisher for creating an affordable program that allows parents access to this kind of support. We found the videos easy to watch, and very clear in their instruction. Most of the time, my son would watch the video on his own and complete the lesson without any problem. If he struggled with a particular concept, I would watch the video too, and then go over a few problems with him. This method has worked for us very well, and my son really seems to be “getting” algebra, and not hating it at the same time!! No Nonsense Algebra is an excellent math program for use with your high schooler.

The Mastering Essential Math Skills Geometry book is a great supplemental or introductory Geometry tool for middle school students. Again, the instruction is clear and concise, and includes daily review, instruction (in the “Helpful Hints” section) and a short number of practice problems. This would not be a complete Geometry program for a high schooler, but it would be great for review or practice. Alas, there are no videos for this one, but perhaps Mr. Fisher would be willing to create some (or just make a high school Geometry course similar to No Nonsense Algebra 🙂 ). I used this book with my middle school son as some extra practice. I appreciated the clear instruction, which made it easier for me to explain concepts to him, he liked the short lessons!!

Now, for the best part about Math Essentials: the price!! No Nonsense Algebra costs $27.95. Period. That’s it. I’m serious!! $27.95 is all you pay for the book (which includes the answers) and access to the videos!! I have yet to see another program that offers ALL of that for anywhere close to that price!! The supplemental Geometry book will cost you $11.95 (again, very reasonable!) and Math Essentials also has supplemental books for other areas, like problem-solving, whole numbers, etc.

To check out all the Math Essentials has to offer, click here:
http://www.mathessentials.net/index.html

To see what other members of the crew had to say about this program, click here:
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** Disclaimer: I was given free access to this program for the purpose of writing this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

IXL Math

IXL is an online math program used around the world to help kids practice their math skills. The program for each grade level is aligned to state standards, and offers practice on various math concepts. As a parent, you have access to mulitple reports on your childs progress, including how they are progressing on those standards. IXL is used in schools, and homeschools, around the world.

I used this program as additional practice for my 5th and 8th grade sons, and they enjoyed it (well, my youngest “enjoyed” it, my oldest “didn’t hate it” but for him, when it comes to math, I consider that a success!). As the parent, you set up accounts for you and your children. You log in from the main page with the general account info, but then you are prompted to “choose” who you are (i.e. “mom”, “child 1”, “child 2” etc.) and enter your password. As the parent, I can look up my kids reports, or I can play on IXL myself, which I did!

I practiced a little from each of my boys grade levels, as well as some others. I will say this isn’t really a math “instruction” program, as much as it is a math “practice” program. If your child is not familiar with a particular math concept (like “create frequency tables”) they would need to learn how to do that concept first, then practice it on IXL. There are no videos showing you how to do the problems, however, if you get a problem wrong, you can click on “explanation” and it does tell you how to solve the problem.

You can choose which topics you want to practice, which is nice, because I chose to focus on those things my boys really needed to work on. For my younger son, this was multiplying and dividing fractions. His first lesson, didn’t go so well, but as time went on, he did get better. As your child works through problems, a timer keeps track of how long it is taking, and their score goes up and down, depending on if they got the problem correct or not. As their score goes up they earn award “ribbons” which they can use on the rewards board. Basically, they earn “pictures” of items (like a fruit stand) on a checkerboard as they master certain concepts. My youngest thought this was cool, my oldest kind of rolled his eyes, but 8th graders are like that!! My youngest did need to use scratch paper to solve some of the problems, as he couldn’t do them all in his head.

My oldest son needed practice in polynomials, so that’s what I had him do. Now, this boy does NOT like math, so getting him to do anything is a chore. IXL wasn’t as bad, because the lessons can be as long or short as you choose. Since this was additional practice, I asked both of my boys for 15 minutes each time they logged on. My older son did pretty well with this program, although he would get frustrated because he would sometimes hit a wrong button on the computer and his answer would be wrong, which caused his score to go down. I told him he needed to slow down and pay attention to what he was doing! It’s funny how someone can be a perfectionist, but still not want to pay attention to details!!

I liked the fact that I would get a weekly email report of my kids activities and progress, in addition to being able to log on and look at these reports anytime I wanted. There is a LOT of information included in the reports, like how long your child spent working, what they worked on, how they did, etc. etc. This makes if very easy for me to track what my kids are doing, without having to be over their shoulder every second. The IXL program also adapts to your child’s level, increasing the difficulty in the questions as your child improves.

IXL costs $9.99 per month or $79.00 for a one year membership. That is for one child, for addtional children you would need to add $2.00/month or $20.00 per year. That means this program would cost me $99.00 per year to use with both my kids. While I do like the program, that is quite costly, and I’m not sure I would find room for it in my budget, especially since it is just for extra practice. However, I would definitely consider a monthly membership for the summer, just so my kids could have an easy way to practice their math skills while we aren’t formally doing school.

To learn more about IXL visit the website here:
IXL Math

To see what other crew members had to say about IXL, click here:
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*Disclaimer: I was given free access to this program in exchange for writing this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Pearson Homeschool–My Math Lab Alg. 1

Pearson Homeschool offers a variety of products for homeschoolers in grades K-12. For this review, I received access to their My Math Lab Algebra 1 program. I used this with my oldest son, who completed pre-algebra this year, as an 8th grader, and is moving into 9th grade. This is a digital product, which involves you and your child accessing the content of the program on the internet. My Math Lab includes both parent and student access codes.
Now first, I have to say that advanced math is not my strong suit, nor is it for my oldest boy (guess he gets that from me 🙂 ). In our house, my husband and my younger boy are the math lovers. Therefore, I was very nervous about starting upper-level math with my son as he went into high school. Obviously, math is important, and I wanted to make sure he would be successful. I had been stressing out about signing up for a co-op, doing an online or video product etc. when the chance to review this came up, and I was very happy to do so.
I have to say, I wasn’t sure about an all-online program at first (I mean, don’t you need a textbook for math??). Wow, was I impressed with this Pearson program!! First of all, once you sign up, it is very easy to navigate. You have to register an account for both you and your child, using your specific access code, but the directions are very specific and easy to follow. Once you are set up, as the parent you can monitor assignments, grades, set up your calendar, change the mastery level for assignments etc. etc. This was a blessing, because sometimes I find it difficult to wrap my head around how to manage these online programs!
The math itself was excellent!! Your child has access to an interactive e-textbook (which my sound found very clear and easy to use) and lessons are basically just click and go! After your child goes through the textbook portion, they work on the “homework” assignment, which is just practice problems related to the lesson. The number of problems vary, but even when there were 30 problems, I would say it didn’t take my son more than hour to complete, which I think is an acceptable amount of time for upper level math. If you have a student who is “mathy” they may finish sooner.
The problems are well laid out, with lots of support for the student. Sometimes there is a short video, that gives and example of how to do the problem. There are also many other prompts, like “help me solve this problem” which will basically give your child a step by step example of the problem they are working on, but with different numbers. If your child does miss a problem, they correct solution is shown, along with the option of “try another one like this” so your child can practice the problem again! The immediate feedback was SO incredible helpful for my son! He could get help as he was doing the problem, which led to less errors for him, and MUCH less frustration (he hates getting things wrong!)
I love that the Pearson Homeschool motto seems to be “Because you know what matters most”. I do know what is most important for my child, but like anyone, sometimes I need a little help getting that across to him. Up to this point, math has been a struggle for my oldest child and I. I wouldn’t say he is now a math lover, but My Math Lab is by far the program he enjoys doing most. He really feels confident in his knowledge at the end of the lesson, and I like the fact that if I need to, I can sit there and go through the lesson with him and help him when necessary, but he can also do a lot of this on his own. He took his first quiz in the course(there are periodic quizzes and tests throughout) and did very well. He was so proud of himself!! I will definitely be looking at purchasing My Math Lab Algebra 2 when we get there, and I really hope they make one for geometry!!
The best part about this program is the VERY reasonable cost!! A lot of the online/DVD programs I was looking at were in the hundreds of dollars!! My Math Lab only costs $49.97 for the student access kit and $30.00 for the parent access kit. I think this is very reasonable!! To learn more about My Math Lab and other Pearson products, visit their website here:
To see what other members of the TOS Crew had to say about this, and other Pearson Products they got to review, click here:
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*Disclaimer: I received free access to this product in exchange for writing this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Balance Math Teaches Algebra

I was already somewhat familiar with the Critical Thinking Company, having used the Mind Benders Logic Puzzles with both of my boys. Prior to this review, I had looked at some of their other products for math and reading, but never used any of them. For this review, we got to check out Balance Math Teaches Algebra.

The mission of the Critical Thinking Company is to “empower the mind” of students without using drill and memorization. Balance Math does this by teaching Algebraic concepts using “puzzles” that students solve. In order to use this book, students will need to understand how a balance scale works, but don’t worry if you don’t have one handy!! The book actually begins with problems that illustrate this concept, and there is another reference page in the back students can refer to if needed.

Lessons start of with simple equations (i.e. if X=50, then what does XX=?). The problems each have an illustration and a “proof” that students fill out as they complete the problem. The proof simply explains the illustration using words, and walks students through solving the problem. This is very useful for getting the hang of things as you begin working through this book. As you move through the book, problems get more complex, and students begin to solve multi-step equations (some even involving fractions 🙂 ).

The age guidelines for this book are 4th-12th+. I think that if you had an advanced 4th or 5th grader, they would do well with this, but other students this age would likely need a lot of parental support, at least at first. I was always good at algebra, but I had to read through the first six proofs a few times to wrap my head around how balance math works.

I used this program with my 8th grade son, who is struggling his way through pre-algebra at the moment. He is simply not a “mathy” kid. He doesn’t do really poorly at math, but it does take him more time to get concepts, and for some reason, algebra is just not “clicking” with him (geometry, well that’s another story!). When I showed him this book, at first, he was really confused. But, after I went through the first few pages with him, he did really start to “get” it. It was like visualizing the idea of the balance scale just helped the concepts to make sense!

He still did need my support as he got into the multi-step problems, but even then, after I helped with a couple, he was fine. Now, the first time I had him do algebra from his textbook after this, he did use scratch paper to draw a “balance” scale of his own to work out the problem, but he got the right answer, so I am definitely not going to complain!

Balance Math Teaches Algebra costs $14.99, and contains about 50 pages of activities. I don’t think it could be used as a stand-alone math program, but it would definitely work as a supplement, especially if you have a “visual” learner who is struggling with algebra. You could also use it as summer program, if you wanted to just give your kids some “light” work to practice with. There are also other levels of Balance Math you can use as well. I think $14.99 is a great price for something that helps your child to understand a concept they have been struggling with! It is great to see the relief in their eyes when they “get” it!!

You can learn more about Balance Math Teaches Algebra and other Critical Thinking Company products here:

http://www.criticalthinking.com/index.jsp?code=c

To see what other members of the TOS Crew had to say about this, and other CTC products, click here:

http://homeschoolcrew.com/

*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product for the purpose of writing this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Math Rider

So far, I’ve been fortunate enough to review a few math facts practice programs for the TOS crew. However, I have to say that Math Rider has been the best. Using artificial intelligence, that adjusts the program to your child’s level, Math Rider allows your child to work towards mastery of all four math operations. Click here for a video about how it works:

My fourth grade son really enjoyed the “quests” in this game. (He’s a big fans of knights in general, so that was a bonus! 🙂 ) The game has three levels: easy, medium, and hard. Each operation (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division) is played on each level. So the child begins with easy addition, and eventually works his way up to hard addition. As they play,  you can keep track of their mastery level by logging in and looking at their mastery chart:

(You can create an account for more than one child with this program, so each child has their own game) This will show you how far your child has gotten, and which facts are particularly difficult for them. As they play the game, facts that are missed are reviewed with an audible read out of the fact, and a visual representation at the same time.

The quests get progressively longer as the children move up in level, and each time, new backgrounds are added. The game is visually stimulating, but the focus is still on the learning.

As they play, children jump “hurdles” on their horse to practice each fact. If they answer the problem correctly before the horse reaches the hurdle, then it is cleared and they get points. If not, the fact is reviewed right then and there. I believe this goes a long way toward helping cement the fact in the child’s mind. My son has quickly moved up to the medium level in addition and subtraction, and is going to begin the medium level multiplication soon. The biggest thing for me, is that I have seen a BIG improvement in his mastery of facts in his daily math work. Division was something he was just learning, and it was a STRUGGLE, but now when we do math, I find he is getting those facts much quicker!! (and I don’t have to do endless drills with flash cards 🙂 )

Each day, he checks his “map” to see where he is on his quest, then he begins.

The program requires little input from me (other than when I check his chart to see how he is doing) which is good, because it frees me up to have some one on one time with my other son.  And the biggest thing is, he REALLY enjoys it! I don’t have to fight to get him to do it, and a lot of times he wants to complete more than just one section in a day. I truly think that by the time he is done with this program, he will have a very good mastery of the basic operations, and then, with a daily timed-practice or so, he should be able to keep them up. I also suspect he’ll want to continue to “play” math rider even after he masters it!

Math Rider costs $37.00, and is available as an instant download to your computer. This is a program we will definitely invest in, because mastery of the four operations is soooo essential in math, and this is by far the best program I’ve seen to help your child gain that mastery. You can check out the website here:

http://mathrider.com/

Times Alive (by City Creek Press)

I have to admit, I am prone to panic attacks over getting my youngest son to learn his multiplication and division facts. We’ve done flashcards, multiplication charts etc., and NONE of it seemed to work. We did have some success when my son was using an online learning program, and so I think that computer-based learning works best for him in this area. That’s why I was so happy to find out that I was going to get to sample the Times Alive software for my latest review.

This program uses songs, cartoons, and other fun activities to help students learn their multiplication facts, and tests show that after using it, children recall 95% of their times tables! Here is a link to a video that explains more about the program:

http://bit.ly/hjgKR9

I used this program with my 4th grade son, and he really enjoyed it. Times Alive is set up in lessons that cover the multiplication facts for the numbers 0-9. When students log on, they see a menu that lists each lesson and the facts covered. The lessons are divided into 3-5 sections each and students watch videos, paint, listen to songs etc. based on the fact they are learning (i.e. 3×4). The lessons themselves are short, and my son would typically complete one section per day. The program includes 17 lessons, and a post test, so it took us about 4 weeks to work through it.

Review tests are included periodically, so students can practice the facts they have already learned while also learning  new ones. Parents can pull up a “student progress report” to see how their kids are doing.  This report shows which lessons have been completed, which are in progress, and allows you to  monitor how well students are mastering the facts based on their test results. Tests are timed, and the progress report shows how many questions the child got correct, what their overall score was (i.e. 95%) and how long it took them to finish. The time information was important to me, because it allowed me to see how quickly my son was going. As he learns his multiplication facts, he should get to the point where he answers them automatically, and this should be reflected in his time getting quicker.

Times Alive was a fun, effective program for learning multiplication facts. While it does only cover multiplication, City Creek press also has products that cover addition facts, as well as kits with other materials you can use with your child to practice multiplication and addition. You can check out the website here:

http://www.citycreek.com/

The Times Alive software CD-Rom will cost $48.95, and the City Creek website has special offers to go along with it, such as getting the software for half price when you buy a multiplication kit. I think the cost is reasonable if you have a child who learns well on a computer. For my son, this really helped to cement his knowledge of mulitiplication, and that was a HUGE help for me! 🙂

Ten Marks Math

Ten Marks is the fourth online math program I’ve had the ability to use as a member of the TOS Crew. Ten Marks is similar to Math Essentials in that it offers both videos and worksheets for kids to do, the difference is the worksheets are done online.  The curriculum is guided by state standards and covers grades 3 and up!

Ten Marks offers a lot of individualization for each child. The parent assigns a child to a grade level, and the child is then given an assessment to determine where they are at. From there, they are assigned work based on what they need to know. This is similar to ALEKS Math, where kids work on their “pie” based on what skills they need to develop. Each week, the child is assigned worksheets (the standard number of worksheets if 4, but parents can adjust the number of worksheets for their kids through their master account). Parents are sent an email each week telling them how many worksheets have been assigned, and when they are due. Tests are assigned periodically as well. Here is a video from the website that explains a little more about how Ten Marks works:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=voi10VQKYCY&feature=player_embedded

Students log in and complete the 10-question worksheets (I had my kids do this over a 2-3 day period). As they complete worksheets successfully, they are given access to games they can play. My boys enjoyed the games! As a student goes through a worksheet, they are given the opportunity to ask for “hints” which are displayed on a sidebar, or watch a video about the concept. Videos consist of a whiteboard, with a narrator demonstrating and talking through how to solve a problem.

If a child performs poorly on a worksheet (which looks to be a performance of about 60% or less), they are given a “do-over” worksheet. Students are also given a chance to go back and correct problems they missed, again with the help of hints or a video. When a parent logs in to Ten Marks, they can see a report that tells them when a child logged in, what they were doing, how they did, and if they needed to watch any videos or have any hints to complete their work. This is helpful for letting parents know what areas their kids may need more help in!

While watching the videos, we did come across a few errors in some of the calculations. However, the Ten Marks staff is VERY responsive in clarifying and/or fixing things as they need to. There is a feedback tab you can click on to let them know when you see something that may need to be fixed, and they look into it very quickly. Overall, my 4th and 7th grade boys enjoyed Ten Marks. I found it easy to monitor and set-up as a parent, and the pricing is less than some of the other online math programs I have sampled.  The cost (per student) is $10.00/month, $49.00/6 months, or $89.00/year. If you’d like to check it out, click here:

http://www.tenmarks.com/home.action

Virtual Nerd

For my latest review with the TOS crew, I was given the opportunity to try out Virtual Nerd’s website. This is a site offering video tutorials in higher math and science. My 7th grade son tried out the Pre Algebra videos. We have sampled a few different online math programs so far, and the videos for this one are the ones he liked the best.

First, the people that appear in the videos are upbeat and dynamic and very easy to listen to, which is important to my son, who gets bored quite easily. The videos also feature what they call a “dynamic whiteboard”. As the instructor works the problem on the board, there are two sidebars that appear on the right side of the screen. The first is the “diagram”, which typically gives a definition of what you are watching, as well as a copy of the problem being worked out by the instructor. If you move your mouse over this section of the screen, you will get a definition for each section of the problem (i.e. if the screen says a(b+c)=ab+ac, and your mouse is over the letters, you will get a definition of what a variable is).

The second sidebar is a step by step example and explanation of the problem. You can also move your mouse over a specific step and get more information just on that step! These are some of the most thorough and clear explanations of math that I have seen so far, and for my struggling math student, they made concepts very clear and easy to understand!

Virtual Nerd currently offers math tutorials covering Pre-Algebra to Algebra 2, with plans to include Geometry, Pre-Calculus, and Calculus later this year. In science, Conceptual Physics is currently available, with plans to release Physics w/trig and Chemistry soon. The site does not include worksheets or assignments, but this was better for me, as I already have a math program (CLE Math 7) and just needed some clear explanations my son could access when he needed additional support. According to the fact sheet we received with the review, there are plans to include practice problems later, as well as a textbook search function.

For someone like me, who has always been more of a reader than a mathematician, this site is great! Higher math is not my thing, and I know that as my son gets older, I will need to turn to some type of math program that will be able to teach my son what I cannot. I like the fact that you can search for videos on topics of your choice, because that means you could use Virtual Nerd with virtually 🙂 any math program you are currently using. I am not sure if their plans to include a textbook search function will include homeschool textbook publishers, but if it did, it would make it even more wonderful!

The only drawback I see to this program is the price. At $49.00 a month, it is expensive. They do offer free access for educators, but that does not currently include homeschool parents, and there are no homeschool discounts. There are other pricing plans ($5.00 for one day, $19.00 for a week, and $129.00 for 3 months) but even these are expensive. Buying a DVD math program from one of the major homeschool publishers is around $399.00 per year, which is about the same thing that Virtual Nerd would cost you, but Virtual Nerd does not include textbooks. Personally, I would love to continue using this website for the remainder of the year, but I just can’t afford it. In a time when every penny counts, this may be one of those things you just can’t do. However, if you can afford it, I would highly recommend Virtual Nerd. The quality of the instruction, and the extras that come with their dynamic whiteboard are very impressive.

You can check out their website here:

http://www.virtualnerd.com/

Aleks Math.

For my latest review, I was given an opportunity to have my children use the ALEKS math program. ALEKS is an acronym for Assessment and Learning in Knowledge Spaces, and it is a web-based program that offers practice in math facts (i.e. addition/multiplication etc.) as well as full math courses for grades 3-12.

Our experience with ALEKS was VERY good.  Signing my children up was easy, as was managing their activities through the parent account page. I was able to assign quizzes, receive scores, adjust time on the Quicktables (more on that later) as well as email my “students” 🙂 My older son really enjoyed sending me an email everyday! Once you chose a level for your child, they are given an assessment to determine what they already know. From there, they are given a pie chart that includes the different areas of mathematics (algebra, geometry, decimals etc.). Children are able to click on the pie chart and choose a topic to work on.

For example, my older son really needed to get some work in on algebra and geometry, so I told him to focus on those areas. Each day, I had him complete 3 or 4 lessons on something within those topics. Each day, he would log on, and choose something to work on (i.e. “area of a paralellogram”). He would attempt a problem, and if he didn’t get it, he could click on the “explanation”. This took him to a page that gave him a detailed explanation of how to solve the problem. He would then be given additional problems on that topic until he had “mastered” it.

The explanations are in written form (as opposed to video), so if your child has difficulty getting something just by reading it, you may need to be in the room to go over that part with him/her. However, the explanations do include a lot of visuals, and actually solve the problems step-by-step, so I found that my son did not need a lot of help from me!

This is an image of the pie chart students use to determine what they are going to work on:

And this is a picture of what one of the explanations look like:

Each week, I scheduled a “quiz” for my son based on the problems he had worked that week. After the quiz is finished, students are able to review the problems they got wrong. I thought this was VERY helpful because my son was able to see his errors, and recognize whether he messed up on a simple calculation, or if he was doing the problem wrong. ALEKS also sends an email to the parents each week, letting you know about your child’s progress. The details of their reports was very impressive! They list what your child already knows how to do, what they need to work on, and how far they have gotten.

This is a screenshot from a report you can access about your child’s quiz:

For my younger son, the best thing about Aleks was the Quicktables. It is another part of the program that allows your child to practice their basic math facts. My youngest is a 4th grader, and I have been pulling my hair out trying to get him to master his multiplication and division facts! Seriously, we’ve tried flash cards, timed tests, recitation, etc. etc. and NOTHING has worked so far. However, in the month that we’ve been using ALEKS, he has moved to a 70% proficiency level on his multiplication…and all with no stress from me! 😉

Students are first given an assessment, to determine what facts they already know. Then they are shown the multiplicaiton table (above) which shows them which facts they have mastered and which they need to practice. Each day, my son would learn 3-4 new facts. Children work on a particular fact (i.e. 6X8=48) and then practice that fact while also drilling the ones they already know. The problems are shown on the screen, and the children are given a few seconds to type in the answer. If they get it wrong, or don’t answer, they are taken back to the multiplication chart, shown the correct answer, and given the chance to complete the problem again. I will say that the initial response time of 3 seconds was too short for my younger son, who is not adept at using the computer keyboard just yet!! However, parents can adjust the time allowed when they log in, and I did extend the time for my son. What he really liked about it is, as you move up in your mastery level, kids are given the opportunity to play “games” with the math facts, like the one here:

Like I said, he is currently at 76% mastery of his multiplication facts since we started using ALEKS about 4 weeks ago, so to me, this program has been a HUGE help!

ALEKS costs $19.95 PER student PER month, or you can pay $99.95 every 6 months, or $179.95 for one year. They do have a family discount rate for homeschoolers, that allows you to pay less for each child you enroll. This may seem costly, and honestly, this year, it may have been outside of my reach, but I think I would pay month to month if I needed to, to allow my kids to access parts of this program. You could definitely use it in conjunction with, or as a supplement to, a program you are already using (which is what I did).

The link to the ALEKS website is here:

http://www.aleks.com/

The people at ALEKS have also given us a chance to share a 1-month free trial to new users! Click on the ALEKS button under  the Blog Cruise picture on the right of my blog to access it!

 

Overall, I thought this was a great math program, and my kids really enjoyed it!

 

Master Innovations: Master Fractions

I got to use Master Innovations Master Fractions program as part of my latest review for the TOS crew. I used it with my 4th grade son, and I have to say, we both liked it a lot. The Master Fractions program is part of Master Innovations LLC, which inlcudes the Master Ruler, Master Clock, and Marvels of Measurement poster. The kit I received came with the Master Fraction flip books, the Marvels of Measurement poster, and the Master Fractions workbook for grades 1-5

First, the flip books are three spiral bound books that actually “show” different equivalent fractions to your child.

With these books, kids can “see” how 1/3 and 1/6 are related, they simply flip the page from the “thirds” to the “sixths”. This made fractions very easy to understand for my concrete-loving boy. Fractions are also divided from fifths to twentieths, and halves to sixteenths. The workbook contains lots of practice in dividing fractions and covers everything from practice with comparing fractions to equivalent fractions and mixed numbers. Using the flip books made this very easy for my son to understand. There was just something about being able to “see” how the fractions work that made it really click with him!

The Master Innovations website contains videos of their products in use, which can help you get a feel for how you might use them in your homeschool, and lots of other information you may find useful. You can check it out here:

http://www.themasterruler.com/

The poster I received included measurements broken down into different fractions. For example, 1 gallon was broken down into half-gallons, quarter-gallons, pints, and cups. I have to admit, I am one of those people who has to look up how many cups are in a gallon, and I found this visual VERY useful 🙂

The cost of this particular program will vary, depending on what you want to buy, but the base price for the flip books is $17.95, with the workbook costing an additional $15.95. If you have a child (like mine) who really needs to “see” something in order to get it, this is well worth the cost!