Wednesday, February 10, 2010

All About Spelling ~ Beehive Reader**

You all may remember that the TOS Crew reviewed the All About Spelling program and the All About Homophones ebook last year.

This year Marie Rippel sent the TOS Crew her new Beehive Reader (hardcover $19.95).

Now, I don't currently have a beginning reader, so I can't say anything about how it works for my family, but I can give you my opinion. :)

Marie has used the the Beehive Reader to complement AAS Volume 1. There are 10 stories, and they correlate as follows:
  • Story 1, “At the Pond,” can be read after Step 15
  • Story 2, “The Nap,” can be read after Step 17
  • Story 3, “At Camp,” can be read after Step 18
  • Story 4, “The Pet Duck,” can be read after Step 19
  • Story 5, “The Bat and King Sam,” can be read after Step 20
  • Story 6, “Frank Shrank!” can be read after Step 21
  • Story 7, “Cobweb the Cat,” can be read after Step 22
  • Story 8, “Ten Wishes,” can be read after Step 23
  • Story 9, “Fast Fun,” can be read after Step 24
  • Story 10, “Off We Go!” can be read after Step 24
I really like that the reader can be used as a goal to reach toward as the child(ren) work through the first volume... kind of like a reward.... :), although it can also be used as a stand-alone reader.

General comments on a few of the stories:
"The Nap" is very sweet, as is "The Bat and King Sam", "Frank Shrank" is a gentle introduction to "Alice in Wonderland" sorts of adventure, and "Fast Fun" is a series of VERY short tongue Twisters.

The stories are short and sweet, with beautiful pencil drawn pictures and backgrounds. Even when the text is somewhat stilted and the story line is a little "jerky" (Only "At The Pond", which uses the fewest words, struck me this way), or uses labels that some would like to avoid ( In "The Pet Duck", the duck is labeled as "bad" because of his behavior), the illustrations are very rich and leave a lot of room to discuss what is going on.

Again, the illustrations are just lovely, and I LOVE gorgeous illustrations. I will look forward to using this book with my youngest in a few years, when he begins reading.

For any of my local friends~ let me know if you would like to see this in person, and I'll be happy to bring it along to a meeting for you to check out (Or we can make other arrangements~ :) )

If you are interested in other TOS Crew Member opinions, please check out the TOS CREW blog. As always, I am hoping these reviews will help you make the best decisions for YOUR family, and how to spend your homeschooling budget.

Blessings~


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this item/service for free as part of the TOS Crew Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Math Mammoth~ Real Learning, States By the Numbers

See.... I told you there would be more math.... and there is and will be more yet again... ;) (WHEW!)

This time around is a re-run of a vendor from last year, Maria Miller's


You can read my review last year of "Golden Series 6-B", and "Light Blue Complete Grade 2" , but right now I'd like to talk about the "States By the Numbers/ Make it Real Learning" workbooks. (With problems that are appropropriate for grades 3-7)

The concept behind these workbooks is to use real math concepts and numbers to help your children practice their math facts, and to see how math might be used in "The REAL world... " :)
The books use facts and numbers pulled from the Census Bureau's 2008 Statistical Abstract of the United States.

Because I'm from Montana, but have lived more of my life in Massachusetts, and because they are two very diverse states, I requested the appropriate state books as I thought it would be interesting to see what these two books look like.

Each workbooks covers the same basic material in cookie cutter fashion. Each book uses the same nice two-page explanations with sample problems. The topics appear to also use the same word problems(20 in each)with only the actual figures changing according to state. This is where going through these books unit-study-style could come in, comparing the answers for two such states that vary so widely in size and population as Montana and Massachusetts. The topics covered, with MY opinions on the grade levels of each is as follows:
  • Place Value~ 3rd-5th grade
  • Rounding~ 4th-6th grade
  • Estimation~ 5th - 7th grade
  • Understanding Fractions and Percents ~ 5th -7th grade
Now for my general feelings:
  • Some of the "content" was a little over the heads of the intended audience, and the explanations (for instance "what a BTU is") just muddled their thoughts and confused them as to what they were supposed to be doing math-wise.
  • Some of the wording of the problems was a little clunky, and even "mom" had to read them a couple of times in order to understand what was required to answer the question.
  • The "Cookie cutter" approach is interesting for the sake of comparison, but there are some questions where states with lower numbers (Either in land or population figures) should be modified to make sense. For instance, when talking about Montana's population in the Estimation section(question 16), it would make more sense to round the population to the nearest 10 thousand rather than 100 thousand(Since Montana hasn't quite hit a million yet, although they are getting closer!).... Likewise, it might make more sense with smaller states to round some of the area questions to the hundreds place rather than the thousands place.
  • Now a more negative comment than I usually care to give~ I feel that the workbooks need their answer keys to be gone over more thoroughly. I remembered having a couple of issues with incorrect answer keys in the books we used last year, but I assumed they were flukes, after all no one is perfect, and we've had similar experiences with other curriculum. This time, however, the number of answer key mistakes was a rather higher percentage than I am willing to accept... It is not helpful to a busy homeschooling mom (Who should be able to rely on provided answer keys), and aggravating to children who get problems "wrong", and then later find out they were actually correct... For instance, out of 20 questions in the Massachusetts "Estimation" section, 3 out of 20 questions had the incorrect answer in the answer key, 1 other question was not clear in expecting the work to be carried out to the hundreths place and then rounded to the tenths place, and a final question (in both the MA and the MT books) included an explanation that was the opposite of the actual answer. :\ In the same section of the Montana book, there were 2 incorrect answer key answers out of 20....
Based on these experiences, I would not actually recommend the the States By the Numbers books, until the answer keys have been gone over and edited for correct answers, and perhaps some of the questions reworded to make more sense to the average adult, not to mention the average child.

I truly do hope that each book will be gone through with an eye to correcting the answer keys, because they do provide an interesting framework for real math in the real world at a fairly reasonable price ($2.99 for each state book as a pdf download).

If you would like to see a sample of the States By The Numbers books, they have the North Dakota book available as a free download, as well as free samples from many of the other books offered.

For more opinions, on these and other offerings from Math Mammoth, please visit the TOS Crew Blog, and see what my fellow Crew Mates have to say(I know that some of them are EXTREMELY happy with Math Mammoth, so if your family doesn't work the same way that mine does, you might want to get some more opinions!). As always, I hope my reviews will help you to spend your homeschool budget wisely.

Blessings~


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this item/service for free as part of the TOS Crew Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

ZeeZok Publishers, Presidential Penmanship


ZeeZok publishing (the publishing arm of the company known commonly to homeschoolers as "The BookPeddler") provided a variety of items to the TOS Crew for review this year. Some Crew members received items from the "Great Musician Series" (Fun! Would have LOVED to check those out... might be on my "to buy" list), and others of us received one of the "Presidential Penmanship" programs.

My item to review was the Presidential Penmanship Italic Style Complete Program CD . ($39.99) The CD comes "complete" with the programs for 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, Jr. High, and Sr. High(available individually as e-books for $9.99 each) If you click on the above link, you can see what each individual program offers, as well as offering sample pages for you to check out, which I always appreciate.

So.... handwriting is neither my strong suit, nor my children's, but I figure copywork has more advantages than just penmanship. In this instance, the quotes being copied are great "character" quotes as well. I actually chose to use the 2nd grade program with both of my children, as that is more typical of the type of handwriting I am trying to make "legible" and "neat", rather than any of the cursive programs. I really liked the selections, and the fact that the children are exposed to the same quote for five days in a row(I seem to have an affinity for things that run "Five in a Row" ....:)), because they tended to internalize them that way.

Cute Story...JD1 was working on his quote one week, and said something to the effect of:
"Hey, this is a great quote! I think I should carve it into my clubhouse!" The quote was "It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one." by George Washington. This is the sort of thing that serves a multi-purpose tool, then... character training as well as penmanship, learning grammar by example, and the potential for memorization and recitation, not to mention improving the neighborhood by example... :)

Oh, I should mention that the selections start on the brief end of things, and progress to full page selections from the Gettysburg Address, and a few Inaugural speeches for the High School students.

BTW, although I haven't used them yet, I am particularly looking forward to the 5th grade selections which include selected lessons from George Washington's "Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior", with each one accompanied by a related Scripture. Nothing like improving "application" of Scripture. :)

Presidential Penmanship is available in the following styles:

Don't forget to check out ZeeZok's website for the Penmanship program of your choice, and the Great Musician's Series .

For other opinions, and actual reviews of the Great Musician's Series, please go check out what my TOS CrewMates had to say. As always, I hope that this review is helpful to you as you choose where to most wisely spend your homeschooling budget dollars.

Blessings~

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this item/service for free as part of the TOS Crew Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Dollar Homeschool~ Eclectic Education Series

I was one of the TOS Crew members selected to receive the ENTIRE Eclectic Education Series (as a free download for review, vs the CD's that that paying customers will receive). Now this is a HUGE amount of information, and comprises more or less the potential for an entire K-12 education, so this review will be based upon generalities, and only a few specifics, as there is no way I could look at it all.

For those who are looking to replicate the education of our forefathers, The Eclectic Education Series should fill the bill. From the Dollar Homeschool Website:

The Eclectic Education Series (EES) is a set of textbooks which from roughly 1865 to 1915 WAS education in the United States, almost exclusively. They were the standard textbooks in many states and were chosen independently by over 10,000 school boards as their standard textbooks.

The books included in this massive collection include(In Dollar Homeschool's categories)

http://www.dollarhomeschool.com/raysarithmetic/images/Ray%27s%20CD%20FINAL%20SMALL.jpg
  • MATH~(39 books) The entire Ray's Arithmetic series (covering primary arithmetic all the way to calculus) and MORE... if you click on the "Math" link and scroll to the end, there is a listing of every book included on the CD.
  • HISTORY and SOCIAL STUDIES~(18 books) A variety of histories and historical studies (Thalheimer, Cromwell, and the Constitution) as well as a "Progressive Course in Reading" and "Good Morals and Gentle Manners" among others.
  • SCIENCE~ (13 books) Norton's Sciences and others, including unusual titles like "Complete Book Keeping" and "Schuyler's Principles of Logic".
  • McGUFFEY'S READERS~ (19 books) Beyond the Eclectic Readers, I had no idea that there were also "Eclectic Speaker" and "Eclectic Speller" books, and more.
  • THE GRAMMAR SERIES~ (12 books) including "Long's Language", "Pinneo's Grammar", and "Harvey's Grammar"
  • TEACHER'S BOOKS~ (3 books, included on the Science CD) The Manual of Methods, Successful Teaching in Rural Schools, and a "Question Book"
So, by my count this encompass over 100 complete books. Like I said, a LOT of information. (You can find a complete list and descriptions here.)

Pros:
  • Includes pretty much all the material needed to complete a formal education from K-12
  • All in one set of CD's (not taking up huge amounts of bookshelf space!)
  • In comparison to other complete curriculum, fairly inexpensive
  • Sometimes neglected topics like "manners", "logic", and "speaking" are included
  • If you enjoy books written in an old-fashioned style like Charlotte Mason's books, you'll likely enjoy the Teacher's Books.
  • The ability to print out and/or use only portions of the books at a time.
Cons:
  • While some of the topics are "Timeless" by which I mean the fundamentals are the same, like Ray's Arithmetic and McGuffey's Readers, I had a hard time with the Thalheimer Histories, which were very dry bulleted lists. I would also have a hard time with teaching a science course that doesn't include the last hundred years of discoveries....
  • Because these are scanned images, rather than computer generated, there are sometimes issues with the quality of the scan(I'm assuming that is the cause). What I couldn't quite figure out was why it seemed to be an issue more with the earlier McGuffey's Readers, where illustrations that are often integral to the lesson were barely discernible. On the other hand, the images in the science texts that I checked out for comparison seemed to be fairly regularly clear. If you are seriously interested in McGuffey's Readers, tho', I would recommend finding a print version with clear illustrations.
  • If you prefer more "modern" prose and instruction, as compared to the style of the 1800's, then these may be a little thick for you to slog through.
  • Likewise, if you don't appreciate an old-fashioned type-face, these may be difficult for you to read on a regular basis. (Ok, so maybe I'm odd, but sometimes my ability to concentrate gets waylaid by an odd typeset or font....)
  • For those that dislike teaching from a computer, and would rather have a "hard copy" book in their hands... these are definitely NOT for you, unless printing isn't an expense that you worry about.
My final analysis~
  • Much of what is contained in these books doesn't really fit * my style * of teaching (or learning), but it could be modified. While much of what is included is scripted in old-style language, that could either be changed, or used as a "hook" to gain your student's interest. (Like... "Why is mom talking like that, with those funny words like "hence"?" )
  • This could be exactly what a number of you may be looking for in a very "no frills", old-fashioned sort of education...
  • I would definitely look elsewhere for science and history spines, and use those that are included as occasional supplements. I certainly thought that the Nature Book on the Science CD would be a nice supplement to those doing a nature study, particularly in conjunction with Anna Botsford Comstock's "Handbook of Nature Study" (She wrote the preface to the Nature Book).
  • I can't speak to the numerous books included that are High School level, as I haven't gotten there yet (My oldest is only 12). My guess is that Ray's Arithmetic would be a good fit for a self-motivated student, and that the Grammar books would be good references as well.
So just exactly how much money are we talking about here?

Well, the entire set (Over 100 "books") is available for $159
If you are only interested in one or two of the series, you can purchase the Ray's Arithmetic CD for $59, and each of the others is available for $39.
Satisfaction is guaranteed, with a full 30 day refund if you aren't happy.

Be sure to check out the rest of the TOS Crew mates' reviews to get a more complete picture if you are interested, as this could be a very economical purchase for the right family, and I know that a variety of opinions may be useful.

As always, I hope that this review has been useful to you as you consider where to best spend your homeschool budget.
Blessings~


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this item/service for free as part of the TOS Crew Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Math Tutor DVD~ Young Minds~ Numbers and counting

Math Tutor DVD provides math help on DVD to students taking courses in Basic Math, all levels of Algebra, Trig, Calculus, Probability, and Physics.This year the TOS Crew received a variety of DVD's from MathTutorDVD.com . Having gotten two DVD's last year for review (<-read here) with no accounting for age, I was delighted to have something to review with my 2 year-old.
We received the Young Minds Numbers and Counting DVD.
Young Minds - Numbers And Counting

Now, I have to say that I really didn't know what to expect, after watching the Algebra 2 and Word Problems DVDs last year. I just wasn't sure how Jason Gibson was going to pull off "teaching/entertaining" the preschool crowd. ;)

We popped the DVD in while the two olders were doing "Their" math, and the 2 year-old was riveted! Counting from 1 to 10 is the focus with each number receiving it's fair share of attention
  • as few as 6 and as many as 16 different pictures for each number
  • stunning photography (!)
  • narration by a sweet child's voice~ the picture is named and then briefly described~ for instance "The elk in the middle has large horns"
  • classical music for a background
Aren't these gorgeous? They are just the tip of the iceberg!
Some are still images, and some are actual video (The turtle is one....)
Screenshot2 Screenshot1

*I just have to make a note here about the Classical Music... these are quality productions and recordings, not computer generated, and VERY pleasant to the adult ear. Nice combination of music and math to stimulate those neural pathways too! :) Check it out~(Just a note... not sure why their youTube video is so "jerky" and the audio is not synced correctly with the video, but the DVD is *lovely*, and I thought you might like to get even just a glimpse of how it sounds...;) )



There are some bonus features that are a nice addition....
  • Guess the Animal~ the video pans close up, while the child narrator describes the animal to give a clue~
  • Connect the Dots~ Perfect introduction to the concept of Connect-the-Dots. A connect-the-dots picture is shown, and a colored line follows from dot-to-dot while the narrating child says "From one to two to three to four to five....." My only dislike here is that JD2 started counting like that, instead of just straight 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, he started saying "1 to 2 to 3 to 4...." but that seemed to be fairly short-lived, which is good. ;)
  • Picture Puzzles, similarly takes a "jigsawed" background (starting with 2 pieces and going up to 10 pieces), the child narrator counts the pieces as they slide into place, and then describes the image. I *loved* the sweet voice... "Let's do anuver puzzle wiff 6 pieces" (Not concerned about the mispronunciations, I felt they totally added to the feel! :) )
The only downside I could find was the cost, which was more than I normally pay for any DVD (But I *am* a bargain hunter first and foremost) $19.99 (list price $29.99). I think I would put this into the nice "gift" category, rather than spontaneous purchase, although your pocketbook may not blink twice. :)

Oh, and I should mention ~ JD2 had recently watched the Young Minds DVD a few times, when he pulled a number book off my bookshelf to read in bed one Saturday morning. In the midst of pointing to the numbers and saying them out loud, he pointed to the "6", and said his version of "six" ! Of course, he also figured that "9" should be "six", but I thought... "interesting", and lightly quizzed him... he could identify 6 or so of the first 10 numerals by sight! Cool! Only a couple of weeks later did I wonder if maybe there was a correlation between the DVD and his number recognition... and while I can definitely say that was not his sole exposure to numerals, I think it certainly helped.

This has been one of my favorite products so far~ It is great for JD2, and is VERY pleasant as "Background" for the rest of us to listen to and watch.

If you are interested in this or any other Math Tutor DVD, I recommend going to the the MathTutorDVD website, and scrolling down~ There are a number of free video samples linked on the left hand side, so you can try before you buy... :)

I hope this review has been useful to you and as always, check out my fellow TOS Crewmates reviews of the MathTutor DVDs, ( as some of them received different DVDs for different ages) to help you make the most sound decisions on where to spend your homeschool budget.

Blessings~


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this item/service for free as part of the TOS Crew Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Monday, February 8, 2010

Kinderbach~ Music/Piano For PreK-Early Grammar

Home

Last year the TOS Crew reviewed Kinderbach, an online(or DVD) music/piano "class" for the youngest students. Children learn music vocabulary, note reading, rhythm, physical technique, ‘do, re mi’ singing, listening skills and music composition, as well as just plain "music-making).

This year the First Mates were included again in the review process. You can read my review from last year here.

Please note that there have been some enhancements to the site since we last saw it in early 2009:

The course has been expanded to level 6
There are some new coloring and craft/game books

More enhancements on the way...
Song book videos with two videos for each song, one "Demonstration" video, with the song being played, and one "instructional" video with a "bouncing ball".

The price:
Web Membership:
The one time payment for a year's subscription has increased only incrementally $95.88 ($7.99/month)
The monthly subscription payment option has gone up more substantially to $19.99/month

DVD Package prices are available here.

The only other thing I would change from my review last year, is that I have noticed this time around that the accompaniment is often louder than the words, when songs are being sung, so we were straining to catch them, when just listening. Other than that, I'd say that my review stands as is. :)

For new, "first time" opinions, please check out what the rest of the TOS Crew has to say.... I hope this will help you to determine if Kinderbach will be a good fit for your family, both in content and financially.

Blessings~

Thursday, February 4, 2010

HomeSchool Library Builder (HSLB) Helping Haiti and 20-35% off!

homeschool books, homeschooling resources, home school library builder
The TOS Crew reviewed HomeSchool Library Builder(HSLB) last year, and they are a "vendor" again this year. We didn' t receive anything (by way of compensation, either physical goods or virtual) from HSLB, but are rather pointing out their service, and specials.

HSLB is kind of like a "new and used" book store on the web, but rather than gouging prices, the lovely homeschool moms that run HSLB just try to offer good, reasonable, common sense service. You can search by curriculum and age, as well as other criteria for books to flesh out your homeschool library shelves.

Because my basic opinions (GOOD!) of HSLB haven't changed, I would like to point you to my review from November '08 and ask you to check them out! (good books, low prices, great service, and a free membership "points" program are some of the features that I expounded upon....)

Right now they are offering a couple of specials that I would like to mention here,
with one being very time-sensitive in nature:

During the month of February, save 20% off the entire site!
(not bad for their already low prices!)


On Super Bowl Sunday, you have the opportunity to save another 15%
(for a total of 35% on orders placed on Sunday)

AND be a Helping Hand for Haiti

You do need to plan ahead a little tho'.... here' s the deal:

1. Make a donation in any amount to Heartline Ministries
2. Email HSLB ( info@hslibrarybuilder.com ) by midnight Central Standard Time on Saturday, February 6, letting them know that you donated to Heartline Ministries
3. They will send you a 15% off coupon code to use when you purchase on Superbowl Sunday

Please, do go check HSLB out, and see if you don't find something that you were looking for, and at a price you can handle. (Oh, and I should mention... the good ladies at HSLB are always trying to give a Helping Hand to someone... They have a "category" called Helping Hand, in which all monies from books purchased in that category go to help a specific need. Currently, they are trying to raise a year's sponsorship for a Compassion International Child... Pretty cool! )

As always, I hope that this helps you to spend your homeschooling budget wisely. :)

Blessings~

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Facts First by Saxon Homeschool /Skills Tutor


Remember I said there would be more MATH reviews up and coming.... well, here's another (And there will be more!!! Yup! Math intensive at the TOS Crew this year! :) ) This time the Crew were given a free 90 day trial to facts first, an online math practice program that promotes fluency in the basic skills of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division(so ideal for K-4th grade).

If your children are enticed by "Creating" (and changing up) avatars, and "arcade-type" games, then this might be a fun supplement for your early elementary student.

The first thing to do is take a "pretest" for the first set of facts for the given operation (generally starting with the number 1) (you can see a screen shot below of the first Division screen)
Facts First "Choose a topic"
After initially setting up their avatar(Starting with something fun...) , the basic concept is "Something Done, Something Fun".... The student must complete a lesson (where they learn or show mastery of two specific math problems, like 22/ 2 and 24/2 as you see above) going through new facts, commutative property, practice, quiz, and scoring, at which point they are given 5 minutes of "arcade" time. The Arcade time consists of 5 games that reinforce what was learned in a relaxed atmosphere before moving on to another lesson. The student can choose which game to play, and can switch to another game in the course of their 5 minutes, if so desired.

So, now that you have an idea of "what" facts first is, I'll give you our impressions:
Pros:
  • Even though the target age is lower than my 12 year old, I signed both of my kids up~ In part because RJP likes to "play" with avatars, and while the math facts practice isn't terrible, the target range is most certainly correct.... However, if you have an older student that is struggling with their facts, and they like the "arcade" style, this could be a good fit.
  • The 9 year old enjoyed having facts first as his "reward" for getting other schoolwork done, so in his case, the arcade incentive worked well, and his math facts got a little more of a work out.
  • My 9 YO also like the fact that the math work isn't "timed" per se, you just have to go as fast as you can... timed work can make him anxious, even if he knows what he's doing cold!
  • If your student has mastered a specific set, they "test out" of that pretest, and it is recommended that they go on to the next pretest, so not TOO much time is spent on facts already mastered. This is one of the things I like about these "adaptive" online programs~ They eliminate a lot of wasted time for students that are proficient.
  • The "Visual" of how many facts have been mastered can be encouraging!
Cons:
  • The process of "Pretesting" may be a little slow for your advanced 2nd-4th grader
  • The "speed" of the games may be a little slow, particularly for kids used to fast-paced video games...(Although the pace may be just right for the youngest students...)
  • The speed of the "Scoring" section is a little slow (But that could just be my ancient computer... not sure on that one)(Can you tell that I hate to waste time "waiting" ??? ;) )
Cost:
I hope that this information is useful to you, as you choose how to most wisely spend your homeschool dollars. If you would like a wider variety of opinions, please visit the TOS Crew Blog, to see what my "Mates" had to say.

Blessings~




Monday, February 1, 2010

Math Score Online Math Practice/Curriculum

Wow... more math~ Who'd a thunk it? :) (And there is even MORE on the horizon...)

This time the TOS Crew members were given free subscriptions to:
Math Practice by MathScore
Mathscore.com is a no frills(or few frills from a student perspective) online math practice site developed by MIT Graduates. This site serves the youngest elementary students through those who are learning algebra, with "keyboarding skills" focusing on the numberpad (CopyCat practice, and CopyCat), and basic, timed math facts practice from addition all the way up to quadratic formulas and nonlinear functions(Grade 9).

The topics are listed in increasing difficulty for appropriate grades. For example, Grade 1 has 20 topics to cover, including learning to use the number pad, simple math facts, counting money, and patterns to name a few, while Grade 8 starts with the "review topics" of "Fast addition, Fast Multiplication, Etc...", and continues on through 63 topics of increasing difficulty, ending with "Nonlinear Functions and Domain and Range" (The final two topics are further keyboarding skills that incorporate typing with letters as well as numbers).

There is a lot to appreciate about this site:
  • Each "topic" includes a "mini lesson" that explains how to work the problems, as well as a page of "sample questions" to go over, before proceeding to the timed worksheet.
  • The worksheets are the meat of this program. Each one starts with a few questions, and depending on how well the student performs, the next worksheet is more difficult (ie has more problems), and/or has less time allotted.
  • Bonus #1 *parents are able to "pad" the amount of time allowed for each worksheet, which can help with children who don't process quite as quickly, or just need a little extra time... But I do recommend remembering to remove that "pad" after they have achieved some success in the given topic.
  • Bonus #2 If you want to use this to supplement a curriculum, you aren't forced into one section of the site.... you are allowed to access the entire curriculum, and choose the topics that compliment each day's work for extra practice.
  • I know I said this was a "no frills" site, and for the most part, for the students, that is true. However, there is an element of fun in trying to beat the clock, and achieve a higher "Rank" (complete with fireworks to celebrate!), and also the ability to earn trophies.
My daughter achieved this goal:
Fingers of Fury Trophy
And now her trophy room looks like this:
Trophy Room
She had achieved proficiency in other topics, but hadn't really explored the trophy option.... which requires more excellent ratings, and now she really wants to continue, to fill in the trophies that she should be able to acquire with relative ease, but I have to get this review done, so I was the mean mommy, and said "no more math tonight!!!" ;)
  • It can be assumed that if you have a student that is highly motivated by competition and "Completing" tasks (I have one that is, and one that is less so....), this could be a great site.
  • You have the ability to check on each student's activity for any range of time (here's a screenshot of one Activity Summary.
Activity Summary
  • You also have the option to have an activity summary emailed to you on a daily or weekly basis (Based on if your children have logged in to mathscore.com in that timeframe.) This is particularly nice if you would like to share their progress, either with an overseeing institution, as is required in some states, or just with Grandma and Grandpa. :)
Now... if you have a student that requires lots of hands-on help, isn't self-motivated, or has a difficult time with.... well..... TIMED drills, then this might not be quite as useful. The great thing is that Mathscore offers a 2 week free trial so you can see for yourself if this will work well for your family and/or individual students.

The price seems reasonable, when compared with other web-based math programs (Don't forget, this offers automatic "attendence" and "grading", so that's one more thing you don't have to worry about...)
The regular price per month is:
$14.95 for the first child
$5 for the 2nd child, and
$3.95 for any additional children.

For a savings of $5/month, or $45 over the 9 month period.
There is also a "prepay" discount for a 9 Month Purchase which works out to:
1st Student $9.95
2nd Student $5.00
Each Additional Student $3.95
  • There is another great benefit to mathscore.com, in that you are able to "Freeze" your account during vacation times, etc.... so that you aren't paying for a service that you aren't using.
  • Oh, one other benefit, in line with this, is that mathscore.com is entirely web-based, so even if you are traveling, if you have access to any computer (Say, and extended visit to family....) then your student is able to sign on and put in their math time!
All in all, I think that this is a good option out there, particularly for those on more of a budget, and/or for those who have particularly highly motivated students. I also appreciate that you aren't "locked" into any grade, or topic, and are able to freely move your children about as you find most beneficial for your particular circumstances.

Here are some interesting statistics on the efficacy of Mathscore.com in "traditional school settings" in case you are interested in some more long-term information as well.

As always, check out what the rest of the TOS Crew has to say, and I hope that this review is helpful to you as you chose where to most wisely allocate your homeschool budget.
Blessings~

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