Monday, March 18, 2013

TouchMath "Hands-on Math"

Look what I found on the porch, Mom!
Littlest is a number boy... He enjoys numbers and math and was actually asking if he could have math every day, right before we found out that we would be on this review. Talk about a happy boy! 

See what's inside! Wow!
We received the First Grade Unit Downloads, along with a select number of hands-on manipulatives. Check out the size of that box!  

TouchMath  can provide a complete core math curriculum, or be used as a supplement for students who are delayed in their math skills. The basic philosophy of TouchMath is for the student to 
see it
say it
hear it 
touch it
learn it
This is accomplished with a variety of activities and manipulatives.

 Downloadable Units

Circle specific # color lesser #

The basic item for this review is the downloadable unit. I received all 4 units for the first grade curriuclum,  in 4 pdf files, with each one running over 200 pages. Those pages include an overview, the sequence of skills taught, module descriptions, module guides, instructional strategies, reproducible activity sheets, and charts for assessment and progress monitoring.  

The module guides make this very much a scripted program, with page-by-page instructions/answer keys, as well as suggestions for extra instruction, resources, and assessment tools. 

For our purposes, I chose to let my son use my ipad and the pdf-notes app (Free version) to fill out his worksheets. This was great, because he enjoyed using the "pens and highlighters" in the app to do his work.   

Because he is only 5, I am not terribly strict on his writing everything every time, but surely do enjoy seeing his colorful take on those worksheets. Certainly adds a little pizzazz, and erasing is pretty easy as well! :) 

The recommendation from TouchMath as far as actual time spent per lesson per day is approximately 2x their age, so for my 5 year old, 10-12 minutes per day was it. Some days we took a little less time, if he wanted to whip through two or more worksheets, others, he was very detailed in his coloring (As you can see by the fishies on the number 4 page to your right), so we would only get through one worksheet.


Contents of that big box at the top of the post.
After that, we would pull out the appropriate flip cards (Essentially flash cards that coordinate with the program) and play with those as suggested. He was delighted to figure out "Which number is missing" in a run of numbers in the first set of flip cards, which introduced numerals up to 120 as well as "What comes before/after" a run of numbers that were placed in a line.

We finally arrived at the module which suggested use of the software... which begins with introducing the touch points (Circles on the numerals) and reinforcing their placement on the actual numerals, as you can see on the number 4 worksheet above, as well as the matching worksheet. 

So far, I appreciate the structure of the program, although *I* don't quite understand the significance of the touch points placement. I have the feeling that I must be missing something, OR I'm trying to get more out of their placement than might be intended... OR I haven't gotten to that point of the program yet where it is explained. There is a definite order in which they are to be counted, but it doesn't always logically follow the order in which a number is drawn, which is confusing to *me* but so far not to my son, so I'm not letting it bother me. ;) This may sound like a random statement, but it comes into play when using the software.

The software is bright and attractive, with very specific directions most of the the time. 

However, there were a few things that were a bit troublesome to me, and that could be improved upon, in my very humble opinion.
The very first portion of the software is a pretest, which contains all of the numerals from 1-9 in random order, and a row of 10 touchpoints. The child must be able to successfully place the touchpoints on the correct spot and in the correct order to move on to the next numeral (There is no option to say "I don't know" or to have the program move on if it is clear that the child doesn't know).

Once we got through the pre-test by referring back to the worksheets/number cards (as inferred above, I didn't realize the importance of the order as well as specific placement of the touchpoints so we were a little "loose" when going through the worksheets, as long as the number was correct... OOPS... bad choice, mom?), the second portion of the software began to teach where each touchpoint should be placed. 

Ummm.... didn't we just cover that? Again, the software didn't allow "mistakes" and moving on during the "pretest," which meant the order and placement had to be taught in order to pass the pre-test. I believe that a fair amount of frustration and wasted time could be avoided if the order were reversed, with the instruction first, and the pre-test becoming a post-testThis just didn't gel for me or my son. 

***editing after this posted: I have been exploring the software (and the teacher's guide) a little more this week now that this is where we are in the program, and there IS a go-around for some of my frustrations, although it is a little more involved than I might hope for.  

The last page of the guide talks about student assessment and teacher options, which are accessed by pressing the apple button at the top of the screen (after selecting a student in the list). You come to this screen (I used a "test student"  here, just for informational purposes). 

To the far right there are a bunch of little locks... if you click on them they they will give or remove access to each topic. This wasn't apparent to me when I first tried it, because their appearance doesn't really change... The "bar" on the lock doesn't swing out to the right, as with most "unlock" icons, it just floats a bit above the lock~ which makes it very hard to distinguish the fact that something has changed. Can you tell which lock is actually locked in this screenshot? It's a little more tricky, and a lot less obvious than I would hope for... 

That being said, it *is* possible to lock out the pretest and proceed directly to the "learning" and "placing" topics. Hopefully this will make it easier to navigate the software for someone else My opinion that follows about navigation still stands. (End of update)

I also think that the software would be more user-friendly if one had the ability to navigate back and forth through the sections. For example, within the "Teaching Section" it would be nice to skip directly to a specific number, so that portion of the software lesson could be used in conjunction with the first worksheet lesson and number card that introduces the touch points for that numeral. You can see an example of this early portion of the software here:
In general, so far I have found the pace of the software to be a little on the slow side for *my* five-year-old, BUT he has also been very patient with the program, so I have counted that as a good thing, since patience is not one of his strong points sometimes. ;)  I can see that this software would be excellent for a child that requires a slower, steady, very specific pace. Please keep in mind that the software is not required for this program, it is just an extra that may  or may not be a good fit for your child. I am looking forward to seeing how he deals with the later instruction like we see in this video: 

We haven't gotten to using the foam numerals much yet (that comes this week, with beginning subtraction), but he can't wait to get his hands on them. :) I can see that they will be a useful manipulative/visual, as the points are placed on the numerals and removed in a subtraction sentence. This will probably be one of my favorite extras to the actual module. 

The number cards can be used to introduce the touch points, their placement, order, as well as manipulatives for teaching basic addition, subtraction and multiplication. 

My current impression for this program is that it is a solid beginning math program (Downloadable Units). I think there is so much information included in the manuals, and with each manipulative that it could take a few more weeks than we had to figure out how it all works together, and be utilizing the program to it's highest potential. 

Your mileage may vary with the extras (Manipulatives/Software) depending on the circumstances and abilities of your child. If you have any specific questions about this program, and our findings as we use it, please ask in the comments (Or call me if you are local), and I will answer to the best of my ability. :)

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty

Company: TouchMath
Product: First Grade  Downloads and select manipulatives:
  • Printable Unit Downloads ($59.95 each, or $199.95 for all four)
  • TouchMath Tutor 1st Grade Software ($99)
  • Touch Numerals w/ Base 10 ($99)
  • Flip Cards ($19/set~ we received 12 sets~ complete for 1st grade)
  • Student Number Cards ($24)
Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Review Crew and see what others had to say. As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.
Disclaimer: I received this/these item(s)/service for free as part of the TOS Review Crew 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 Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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