Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Traditional Math Practice for "Us"schooling {A Review}

As a family that currently practices a delight-directed, experiential style of home education, we rarely make time for traditional math studies. So, when I was offered a chance to try out a 12 month subscription for two students to Mathletics from 3P Learning in exchange for an honest review, I decided to go for it. 

My children enjoy online learning endeavors and I like offering them choices that might increase their skills and knowledge. Mathletics, then, seemed a good fit for us for the summer (and the rest of our year, for that matter!) I could introduce it to the children. They could choose to use it as they wished during their online quiet times. And, we could all smile over some online math practice to round out our more experiential learning adventures. 

What is Mathletics? (And Which Parts Appealed Most to My Kids) 

Mathletics is an online math program that offers a wide array of activities to help students at K-12 grade levels practice math skills while having fun. It is designed to be used a supplement to other math programs and aligns to Common Core Math Standards as well as to a number of other state standards, for those who are into that sort of thing. It is also, in our experience, a worthwhile opportunity for online math practice that children will choose to pursue. (And cheer each other on with as they do!)

Within Mathletics, there are a number of features that children can easily access through clicking on buttons on the right side of the student console (which my children enjoyed to greater and lesser degrees according to their preferences): 

  • Live Mathletics – where children can compete with others from all over the world. (This is what my son Luke liked most!) 

  •  Activities – where children complete lessons to earn gold bars (The earning – or lack of earning – of bars motivated my children at some points and discouraged one of them at others.) 

  • Problem Solving – where children can play games that their gold bars unlock (At first, my son did not figure out that doing Activities could earn him bars to unlock more Problem Solving games. When he did, he became more apt to choose Activities.) 

  • Concept Search – where children can access an “encyclopedia” of math terms with video explanations (which I taught my son to use when he was unsure of a term in the Activities) 

  • Rainforest Maths – where children can enjoy free play with math (although, for some odd reason, my children have not opted for mcuh enjoyment here yet) 

  • Times Tables Toons – where children can view music videos to practice multiplication facts (My children are not as into these, but the videos are cute.) 

Our Experience 

Mathletics recommends that children use the program for at least 20 minutes three times a week to see maximum benefit. Being summer, and with me typically setting a 15 minutes-on-the-computer-at-a-time guideline, we were not as consistent about doing this as we could have been. However, my children still benefited from the program.

Luke and Nina chose Mathletics for online time on their own at times and with a leading suggestion by me at others. When they did so, they were able to use the program with relative independence to enjoy online math practice and learning. (I say “relative” because sometimes they called me over to help them figure out some things and often they guided one another.) 

Nina tended to use the Activities section of the site as well as Live Mathletics. As she used the latter, she smiled and made comments about how she was not really competing, just seeing how she could do. (I love that even in a competitive arena she finds her own comfort zone!) 

As a developing reader, Nina also took advantage of the audio feature of the program that reads questions aloud. I so appreciated this feature as it helped Nina practice math without being impeded by developing fluency in reading

I also liked that the program is adaptive and presents children with questions of increasing difficulty. For, Nina is a child that gets discouraged easily and the way the program seemed to intuitively adapt to her abilities seemed to keep frustration levels at bay! 

Luke, unlike his sister, is all about the competition! He sometimes worked on Activities and Problem Solving, but for the mot part, stuck to Live Mathletics. This thrilled me since Luke does not usually choose repetitive practice of anything but can certainly use some as far as facts go. Having the opportunity to compete against other children online all over the world and to earn credits to play round with his Mathletics avatar worked the “magic” it is meant to for Luke. It got my boy to choose relatively rote learning and practice. In fact, when I told Luke I was ready to write my review and asked him what he thought about Mathletics, he commented that he liked “Live Mathletics because I can go up against other people and see how good I am... I like that if I get enough points I earn things.” Enough said! 

Obviously, there are features of Mathletics that we have yet to take full advantage of – such as Rainforest Maths – and some I have yet to use at all, such as printable workbooks. 

Even without delving into these fully yet, though, we found Mathletics a “win” for our family

In addition to what I have already mentioned that I like about the program, I appreciated: 

  • the wide spectrum of mathematical skills children can practice within the program

  • the opportunity for the children to seek questions that are easier or more challenging with the click of a button

  • the fact that the program is used by over 3.5 million children worldwide, meaning that there is always someone to compete with in Live Mathletics, 24/7.

  • the ability for me to make changes to the grade level/standards the questions my children will be asked using the parent controls 

  • the fact that the program fits well as a cross-over between our family’s current delight-directed approach to learning (with my children choosing to use it!) and my own personal desire to occasionally unobtrusively assess where my children’s abilities are at (which is easy with the parent report feature) 

In short, so far, Mathletics has been for us exactly what I had hoped it would be when I signed up to review it – a good fit for adding a bit of traditional learning to our not-so-traditional approach to home education. The children have found Mathletics to provide an engaging, fun online experience while I have appreciated that the program fosters independent math practice and learning! We will definitely continue to use the program. 

Learn More 

  • See screenshots and photos from 70+ other families who have been using Mathletics and read about how they weave it into their homeschool approach by clicking through links at School House Review Crew.

Click to read Crew Reviews

 If you tend toward the delight-directed, "unschooly" approach, too, what are your favorite resources for offering Mathematical learning and practice your children might choose?

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