Wednesday, May 6, 2015

How Might Your Children Close Math Learning Gaps? {An A+ Interactive Math Review}

Despite the fact that our family chooses a rather relaxed, eclectic home education style with little to no formal testing, when we were offered an opportunity to review the Adaptive Placement Test and Individualized Lesson Plan by A+ Interactive Math , I took it.  

The Potential of A+ Interactive Math's Adaptive Placement Test and Individualized Lesson Plan

As I read about what the program had to offer, I was confident that it might prove an effective fit for the children's needs and my own.  I thought:

  • My children typically enjoy online learning programs.  This one offers multi-media lessons, practice problems, step-by-step solutions and more.  That could meet the children's desire to do more things online and my wish to make some of their online time "on point" with engaging learning.

  • Since we focus largely on interest-led learning, definite gaps exist in what my children have mastered as compared to peers typically educated in brick-and-mortar buildings.  Eventually these gaps will fill, I know.  The idea of a program that might spark an interest and desire in my children to painlessly find and fill "gaps" with ease, enjoyment and expedience is appealing.
  • My inner Type A/former-teacher self still likes to have "i's dotted", "t's crossed" and boxes checked even while my "relaxed", eclectic home educator self chooses to focus largely on strength-based, child-led learning.  Short, focused lessons on key topics, interspersed between longer sessions of hands-on and experiential learning, have become a norm for our family.  The concise lessons offered online in the Adaptive Placement Test and Individualized Lesson Plan could be a super tool for us, helping me be certain the children have mastered specific concepts while engaging my children in easy, enjoyable, individualized lessons.

In short, I hoped that my children would welcome the Adaptive Placement Test and Individualized Lesson Plan as a tool for learning and that, through using it, they might build stronger math mastery with smiles and success.

The Reality of A+ Interactive Math's Adaptive Placement Test and Individualized Lesson Plan in Our Home

When deciding what to review here at Training Happy Hearts, I only accept review products what I think might work for our family and, after using a given product, I am candid about our experience with it.  I love to be able to find - and recommend - products that have proven successful with our family and could help others. 
The Adaptive Placement Test and Individualized Lesson Plan, in my family's experience, fits half the bill of what I love:  It is a is a well-developed, sound program that follows through on the basics of what it promises:  online lessons, practice, review, grading and tracking that can help children close learning gaps in a typical math curriculum through an easy-to-use interface with carefully selected content and features.   Unfortunately, for our family, it did not prove the best fit.  The "engaging" and "fun" part just did not happen and, since the curriculum it fills the gaps for is a typical "Common Core" aligned one, both my husband and I found some of the vocabulary, concepts and learning points it focused on unnecessary.  We are far more into practical life applications than modern math processes and lingo.
That said, I do think the program has merit.  If I did not, I would not have tried it.

Our Seven-Year-Old's Take

I introduced the program with enthusiasm to my daughter first and sat down next to her using its easy interface.

After viewing the How to Get Started tutorials, we quickly began the Placement Test.  Although it, too, was easy to use with its voice, text and graphics, the content was too challenging for her, and she soon became discouraged.  

we called it quits for the day and I later logged into my portion of the software to change the settings for Nina to a lower grade level.  At this level, Nina met with a bit more success, but still did not love the program nor was she eager to use it.   Despite her lack of enthusiasm, I did persist in re-introducing it to her and, as I sat down to write this review, Nina had the following to say:

Aren't there kids who have such strict stuff to do that it would be a treat to be online instead of getting stuff on paper to do?  They might like it... It (the program) was okay, but it was a little hard at certain levels.  Others were easy.  (I'd) maybe (like to continue it.)...  There is value in learning a lot of math problems... Sometimes they did a good job explaining things that were confusing, but some things I still did not understand.  I might want to use it again.

Our Nine year Old's Take

My oldest son Luke was far less positive about the program than his sister.  When chatting about the
Adaptive Placement Test and Individualized Lesson Plan before writing this review, his sister had looked for the good in it and had even suggested that she might like to continue to use it, because she can see its potential value for her.  Luke, however, bluntly stated:

I never, ever want to do it again.  It is the worst thing in the world.  It's so boring.  I'd rather do the laundry...  I did it because my moms made me do it...

For although he had found the actual interface of the program easy to navigate and use, he had not been engaged by the content and its presentation.  I knew this since I had sat next to Luke during some of his use of the program, and had been nearby during others.  Thus, as I talked with him about the program, I agreed that the it was not a "perfect" fit for him, since it just did not appeal to him in the way of being fun and engaging, but encouraged him to continue to use it sometimes.  I pointed out that, through our collective prior persistence to get Luke to use the program, he had, in fact, been introduced to concepts he had been hitherto unfamiliar with and, through the adaptive nature of the testing, had proven that he could succeed with questions about those things.   

I asked him if that success felt good>  He shrugged non-commitedly.  So I inquired about his overall experience with the program, "Did you learn anything?"  His reply was:

No.  I forgot everything the math test asked me.

Frankly, I know Luke has not forgotten everything, but I dare say, he has forgotten some of it.  When Luke is not engaged in something, he can do what he needs to to get by and be done with it, but he does not always retain information long term.  With his neurology, our son is definitely one where learning must be intrinsically motivated.  Once it is, mastery comes quickly.  Unfortunately, this program did not capture him enough to ensure such mastery happened on a regular basis.

Still, when I asked Like if he felt the program might be good for anyone else, he went on to conclude:

Yea, those who like being bored.  Only parents like it.

My Take

Of course, I do not agree Luke's assessment of the program in full.  Luke's own sister sees value in the program and, as other reviews will show, some other children like it even more.  Parents do, too. 
As I mentioned before, despite the fact that the program is not a great fit for my family, I see value in it.  Sure, it is not as fun and engaging for mine as I had hoped it would be, but it might be for others.  And, yes, it includes far more emphasis on modern math teaching methods and lingo than either my husband or I feel is necessary, but that style might work for some. 

Regardless of whether the program was "right" for us, I truly feel that the Adaptive Placement Test and Individualized Lesson Plan could be an effective fit for children in schools or at home who seek to know where their gaps in a modern, traditional math program are and who wish to be able to fill those gaps through the use of an easy-to-use interface that provides concise, "on point" lessons, review and testing toward math mastery.    I like that, even if the program was not the best fit for my son, in particular, it is straightforward and encouraging, letting students know when they needed extra help, assuring them they can get that help and providing targeted lessons to "fill the gaps". 

All things considered, I will continue to encourage my daughter to use the program as she asks to do so while we still have access to it and, in doing so, will hold out hope that my son may choose to jump aboard with it again since, if nothing else, it provides some math practice for him while also offering him a chance to exercise persistence.

Learn More

A+ Interactive Math Review

Find A+ Interactive Math on:

View a demo of the program.

Purchase 3-months online access at the current introductory sale rate of $29.99 with further discounts for additional students

A+ Interactive Math Review

Read what other Schoolhouse Review Crew families thought about the Adaptive Placement Test and Individualized Lesson Plan and another quality program, the Family Math Package 

A+ Interactive Math Review

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