Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Review: Mathletics

Over this past month we have been reviewing an online math curriculum to keep the girls fresh on their math facts over the summer. We received a one year subscription to Mathletics from 3P Learning. 

What is Mathletics? It is an online program for all ages and grade levels, designed to reinforce and teach math curriculum in a fun and challenging environment, and teach students to better their math skills through daily exercise of those skills. (Athletics - Mathletics) There are so many different aspects to this program, that I intend to list them one at a time and give a little explanation of what each one is. Since Mathletics is available worldwide, students are given the opportunity to challenge themselves against other students around the world in a timed race of solving math problems. There are also areas to watch videos, problem solve, earn medals (like the Olympics), and parents can even print out workbooks for the student to use when online access is not available, or when the parent deems that some extra practice on paper would be helpful.

How we used it: For our review, I signed up Laura to try out the high school math section, and Melissa to stay sharp on the Algebra she started last year in 7th grade, and will be continuing this year in 8th grade. Laura has been working on Geometry and Trigonometry this past year, and does very well with all the advanced math, but has lost a little focus on her Algebra skills since she hasn't used them in a few years. Our intention was to have Laura refresh herself on those skills in preparation for taking the SAT.

How do you get started? After signing up, the parent creates student accounts, and the students can go in and make their own avatar to represent themselves while online. Melissa loved this and spent a lot of time here. Laura, the no-nonsense student, didn't care as much about it. One thing I wanted to mention was that the student's full name is not used while they are online. The girls were identified by first name and last initial, as well as Team USA because that's where they are from. I appreciated that type of secure environment. Also, even though there is one part of the program where they can 'race' and compete against other students randomly selected from around the world, there is not a chat feature, or anything that I would deem inappropriate for children to use while online. Parents also can select a grade level (or subject area for the high school levels) for their student to work through. Once the student is working through the lessons, this can be changed if they find it too challenging or too easy.

Free trial: Parents can sign their students up for a free 10 day trial to check out the program.

A walk through the program: 

When the student chooses to participate in online math competition, they see this screen and the computer shows what country other randomly generated students are located in.

The actual online math competition looks like this:

Students type in their answers as fast as they can, and race against their competitors to win with the best time and the most correct answers. There are multiple levels of competition, from beginner to very complicated math facts. Students add up points by winning, getting correct answers, and having the best scores.

Other activities that students complete allow them to earn medals. Each level of math has multiple levels that can be earned. As students earn gold medals, they are able to unlock new fun games. This actually was a great motivator, as the girls would quickly get tired of playing the same game or two, and want to unlock more.

As students complete activities and earn medals, there are certificates available that the parent can print out. They are full page, nice certificates given that show the student's full name and what they have achieved. 

There are also weekly reports and ways for the parent to assess the student's strengths and weaknesses, and to see how much time they have spent, and what they have accomplished. 

This first report shows the correct answer as well as the answer that the student gave for the Mathletics competitions. It allows the student and parent both to see answers that are consistently incorrect. 

This report shows the parent the dates that lessons were attempted, and work that was accomplished. Since students can keep working through the same lesson until they master it and score 100%, earning their rewards, this report ensures that the parent really knows how many attempts were made before the student mastered it. As you can see from this report, the score kept increasing until Melissa finally mastered the lesson over a period of a few days.

There is also a report that shows the progress of how many various parts of a lesson that a student has worked through, along with the score received. It shows how much is left to accomplish, and there is a section where parents can actually create assignments for the student to complete. 

Another really neat aspect of the program is that the full curriculum section has actual workbooks that the teacher can download and print. There are videos that accompany many of the lessons and show the problems being worked through. There are interactive lessons for the students to watch. Teacher books have answers and solution keys. A parent could use this as a complete curriculum if they desired.

Here is a sample page from an Algebra workbook.

There is some repetition in the workbooks, which I feel is very important. Students are seeing multiple variations of the same concept. These concepts are then reinforced through the videos, interactive lessons, problem solving section, and the games.

Also included is an extra activity to review facts, called Rainforest Math. For the most part, it is not as 'techy' and tedious as the Mathletics curriculum lessons, and students enjoy the colorful review activities.

Overall opinion: While I have enjoyed using this as a supplement for the girls over the summer, I don't think I would use it as a complete curriculum. It has a lot of really creative ideas, and I think it covers a vast amount of material for all grade levels. I think the website is cumbersome and could be simpler and easier to navigate. It also feels like there are too many things going on all at once, and the kids found that kind of confusing. Also, because it is aligned with common core, much of the wording in the lessons was different than the way the girls have learned how to do the math. Since we are using it as review of previously learned concepts, they found that frustrating.  I will continue to have them use it over the summer, though, to expose them to some different methods and keep their brains sharp, especially since they do enjoy using several of the games and review activities.

Pros: I like that the timed competition has harder levels. Often timed math games just review addition, subtraction, and multiplication tables. This one actually has timed review for algebraic expressions - the first time I have ever seen such a thing! I also like the concept of being able to repeat lessons until the students have mastered the concept and earned a score of 100% along with the corresponding reward. The kids enjoyed the games, and I think it is always good to have built-in motivation to complete lessons well in order to unlock new games.

Cons: The worksheets do not have enough explanation in my opinion. When the girls struggled with some of the language of the worksheets, there was really not enough meat there to figure out exactly what was being taught. It is difficult to navigate between the workbook, the inter actives, and the videos. Also, there are not videos for each lesson. Some of the lessons really needed some extra video support, and I think having it available for each lesson definitely would have improved the comprehension.

In Laura's words: (17 years old) It seems like a good program, but the website is too complicated. It is hard to find what I want to work on. The math was ok. I am using it for review, and understand it because I have learned it already, but I think if someone was learning it for the first time, they would have a very difficult time with the way things are explained in this program.

In Melissa's words: (12 years old) The videos are very helpful to understand how to do the problems, but not every lesson has videos, which made it hard. I really liked the games a lot. When you are doing a lesson, if you get a 100% you get a gold medal and this lets you unlock a fun new game. You can also keep trying until you get 100%, which is helpful. Also, playing against people from around the world was fun, even though playing the timed games was a little stressful. It was more interesting to play against other people then just against a computer.

How much does it cost? When you purchase an individual student license, you get instant 24/7 access for $59 for an entire year. This includes access to all the electronic workbooks that can be printed. There are also several new updates to the program that are noteworthy.
You can connect with 3P Learning and check out their other educational programs on Facebook and Twitter. 

You can also read what 74 other members of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew thought of this program after trying it out:

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