Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Review: UberSmart Math Facts

Memorizing math facts can often be tedious and boring, yet it is a very necessary part of advancing in math. Time is saved later on when learning advanced math if the brain can quickly and easily add a column of numbers, or think of answers when multiplying and dividing. Having a good handle on times tables is almost a complete necessity when stepping up to long division, in my opinion.  I was happy to review UberSmart Math Facts from UberSmart Software over the past six weeks, to see how it would work to help Kelly keep up her facts, especially over the summer.

I have tried a myriad of computer programs over the years to help the kids master math facts. Our math curriculum, A Beka, is founded on rote memorization and mastery of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division in the elementary years. Most of my kids have done well with daily flash card practice, but I am always on the lookout for better means of practice.

What is UberSmart Math Facts? This is a Windows based program (works on Windows 7, 8, XP, or Vista only) that can be purchased and downloaded. Once you buy it, it is yours forever, and doesn't run out after one year like most other programs I have tried. It was designed by homeschool dad David Kocur, for his own children who needed an effective way to learn their math facts. When he couldn't find what he was looking for, he made up his own program! Since it was so successful in his own home, he decided to publish it for other families and schools.

How does it work? The program itself actually works very similar to a deck of flash cards. Children can log into the program, use the dot cards to learn combinations first, then practice their facts. There are many options - parents can help their child select a number set (0-20 or all), select a function (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division) and also choose to do their practice timed or untimed.

What are some of the features?  First there is an assessment test that a student can take to see where they need the most help. The program does tailor itself to the student, giving questions most frequently missed more exposure, and slowly eliminating questions that are quickly answered correctly on a regular basis.

There is also a keyboarding lesson where students learn to use the keyboard to correctly input numbers:

There are dot cards to teach facts in a visual way:

 Lots of options are available to choose from when practicing or testing:

After the test is complete, the student can go back and review the questions they got wrong. The program shows them their answer, in red with a line drawn through, then shows them the correct answer to help reinforce it in their mind:

The test shows the previous and next questions, on either side of the current question:

Practice cards allow the student to go through each set of facts without having to input answers, but just review the facts themselves. It is a good idea to have the student say these aloud when reviewing them.

Helps for the teacher: UberSmart Math Facts has a complete teacher section that has various styles of reports. It shows how much the student has mastered for each function. Here is an example of Kelly's multiplication mastery chart. Once the parent sees where practice is needed, they can set their child up to work on those number sets that need the most attention.

There is also a nice gradebook that shows how much work the student has done, when they did it, how many times they went through, and what their final score was. Records are kept by the week, so a parent can easily see how much work was accomplished that week.

What age is this for? The program is recommended for grades K-6. I think it is extremely helpful and important especially for grades 1-4, when all of these facts are being introduced and need to be learned to build a strong foundation. It can also be used remedially for older students, or even adults. There is a "competition" option that allows you to compare your time of completion and accuracy to all other users your age. 

How much does it cost? This software can be purchased for $24.95, which is a one time fee. There is also an option to try the program free for 30 days to see if it works for your family.  It can be used by multiple students in a homeschool setting, and there is also a professional/school version of the software that is available.

How we used it: I set Kelly up on the program as soon as we received it. She has used it about 3 days a week over the summer, except while we were away at camp, of course! Each day I would set a timer and have Kelly work on it for about 10 minutes. I would also allow her to 'purchase' game time on the computer for herself, by doing extra on this program. Kelly started on some easy addition practice to help her get used to the program, but we have mostly used it to keep her multiplication and division facts fresh in her mind over the summer, in anticipation of her start in fourth grade this fall. 

What does Kelly think?  Kelly is 9 years old and was not real thrilled with this program. She found it to be 'hard work' and tedious. She did it every time I asked because she was told to, but never chose to go do it on her own, unless she was 'earning' game time.

What does Mom think? Ha Ha - glad you asked! Obviously when the kid thinks the program is 'hard work' my interest is piqued. I even tried my own hand at completing some rounds on this. I LOVE this program. Why? Because it has no frills - no crazy music in the background, no distractions, no strange graphics....it just works. It does everything I would like to do with Kelly on a daily basis with flashcards, but makes it available for her to work on mastering facts whether I am available for flash card practice or not. I can set a timer for ten minutes and know that Kelly actually practiced math facts for that time. I can log in to the teacher reports section and see how she did, and where improvement is needed. I can reward mastery of number sets, and Kelly can see her own progress as well.  Best of all, all my children can work on it, and I never have to renew my license. I own the program forever. 

Final Words: If you are looking for a sensible and simple way to have your children practice and master their math facts easily, this is the program for you!  Thank you UberSmart for creating the program of my dreams for math practice! 

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