Monday, June 15, 2015

CTC Math (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

Our family is always looking for a new way to teach the kids math.  Let's face it - for the most part math is not fun, at least not for my kids.  Getting them to do math is usually a fight so I am always looking for a math program that is both engaging and fun while still covering the necessary topics for their grade.  We were recently presented with the opportunity to review the 12 Month Family Plan (US Curriculum) for Homeschoolers offered by CTC Math after hearing many good things about their math curriculum, I felt it was worth the opportunity to try with two kids.  I also had a teenager in Algebra who had already failed the class last year and who was in danger of failing for a second year in a row so I had high hopes that this math program would not only engage my two youngest but also help my oldest pass Algebra 1 once and for all. 

CTC Math is an online maths curriculum that covers all math concepts, from Kindergarten all the way to higher level mathematics such as Trigonometry and Calculus. These math concepts are not aligned with common core as CTC believes in teaching math the traditional way.  Each student has access to all grades of math as part of the subscription and can easily switch between the various levels with little trouble. This proves to be very useful for older high school students who might be learning concepts that are both Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 during the same year. You can also easily jump students from grade to grade rather than having to buy a separate grade level for more advanced lessons. 
All Levels of Math Available to Each Student

The program is completely browser based and requires no computer instillation. I ran it both on Chrome and Firefox without any problems or glitches.  I was also able to log into the program with my Kindle Fire without any problems and CTC's website says it should run on all HTML5 platforms such as Ipads, Iphones and Android devices.

In all grades, students are presented with a video lecture that shows the concept for that particular lesson. These videos are very short, on average less than 5 minutes. Examples are given along with very detailed breakdown of the answers. In lower grades, the lesson is followed by a series of questions (around 10 to 12 questions) that reinforces what they just learned.  Extra questions are provided as an option if the child did not do well on the initial questions and might need extra review. Feedback is immediate as the answer will be marked right or wrong and the correct answer is given. After all questions are complete, a printable copy of the questions along with the child's answers is provided which can be printed out for record keeping (something I think is great).  

In higher grades, after the video lecture, the student is provided with a worksheet that they can print out and work offline. Once completed, they can record their answers in the website and have their answers graded. By default, the student must score a certain percentage in order to obtain a passing grade on these worksheets or they are told to try again. This percentage can be changed by the parent if you feel it is too low (I changed it to 90 percent on my oldest daughter's account). 

Students are rewarded with certificates after they complete each unit. There are levels for these certificates are Platinum, Gold and Silver based on their average grade from all tasks in each set of lessons. Platinum is awarded when a student gets 100% for the entire set. 

Another fun thing for kids is the speed drills. My oldest had alot of fun doing these drills and they made for a great breather as she was studying harder math concepts. Focusing on Addition and Subtraction skills, the student must answer as many questions as they can in one minute.  There were a few times I caught Alyssa doing these drills even after her study time was over as she kept trying to beat her previous score. 

One of the many pluses to CTC Math is that tracking your child's progress is very easy. CTC sends progress reports to the parents email on a weekly basis letting you know how many times the student logged in, for how long, what they did while they were logged in and how they did on what they worked on, This same information can also be accessed from the Parent account which gives quick access to all students currently enrolled in the program. 

Parent's Login Screen Provides Statistics on all Students

CTC Math can be used as both a full math program for grades K-6 as well as a supplemental program for upper grades.  Because of this, I approached this review from two different angles.  First, I would have my 10th grader use it as a tutoring program to hopefully help her pass her final exam in her public school. Second, I would use it to first review and then teach my two homeschool students the skills they need to move on to 2nd grade math.   Because of this, this is essentially two reviews in one.

My Experiences in Our Homeschooling

Ashleigh and Garrett are the complete opposites when it comes to school. Ashleigh loves reading and writing and being read to.  Garrett absolutely hates it and it's only been recently that he's started to write when asked.  However, Garrett is a math fiend, he absolutely loves it. Ashleigh, on the other hand, loathes math. We have had many issues with Ashleigh holding Garrett back when it comes to Math because she will cry, whine and be very uncooperative when it comes time for math lessons.  

However, the fact that each lesson with CTC Math is very short and to the point, broken down in such a way they can easily understand along with graphics for explanations, Ashleigh seemed to be able to sit and pay attention much easier.  Each afternoon, I would have them independently sit with me, cuddled up on the couch with my computer and we would work on the lessons together, while the other did an independent lesson.  Together we would watch the lesson, pausing it while they would work out the problem and then we would follow up with the questions.  This worked really well with both kids. It proved to be especially useful with Ashleigh who thought it more of bonding time with Mom rather than a math lesson.  There have been a few times that I have told them it was time for math that Ashleigh has specifically made sure we were going to do CTC Math rather than another math program.

Being as that both kids tend to be visual learnings, this program was excellent for them. The speaking instruction is very clear and understandable (lessons are taught by Australian math teacher Patrick Murray) and the accompanying graphics really demonstrated the point to them.

They both absolutely love earning certificates, although it has become a bit of a competition to see who gets platinum and who gets gold.

I really enjoyed the fact there were both comprehensive and standard tests that can be used to test how well they mastered each skill that they were learning.  I also found these tests to be very helpful when trying to determine how much the kids already knew in the sets and what we could skim over and what we really needed to concentrate on.

The kids liked that there was a counter/slider at the top of each test that allowed them to know how many more problems they had before they were done and they would count down to completion.

Alyssa's Experience with CTC Math

Alyssa has struggled with Algebra. As said above, she had already failed this class her 9th grade year and was in danger of failing again her 10th grade year. Alyssa routinely brought home test grades in the 30's in her class. Part of the problem was the lack of understanding of Algebraic formulas; the other part of the problem was a teacher who failed explain these formulas and did not make time for students who failed to understand them (she had the same teacher both years).  Basically, her class was a sink or swim situation.   Going into her final semester, she has D- for the 3rd quarter and at progress reports in the 4th quarter she had F. She had exactly three weeks to use CTC math as much as she could in the hopes to score high enough of her final exam and hopefully pull out a passing grade for the 4th quarter.  We were at dire straights with her, there were lots of tears and plenty of "I Just don't care anymore". This math class was really driving a wedge between us as the frustration built. 

Alyssa started using CTC Math 3 weeks before the end of the school year.  Each day I had her come home, do her normal homework, using the CTC lessons to help her understand that days classwork. then spend an hour on the program reviewing concepts that she did not understand through the year.  She would watch the lesson, I would print out the worksheets that accompanied the lesson and she would practice the concepts covered in the lesson.  Then she took her first test since starting CTC Math.  She scored a B after using the program for a week. This was a HUGE improvement over the EXTREMELY low F (32%) she had scored the test prior. She said even her teacher mentioned the improvement and she mentioned that she was using CTC to help study and review.  

Her second and third weeks with CTC, she used it to help prepare for her Final exam for the year.  There were many concepts she did not understand from her class and she worked hard to try to cram as much as she could.  She knew she needed to get at least a C- on the exam to pass for the year, which for her as a HUGE goal considering her past testing grades.   She took her exam and she came home saying she felt okay about it.

Today I received her report card.  We held our collective breath as we tore off the perforated edges off the mailer and opened that final piece of paper.  She scored a mid C on her exam.  She had passed with a high enough D for the semester that with her C from the first semester, she squeaked by with a 70% for the year.  ALGEBRA WAS HISTORY!!   

I have no doubt whatsoever that CTC Math was the only reason she passed this class.  It proved to be an extremely valuable tool to her, explaining the math concepts she was struggling with in such a way that they finally clicked with her.  Without this program, I believe that Alyssa would be repeating the 10th grade because of her Algebra class. Now, instead, she will be moving on to the 11th grade and to Geometry. I have no doubt that if she had had this program earlier on in the school year, we would not have been worried of her failing in the first place.  It is a relief to me as a mother to know that even if she has the same dreaded teacher next year, she will have CTC Math from the very start of the year to help her through it. 

Final Thoughts

I never did well in math which really hindered me when it came to sciences because I was scared to take chemistry and physics because of my lack of mathematical knowledge.  I really do not want the same down the road for my kids and so I am very grateful that there are programs out there that can teach the higher math concepts to them when I cannot. (Although, to be honest, with 10 student slots, there's absolutely no reason I cannot learn as well).  CTC Math does a wonderful job of explaining these concepts in a very clear, concise manner that is very quick and to the point, allowing the student to learn that concept and practice that concept until they are efficient in it.  

In the past 2 years we've tried other programs trying to help my daughter with her Algebra; Dummy Books, Idiot Books, and other online math programs. With each we tried we failed to see any marked improvements in her grades.  It wasn't until we tried CTC Math that things started to click for her and she managed to pass the class.

All three of my kids really seem to like this curriculum and I am very happy with it as well. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a math curriculum for K-6 and as a supplement tutoring program for higher levels in addition to a selected curriculum.  I would also HIGHLY recommend CTC Math if you have a student in public schools struggling with math and who needs extra support.

CTC Math offers a 60% discount of their normal pricing for homeschool families which allows for full access to all grades and lessons. Single Student pricing start at just $11.97/month and family plans for 2 or more students costs $15.97 a month.  The overall price is discounted even further when purchasing 6 months or a year. The family plan is $118.90 for a full year, coming out to less than 10 dollars a month and a savings of more than 178 dollars.  They also offer a free trial to "try it before you buy it".

CTC Math can be found on Facebook

CTCmath Review

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