Monday, October 9, 2017

CTCMath ( A Homeschool Crew Review )

If there's one subject that I am extremely uncomfortable teaching the kids, it would be math.  Right now with them in Elementary, it's not too bad. But I absolutely dread the day they move beyond simple addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division and move into actual formulaic equations. Math was always my weakest subject and as such, I worry that my own knowledge will hinder my ability to teach them important concepts that I personally failed to learn over 20 years ago. I have a feeling this is the fear of many homeschooling parents. It's even been a topic of conversation with my own family - if I didn't do well in math myself, how do I expect to teach my children higher level math when the time comes.

That's why I am grateful for the online math instructional website CTCMath, who offered
members of the crew a year membership to either the Single or Family subscription (depending on the Crew Member's needs).  We were fortunate to receive the Family membership for our usage and have been taking full advantage of it with Ashleigh and Garrett and I'm able to offer my readers 60% off and six bonus months and a free trial (both offers expire November 15th, 2017).

CTCMath 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 CTCMath believes in teaching math the traditional way and not to teach for a test.  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. 

The program is completely browser-based and requires no computer installation. Students or parents simply log into the website and access the lessons. CTCMath's website says the program is also accessible on all HTML5 platforms and should be accessible on devices such as Ipads, Iphones, and Android devices although I personally did test this. 

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 a 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).

The website itself is pretty straightforward.  Upon login, the students are taken to a screen that shows the "path" they are currently on  (as shown in the screenshot above).  When a concept is selected from the third menu, the student is then taken to the lessons available for that concept. At this screen, students can see which lessons they have completed, what they scored on those lessons and what their overall percentage for that section is based on what they have completed and where they can select the next lesson.

In the screenshot above, you can see that Garrett has been working on Time Tables for the last couple of weeks.  So far, he's doing very well, but that last lesson, for Time Tables 6X, he didn't score as well as he should have to show that he mastered the topic.  He scored an 80% on the questions following the lesson. Because of this, he was not awarded a check mark beside that particular lesson.  We had two options at that point.  He could go on to the next lesson (Time Tables 7X) or he could repeat the lesson. While 80% is indeed passing, I opted for Garrett to repeat the lesson, this time with a piece of paper and a pencil so that he could actually write down the timetables as he completed the lesson. 

Here he is completing the questions for that lesson.  For these particular lessons, the answers are fill in the blank.  Students must type in the correct answer. Once the answer is submitted, immediate feedback is given on whether or not the correct answer was given. If the answer was incorrect, the correct answer will be shown so that the student can see what they did wrong.  Grading for higher levels such as Algebra are graded lightly different, with students being given multiple choice answers to select from. This is because most of the notation needed to correctly answer algebraic questions are difficult for most people to type with a keyboard. In these cases, students are expected to work the equation out on paper and then select the correct question from the given answer options. 

After he completed the questions time time, he scored a 90%.  CTCMath then takes the average of the two attempts for that section. This meant that Garrett scored an 85% for the two attempts, which CTCMath considers passing.  CTCMath then places a check mark on that lesson showing that he scored high enough for mastery.

After completion of each section, they are given an option to print out the "worksheet" that they completed.  This is a hard copy of the questions done on the computer following the lesson.  This allows for an easy way to keep a record of the work the child completed and also shows what questions they might have missed for review.  The worksheet can either be printed out directly on paper or they can also be saved as PDF files on a computer. These hard copies are only available at the time of completion of the lesson, although CTCMath does keep a record of the grade scored on the lesson.  I appreciate the option to print these worksheets out in case records are needed for accountability for State agencies. 

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.  Students can keep track of what level they are currently scoring at by the icon located to the right of the main screen.  This means that if a student is a high achiever and wishes to score higher, they can repeat the lessons they might not have scored high on in order to raise their percentage to the next level.  Garrett is currently working at Gold Level, which he is happy with. As long as he passes, he's happy.  However, Ashleigh, who is my perfectionist and can't stand to ever get under 100%, will repeat a lesson in order to maintain a platinum status.  In this way, the reward/certificate system works well because I know that both kids are acquiring competency in the subject and if they fall below that level, they will work hard to review what they missed in order to bring their medal level up. 

For the parent's side of things, I really like that I can go in an see the results of what the kids have been doing, what lessons they have completed and how they are progressing. Detailed reports are given that show which lessons the students have been working on and what the results to the questions they have completed were.  These reports can be viewed by grade level, so if we completed lessons in one grade and then decided to review lessons in another grade, I can view all results for those grades. 

 Since we're about to start 4th Grade, we're using CTCMath to review math skills from 3rd Grade before jumping into the next level. Since each section of learning has a diagnostic test, I was able to use this to determine if the kids knew enough about Multiplication to advance to 4th Grade. Unfortunately, I wasn't happy with their results, as Garrett scored 55% on the diagnostic test, telling me that they needed much more instruction then what our previous textbook covered.   Once they complete the lesson on Multiplication, I'll be able to give them the diagnostic test again to determine whether or not they have indeed mastered the skill.  I plan to use this same technique for other skills before we move on to the 4th-grade math lessons. 

The fact that each lesson with CTCMath is very short and to the point, broken down in such a way they can easily understand along with graphics for explanations, both kids have no issues with being able to sit and pay attention to the lesson.  A lesson takes roughly 10 minutes - with a 3 minute video followed by the questions.  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.  This also proved to be especially useful with Garrett, who is special needs and has a very hard time concentrating for long periods of time.  As you'll see in the video below, Garrett is able to work through the questions independently and efficiently, even with his "quirkiness".  

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.

As mentioned at the beginning of this review, I never did well in math. This really hurt me in school as I was scared to take much higher-level science courses because of my lack of mathematical knowledge. In today's world where S.T.E.M. type jobs are so sought after, I don't want my kids to suffer the same fate. I want them to have as many advantages as possible so I have extremely grateful that there are programs like CTCMath that allow someone else with more mathematical knowledge to take the driver's seat when it comes to teaching these importanct math concepts to my kids, especially later down the road when higher math concepts are introduced. 

And as a special for homeschool families, CTCMath offers a 60% discount off their normal price. Use this link to take advantage of this special homeschool pricing, as well as receive a bonus 6 months to any Individual or Family subscription.  (These discounted links are only available until November 15th, 2017).  

For more information, visit CTCMath's website or visit them on the following social media platforms:

CTCMath (US and Canda)

Maths Online (Australia Only)

CTCMath Online Math Tutoring {Reviews}

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