Sunday, July 15, 2012

Professor B Math {Schoolhouse Review Crew}

Even though it's summer, I am still expecting the kids to do some schoolwork.  Especially math.  I find that it's so easy for them to forget what they learned when they don't have any practice recalling it or using it for a couple months at a time.  We've had a friendly Professor helping Kennady with this for the past several weeks - Professor B.


Professor B Math is an interactive math education website with lessons for students from preschool age through Grade 8.  The parent is the teacher, guiding the student through all the online lessons, providing the 'voice' for the bee character.  The parent narrates the lesson - the bee doesn't talk - and this was purposely done so that parents would be actively involved in doing the teaching even though Professor B provides all the script!  The author of the Professor B methodology is Everard Barrett, who has an impressive list of credentials as a teacher and professor of mathematics.  The program is designed to present math in a "developmental, contextual flow (like a story).  This allows children's minds to assimilate the concepts more quickly without any gaps in their knowledge." (from the website's section What We Do - click through to find out more.)

The three levels taught by Professor B are

LEVEL IPre-k though 2nd graders and remediation of older learners. Introduction to Addition/Subtraction Facts – Counting to One Hundred – Lower Addition and Subtraction – Higher Addition and Subtraction – Place Value Fractional Parts & Order – Time – Money
LEVEL II3rd grade through 5th grade and remediation of older learners. Multiplication/Division Facts and Problem Solving – Introduction to Fractions – Fractional Equivalence – Addition and Subtraction Fractions
LEVEL III6th through 8th grades and remediation of older learners. Multiplication/Division of Fractions – Decimals – Percents

We started by browsing the website to get a feel for what we could expect, and I had to emphasize to Kennady (and to myself!!) that ProfB wouldn't talk and there was no sound, so Mommy would be reading his words aloud as Kennady worked through the lessons. Of course, that was the part we balked at, just because we're odd that way. LOL  It took some getting used to that this wasn't a 'go entertain yourself by playing a math game' system, but a teaching tool that required my active participation.  Kennady initially got annoyed with me, because she figured she could read what was in the speech bubble just as well as I could.  Well, after a little while, we found a very nice workable compromise - I stayed in the room and worked at something else next to the computer desk and we sort of took turns reading the script.  I talked her through the first part of a new lesson or concept, and once I felt she understood, I allowed her to continue on her own while I supervised.  I did ask her to keep reading what the Bee said out loud so I knew she was getting it.  This worked out well for us, and  I realized that at least one benefit was that I wouldn't have to wonder what she learned or how far she got in the lessons, because I needed to be present and participating in the process myself.  Often ProfB asks the students questions or instructs them to solve a problem so if a parent isn't there to hear the child respond or see that they worked out an answer to a math question before clicking to the next step, they might not be doing it.  I know none of our well-brought-up, honest-to-a-fault kids would try to take a shortcut like that.  ;-)  And yours wouldn't either.  Because you'll be there acting the ProfB's eyes and ears to make sure.


We weren't sure what level would be best for Kennady, so we made use of the Placement Tests (link is on the bottom right on this page, and there is no charge for using them before making your decision.)  Kennady did the Placement Test for Level 1, which stated that the student could go directly to Level 2 if the test could be completed in under 20 minutes.  Kennady cut it pretty close, but she did it so we used Level 2.  The first sets of lessons in Level 2 teach multiplication facts, so we worked relatively quickly through those, as Kennady understands multiplication and has a good grasp of many of the times tables.  We took more time with the factors that she has trouble with, like 7 and 8.  Then she advanced into the next set of lessons, on multiplication with 2 or more digits.

Kennady liked how it "squished the numbers" (her description of factoring) when teaching and demonstrating multiple digit multiplication.  In many cases, the simple visuals of the numbers moving into place, and the way the connections between operations are shown (for example, connecting division to repeated subtraction) helped her GET the concept of what she was doing with the numbers.    We found the explanations clear and thorough, and I saw definite improvement in Kennady's grasp of long division especially.  That's what she is working on right now.

What we liked best:

  • no visual clutter and no sound to distract from the purpose.  While seeing and visualizing math concepts is important for Kennady, having too much color and decoration can definitely distract.  Professor B keeps the instruction pages on the website very clean - usually only the bee and the numbers are on the screen.  There are no bells and whistles and sound effects either.  
  • the explanations of math concepts were very clear and thorough, and just as the History/Philosophy section of the website points out, there were clear connections from one math operation and idea to the next.
  • we could move at our own pace, going quickly through sections where just a refresher was needed, and spending more time - and making use of the workbooks - when more practice was necessary to really master the material.
What we weren't crazy about:
  • it's not easy to "skip" sections if there was something we thought we might not need.  We found it better to just go quickly through the slideshow style lesson frame by frame (and a couple of times I previewed a section this way) to make sure we didn't miss something.  And I've decided that the way it's designed, it's better to do every frame of every lesson from whatever point you start out, even if it's something the student already understands.  That's because of the connectivity in the math "story" they are learning.  
  • the website does not keep track of where the student left off.  We jotted down on a sticky note at the computer the lesson Kennady completed each session so we knew where to start the next time.  On the plus side of this, of course, you can repeat the lesson as many times as necessary or refer back to it if needed.

I don't remember Kennady ever complaining about working with Professor B.  She got a little impatient at the beginning when we were figuring it out and deciding which level was best for her, but once we had that established, she enjoyed it.  It has helped her understanding of the mechanics and logic of many math operations, especially division, and it is so encouraging to see that she really comprehends and is finding different ways to solve math problems and realizing that math really does make sense!

Would you like Professor B to help teach math in your homeschool? Here's what you need to know:
Pricing for Professor B is by the month, or for a year-long contract.  Prices start at $20/month for access to one level.  See the website for more details.  A new price package has just been introduced, and as of the writing of this review, it is not shown on the website - $100 for 3 years access to each level.  To take advantage of this price package, you will need to call the customer support number, 678-765-6655. A 30 day free trial is available as well, by phoning the same number.

Take a look at the sample lessons on the website as well.

And as always, visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog for more information, and to read other Crew member reviews.

Disclaimer: As part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, we received a complimentary subscription to this website in exchange for our honest opinions.


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