Wednesday, April 23, 2014

CTCMath {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

CTC Math review
It probably comes as no surprise that Math is not a favorite subject for anyone at our house, and I don't find it an easy subject to teach either. I am always open to trying out resources that will make teaching easier for me, and especially anything that might help make Math more understandable for the kid that struggles with it. We were delighted to have the opportunity to try out the 12 Month Family Plan from CTC Math and review it for the Schoolhouse Review Crew.
CTC Math Review
CTC Math is a comprehensive online math tutor developed by Australian math teacher Pat Murray, with lessons from Kindergarten through high school. The lessons are presented by Pat Murray in a concise, step-by-step video, followed by interactive questions and lesson practice, quizzes, and tests. The narrated lessons are usually about 4-9 minutes long, and clearly explained. Of course, the great thing is that the student can pause and rewind the explanation as many times as necessary in order to really "get it".
Each video tutorial has a lesson summary available to print out, and once the student has watched the video lesson, they can go on to do the interactive questions or worksheet. These are marked right or wrong instantly by the program so the student knows immediately if they are doing the problem correctly. The results are also stored so the system can create progress reports. Also, the correct solution to the problems is shown so the student can see where she may have gone wrong.
How did we use it? Kennady was excited about being able to try CTC Math, because math concepts often remain mysterious to her. She is finishing up Grade 7 right now, but we've been using a topical math program, so I first wanted to see if there were any "holes" in what she'd learned before she went on to what we usually think of as "pre-algebra". The 12 Month Family Plan we are reviewing gave us access to all lessons at all grade levels, so I started out by browsing the topics listed for Grade Six Math. We felt that she could use a refresher with certain topics - geometry, measurement, and graphs. 
CTC Math review
Bedhead, messy desk, blurry picture - but she was learning
about graphs without complaining!
(yes, that is last year's Mothers Day card... LOL)
The video lessons for these topics were about 5 minutes each (and I was so relieved that there was no "wait time" for it to load in most cases!), and the interactive online worksheet that followed usually had about 10 questions. No pages and pages of practicing it over and over. If she got those questions right and felt like she understood, she could go on; and if she wasn't sure she could repeat the lesson until she felt more confident. Then she could go on and do the test. I was surprised at just how motivated she was by the reward system - she really was driven to earn Gold or Platinum level mastery in every topic!
CTC Math review
Select a Course (by grade level) on the left. In Basic Math and Pre-Algebra
there are four Streams (units), and we started working on Fractions.
CTC Math review
List of topics within Fractions (Basic Math and Pre-Algebra level)
We started at the beginning of the list, realized Kennady already knew most of it,
so she skipped down to multiplication because she needed extra practice.
After some review of Grade 6 level topics, she has been able to start working on the Basic Math and Pre-Algebra level. The tests and test scoring works a little bit differently from this level up, but the concise video lessons and interactive practice remain basically the same. Since Kennady has been working with fractions, decimals, and percentages, we figured there was a good chance she would already have a good understanding of those topics. We watched the lessons for the Fractions topics, for example, and felt that she understood all the concepts well, except for 'Quantities of Fractions of Others'; and we decided she would benefit from practicing adding and subtracting with mixed denominators because she still gets confused with equivalent fractions at times. I actually loved that she did not HAVE TO do the lessons in the order they are listed! This made it a lot easier to spend more time filling in the learning gaps where she needed more practice, while quickly reinforcing the concepts she already knew.
CTC Math review
This summary of scoring on a Diagnostic Test let us see which topics
might need more work and which ones she has mastered.
Kennady could navigate throughout the entire site on her own, and could work independently. I received a weekly emailed progress report from CTC Math, showing me what she had worked on and how she had scored. When she reached achievement levels, there were certificates that we could print. Again, surprising how much that motivates even a 12-year-old!
Did she learn the concepts effortlessly without any more struggles to remember how to do every problem? No, it didn't all come easily but she could "get" what the instructor was explaining, and review it so it "clicked" with her. Did she still get frustrated and grouchy when she made mistakes or thought something was "too hard"? Yes, sometimes, but her confidence in her ability to figure it out and understand it has been growing and I hear far fewer complaints that "it's too hard" these days. Kennady actually LIKES CTC Math, which means that she works on it regularly, and since the scoring and correcting is built-in, she can do it on her own and I don't have to slog through teacher's keys to grade her work, which is another huge plus for me.
What we liked best:
  • concise narrated lessons were short enough to make it easy to retain what was presented, but had enough examples and explanations to make the concept clear.
  • the student can work independently through the lesson material, and the grading is automatic
  • ability to skip around within a topic or unit if necessary - this is helpful for when a student just needs some reinforcement in specific areas, or to fill in learning gaps.
  • instant feedback with scoring - and the certificates and achievements are great motivators!
  • the weekly progress summaries emailed to me, and the ability to print out lessons, worksheets, and progress reports - so helpful when I need some kind of hard copy to include in portfolios.
  • not gonna lie - it's awesome to have a teacher with an Aussie accent! ;-)
What I need to mention:
  • some of the features we loved (ability to skip around within the program; the scoring system which takes the average of the top three attempts at a test) might also be a distraction for some students. When Kennady was reviewing the Grade Six material, she would have continued taking the test until she had 100% three times, because she so wanted to have a perfect score. There was one topic in which I finally said she would have to settle for the 97% average and move on! In the upper grades, this doesn't work quite the same way, which was good. Some students (like mine!) may need to be instructed to move on when they have achieved a mastery level rather than insist on perfection; and may need to be told to do the lessons in order if they want to skip to things they think are "easier". (Ask me how I know!)
Our bottom line: While there probably isn't a magic bullet that will make my student love math and excel at it, I think CTC Math has proven to be effective and enjoyable in our homeschool. My student likes doing math this way, which is HUGE. She can do it without me hovering, but it's easy for me to check her progress. CTC Math is useful for supplementing where she'd missed something or needed extra practice, and it's proving effective in explaining new concepts as she moves ahead in math. 
CTC Math Review
Would your student benefit from this online math tutor? Here's what you need to know:
Visit the website:
Read more about How CTC Math works, and check out the Free Trial.

Pricing: CTC Math has Single Student Membership plans at $11.97 per month; $50.80 for six months; or $78.80 for twelve months. There are also Family Plans (two or more students) at $15.97 per month; $78.80 for six months; or $118.80 for twelve months. See the CTC Math Purchase Page for all pricing options and information. Please note that these prices represent a special homeschool sale at the time of posting!

Recommended Ages: All ages and grades, K-12

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