What are Math Mini Courses?
A+ now offers 20 online Math Mini Courses which provide in-depth and consistent review from the very basics to advanced concepts. There are multimedia lessons, interactive review, worksheets, automatic grading/tracking, progress reports, offline practice and more. Each course focuses on one specific content area (addition, multiplication, fractions, time, money, geometry, etc) for elementary and middle school level mathematics. These math courses can be completed in 2-3 months, but the subscriptions are for one year, which means you have more flexibility in how you use them.
How Did We Use It?
The crew was given the opportunity to review two Math Mini Courses. This review came along right around the time we were preparing for a move for husband's job. A friend told me to look at it as an adventure, but I was a little worried about finishing out the school year while working on the logistics of moving. Our boys use a mastery approach to mathematics, so they typically have a narrow focus of subject matter anyway. I noticed that what's covered in the last few lessons of our math curriculum isn't vital to mastering the content, so I don't necessarily need to finish it. At the same time, I didn't want them to just let those skills sit idle, so I felt like it would be beneficial to assign them each a Math Mini Course that covers the same topic as their math curriculum's focus. It would allow them to review and see the material from a different perspective, and give me peace of mind that they were still working and finishing out the school year covering relevant content. Since it's an online course, I don't have to worry about curriculum strewn about while we're packing, and I can multi-task a little more since I'm not the one doing the primary teaching.
Elliott was assigned Elementary and Middle School Multiplication. This course is geared for students in 2nd-6th Grade. There are 13 lessons. It begins with an introduction to multiplication and how it relates to addition. It moves into multiplication tables, and multiplication tricks. By the end, it covers multiple digit multiplication. I knew that it would all be familiar to Elliott, because we've already covered everything, but I also know he's a kid who appreciates having some "easy" lessons every now and then too, and I was looking forward to him having some review for the end of the year.
Emory was assigned Early Elementary Subtraction, which is written for 1st-3rd grade students. It has fifteen lessons that begin with an introduction to subtraction and works up to regrouping and multiple digit subtraction. Since his primary focus has been only single digit addition and subtraction, I knew some of this would be "beyond" what he's covered at this point (he's only 6 years old) so I was okay with him working more slowly through it. With a year's subscription, there's plenty of time to mature into the rest of the lessons.
Signing up wasn't too difficult, but I find the navigation to be a little tedious. For myself and two children, it is actually three accounts with separate usernames and passwords. That's not necessarily a bad thing, because I like that they have their own accounts which tracks their work. It means signing in and out to access each account, and then multiple clicks through the program before a new window finally launches for the actual course. Then you have to navigate through the course, and there are multiple screens, depending on which activity you are completing.
Then in the course, there are a lot of little things that can get overlooked by the student, especially a six year old. Things like hitting "submit" on the belly of a frog who appears in some questions, or the question is marked incorrect. You must remember to update the status of the lesson to complete, or you'll see a big red warning when you try to move to the next lesson. It might track your work within each lesson, but it doesn't automatically track progress through the lessons, and you have to manually "complete" and move to the next lesson. Also, everything is read aloud, but the multiple question choices are often wordy, and I find myself re-reading the questions and answer choices for him. I just find it easier to navigate myself, once I learned my way around.
What Did We Think?
Since the boys were both comfortable with the content, they weren't overly enthusiastic about the lessons initially, but they were glad they got to do "easy" questions for math for awhile, since it starts at the very beginning. I like how the tutor talks in a slow, clear, natural voice. We've done online programs that talk too fast or have a robotic voice and that was irritating to the boys. If you get the answer correct, you're congratulated, but if you get the wrong answer, the program then immediately gives you a detailed explanation. I really like this feature! I also love that children who prefer pencil to paper have the option of printable worksheets. This, along with the generated reports, are nice for families who keep portfolios.
The narrow focus of these courses makes me believe that they can be used in multiple ways. They can surely be used for students who struggle with a concept and need an intense study, but also to "fill in the gaps" if you've switched curricula, as an end of year review, or as a summer course to keep skills fresh. The one-year length of the subscription means the course could also be stretched throughout a school year as a general supplement.
I also think the online nature of the program, with audio narration and visual demonstrations throughout the lessons should appeal to visual and auditory learners. I certainly think it's worth checking out, especially if your children enjoy and thrive with online learning.
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