Wednesday, April 23, 2014

CTC Math {Schoolhouse Review}

As part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I am sometimes asked to review curricula that I might not have come across on my own.  One such program was CTC Math.  I was given access to the American version of the 12 Month Family Plan and I decided it would be a good opportunity to take a break from our curriculum and try something new.

CTCMath Review

CTC Math is an online tutoring program.  Pat Murray, father of ten and Australian math teacher, covers Kindergarten through high school level math in this program.  Even though CTC Math is specifically labeled as a tutoring program and not a full curriculum, I decided we would use it exclusively during the review period for our math so Elliott could review concepts from a different perspective, and I could get an accurate feel for the program.

With this family homeschool plan (currently on sale for $118.80), I have a default of five accounts, but you can contact them directly to have more added.  I will say that I created an account for myself, so that I could experiment in the program at different levels without altering Elliott's results, as well as do a little brushing up on my own math skills. 

The Student Account
When a student logs in, they have full access to every course, which means they can move up and down as necessary for review and practice.  Elliott is technically in 1st Grade, but his current mathematics curriculum follows a non-traditional scope and sequence, so he falls between 1st and 2nd grade in math skills.  At first I just plugged him in the 1st Grade course and decided we'd play around for awhile to see if we needed to "fill in any gaps" or if he was good to go.  This is a screenshot of MY student account, playing around in the 1st Grade Course (I like to check it out before I put the boys in a computer program) but gives you a representation of what the student sees and what materials and activities they can access.  They can access everything at any given time.  There is no "unlocking" of levels, which means they can work at their skill level on individual topics, which is particularly important to me. 

CTCMath Review

The red pencil/paper symbol means there are tests for the unit, and the '1' is the number of times I've taken it.  With the tests, there is a Standard and a Comprehensive test, which can be utilized in a variety of ways.  You could have the student "test out" of a section; you could use one as a pre-test and one as a post-test evaluation. You could use them for periodic review of topics.  

The Lessons
Each lesson begins with a short video tutorial, which is full of visual demonstrations.  Once the video is complete, the student can watch again or move on to the questions.  In the lower student levels, these questions are interactive--students can often manipulate items similarly to the video, and they type in the answers.  At the end, the questions and correct answers appear in a worksheet format, so you could easily print these for record keeping purposes.  You can then answer more questions if the student need more practice or want to raise their average.  In the lower grades, the last three attempts are averaged, and the higher the score, the higher the certificate they are awarded. 

CTCMath Review
This is a 2nd Grade addition lesson.  Elliott liked the use of blocks similar to the ones he uses in his math program, but laughed at the 'longs' and 'shorts' terminology!  You will encounter little things like this occasionally even though it is the Americanized version. 

Aside from the video there is no audio, so if you have non-readers, you will have to be more actively involved.  Elliott can work independently, and emergent readers could probably make inferences after watching the lessons, but when my 4 year old plays around in Kindergarten, he needs me there to help with instructions in the questions.

Parent Account
From the parent account, I initially add each student, and I can set the "passing" standard.  This means I determine the level of mastery for my student.  Once they begin using the program, I can see all of the results.  I can see the last time he logged in, how many lessons he completed, and average efficiency record.  I can view detailed records of the lessons, including how many times he took a specific lesson.  Each week, I also receive a detailed email that includes the dates and times that every activity was completed for each student.  You can't assign specific lessons or control what your student does from the parent account, but it does give a good overall impression of what they've covered and how they are using their time.  I see how this is especially valuable for older students working independently.

Something to Consider
One thing I want to point out, because I feel this is important for building a strong foundation in mathematics, is the difference between simply counting to reach a total and actually adding.  Many of the addition/subtraction lessons in the younger grades rely heavily on counting, and even use counting on fingers as an instructional method within the lessons.   In other lessons, it refers back to counting with "if you get stuck, just count on your fingers" in the videos.  I prefer not to introduce the idea of counting on fingers at all, so I spent way too much time previewing lessons to avoid these videos.

Final Thoughts
Elliott was not initially impressed with this program, and this is a child who loves math and loves working on the computer.  I think he finds the overall pace of the program a bit slow.  It's not necessarily a fault, because it is a tutoring program, and I imagine children who need additional math support need that pace.  Despite this, he did like the idea of earning certificates, and they were usually motivation for him to continue through the lesson most days.  He would even redo lessons if he didn't get 100% because he wanted a higher average.  He also liked it better when I bumped him up to 2nd grade, with more challenging material.  Another part he liked was the speed drills, because he likes to beat his previous score.  See a pattern here?  As it is though, he will do this program when I ask it of him, but he doesn't love it.  

While this is not the program for us long-term, there are still a lot of features I like:  multiple students on one account for a set price, full access to all material, incentives for the student to continue practicing.  We will probably continue to use it occasionally for a change of pace, and I do think it would make a good supplement for many learning styles.  The homeschool family plan is currently on sale for $118.80 for the whole family, so if you have multiple students this is a reasonable price.  I definitely recommend the free trial so you can get a feel for the program and decide if it's a good fit for your family!

Be sure to read more CTC Math reviews from the crew to get a more thorough understanding of this online math tutoring program, especially other grade levels, and see different perspectives!

This graphic contains my FTC Statement

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