Tuesday, March 17, 2015

GPALOVEMATH {Schoolhouse Review Crew}

Anytime I'm given the chance to review an online math supplement, I'm eager to see what it offers. My 8 year old really enjoys math, and he's good at it.  My 5 year old seems to like it well enough too.  I've never cared for math (although I would never let on to the kids) so I like to vary up our resources.  Recently we were asked to review GPALOVEMATH, an online math program from GPA LEARN.  The GPA stands for Great Parents Academy, and is made up of a team of licensed and experienced educators.

How Does It Work?
GPALOVEMATH is for students working at a K-5 level.  Each grade level has its own animated Learning Coach who teaches and guides the student through grade-level supplemental math.  Each grade is set up with a sequenced curriculum.  There are three color-coded learning paths that students can take.  Each color represents a different skill set in math.  The student has limited freedom to move within the program by choosing one of the few unlocked lessons to complete.  This means if a path gets too hard, they can take a break and choose a different path to work on temporarily.  However they can only progress so far on one path before it requires the completion of lessons on other paths as well.  I like that the paths build on each other so that the student must continuously use different math skills to continue through the program.

The student can also change over to viewing by topics.  Then they can click on a topic within a section to view all of the subtopics.  A note will pop up saying which previous lessons they recommend completing first, but you still have the freedom to attempt the locked lesson.  The Recommend Path was set up by the GPA LOVE team to be sequential, and is more visually appealing in my opinion.  However, choosing by topic might be a better option if you're looking to practice very specific topics, or starting during the middle of the year and want to jump in to supplement a current curriculum for school.

The Lessons
There are three parts to the lessons.

Instruction  This is a cross between a video and a slideshow, which means it will likely appeal to most kids who are visual learners and enjoy animation.  You continuously click through the slides, though I felt like there were too many "extra" slides that didn't contribute to the story or the lessons.  The voices are computerized and often sound rushed, and the animation and audio are frequently misaligned.  The Learning Coach guides the student through the lesson by giving pertinent vocabulary and working through several examples.

Practice  The practice section allows you to solve problems in order to check understanding.  There are drag-and-drop, multiple choice, fill in the blank and other types of questions to offer variety.  If you get the question wrong, your Learning Coach will give you a little hint and you can try again.  You also have three lifelines, which automatically gives you the correct answer.  The questions can be read by the Learning Coach by clicking on the words, so non-readers can work at their own pace in math without being hindered if their reading ability is different.

Quiz  The quiz has 10 questions.  You can also click on the questions and answer choices in the quiz to have them read aloud.  You do not know until the end how you scored.  Depending on the number of questions answered correctly, you are awarded a certain number of points, which can be redeemed in the Motivate section.  Even if you "pass" the lesson you can still repeat lessons, but you must get 6/10 right in order to pass.

What Did We Think?
I could not find a placement test, so I just placed the boys in their respective grade levels.  Since we were already about halfway through the year when we started the program the beginning was way too easy, but at the same time I just had a new baby right after the holidays, so we were coming off an extended break and it was nice to have a solid review.

Elliott, 2nd Grade
Elliott has breezed through the quizzes so far without watching very many of the the instructional videos.  Partially because we started mid-year and this was review, and partially because he "gets" math and he doesn't require much instruction.  I usually found him starting with the practice problems to see if he could work them on his own.  If he needed a little guidance, then he would go back to the instructional video, watch enough to clarify the material, and return to work the practice problems before moving on to the quiz.  He thinks the videos are too long and he doesn't like the computerized/robotic sounding voice.  He also doesn't really care for the story line with the girl on the island.  I would prefer he watch the videos, but since he doesn't like them and the program allows him to bypass the lesson, there's not much I could do besides force him to do something he doesn't like or need.  We are relaxed homeschoolers, and he is progressing in his skills, so I allow him to have a little bit of ownership over his education in this way by judging his own understanding of the material and when to go back and watch the lessons.

Emory, Kindergarten
Emory is also still flying through the quizzes without needing the instructional videos.  Occasionally I have to explain a vocabulary term, and he's at an age where I can quickly "teach" anything he needs to know without the video lesson, so he almost never watches one either.  He was excited about Detective Digits and having a mystery theme, but he doesn't like the videos either.  I think the voice moves way too fast for him, and he isn't at the reading level required for the questions asked, so I have to sit with him and read everything.  I will say that normally he doesn't like sitting at the computer too long, but he will usually do two or three quizzes in one sitting.

Some screen shots from Kindergarten with Detective Digits . . .

Mom, Parent Account
There is a lot you can do from the parent account.  I can see how many lessons they have completed and their scores.  I also receive an email for every single lesson they complete with detailed information, but I wouldn't mind a way to opt-out considering they both do multiple lessons a day, I receive a weekly summary email, and it shows in my dashboard too.

This was a weekly digest for Emory.  A few of these printed from different stages in the course would be a good inclusion in our homeschool portfolio.  

I can also see at a glance when they are projected to finish the program (GPA suggests 10 months for a grade level) and how many lessons they need to complete each week to reach that goal.  I also have the ability to Test Drive every lesson from my account without affecting their results, which means I can see exactly how a lesson is presented and the types of questions they ask.  I set up their rewards in the beginning, but in my account I can see what awards they've received and which surprise reward is coming up next, so I can be prepared.  The layout of the program is fairly easy to navigate and self-explanatory for me to figure out how to use.

Points, Rewards and Motivation
The kids earn points as they complete the quizzes.  In the Motivate section, there are various rewards that the kids can "buy" with their points.  It's unique, because it's not about buying clothing for an avatar like so many other online games.  Instead they can redeem for real rewards.  Some options include gift cards to retail stores like ToysRUs or Target, tickets to attractions (local to Atlanta, Georgia, where GPA LOVE appears to be based), or privileges like staying up past bedtime, an extra bedtime story, play dates, baking cookies, movie nights, that type of thing.  Then there is the section in the parent account that I referenced earlier.  I set up several of these types of random rewards to be given after lessons at an interval determined by how many rewards I chose--the more I added, the more frequently they would receive them.  They know they will be surprised with rewards, but they don't know when they will pop up.  It's a nice incentive.

Final Thoughts
I like the purpose of the program.  It's fairly intuitive with a clean layout and is user-friendly.  I appreciate the unique motivational system.  The kids don't love the program, as they really aren't fans of the instructional videos, but they will do the program without much complaint.  Sometimes they will even choose GPALOVEMATH over other math options I give them.  They don't mind answering the questions and taking quizzes, and they often work through two or three sets in one sitting.  GPALOVEMATH says the program is a supplement, designed to help children get ahead in math, but I could see it being enough for many students for a full curriculum.  I know we don't use the program exactly as intended, but right now it's working for us, and that's what matters.  For now we will continue to keep this program in our repertoire of math programs to use in our homeschool.

Are You Interested?
  • Regularly priced at $149, but currently available for $129 with coupon code GPAINTRO15 (one year subscription, per child)
  • Monthly subscription for $12.99
  • There is a 30 day FREE trial
  • One student account can access all K-5 courses
  • Accessible on MS Windows, Apple Mac, iPad, or Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 (10")
  • Google Chrome is the recommended browser, but it works in Apple Safari 6 & 7, MS IE11, and FireFox
  • You can find more about GPA LEARN on their websiteFacebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, and of course be sure to read more reviews from the crew to get a glimpse at other grade levels!

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