Friday, April 25, 2014

Online Math Lessons with CTC Math {A TOS Review}

CTC Math Review
I love trying out different math curriculum and finding new ways to teach math to the children. Math was my favorite subject in elementary school, but I do find it a challenge to try to explain some concepts in a way the girls will understand. With CTC Math we have a world-renowned teacher in our home, explaining lessons to the children in simple, understandable ways. Thanks to the Schoolhouse Review Crew we were given a chance to try out CTC Math's online 12 Month Family Plan which initially gives access for 5 family members. If needed you can request an increase in membership slots.  They do have other plans, but this is by far the best value for the Family Plans.  All you need is a computer with high-speed internet access for best usability. 
Once you have a membership to CTC Math each child has access to all the topics in every grade level from Kindergarten through 12th grade. This includes the lower levels: Kindergarten, 1st Grade, 2nd Grade, 3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th Grade and 6th Grade. Then there is Basic Math & Pre-Algebra, Elementary Measurement, Elementary Geometry and Algebra I. The upper levels are Pre-Calculus, Calculus, Algebra II, Geometry and Trigonometry. Obviously the girls are not going to be studying the upper levels any time soon, but I think it is great that they can work at the level that they need to be working at and can go back to review if they need to. 
So, how did we use CTC Math in our home? 
The older girls each had there own time on CTC Math. Sometimes they watched each other, other times I would work individually with one of them on other subjects while one worked on their math. I did try to let Hannah have some time but I don't think she is quite ready yet. She enjoys doing the lessons. She even earned a high enough grade to receive 2 bronze certificates, but she just isn't grasping the concepts yet, and I am in no rush as she is only 4.
When we first gained access to CTC Math it did seem a bit intimidating. When we logged in we saw the Course information.

Each Course had its own Stream.

Kindergarten Stream:

1st Grade Stream:

And each Stream had a number of Topics.

Kindergarten Topics:

1st Grade Topics:

I was wondering where in the world we should start!

 I poked around some more and discovered that each topic has a number of lessons. Each topic also has a Standard and a Comprehensive Diagnostic Test. Okay, less intimidating. I realized it was quite easy to plot a course of learning for the girls.

I started out by having the girls take some Comprehensive tests to see what we would need to work on, figuring they could skip the lessons they already had a decent amount of knowledge in. However, I was curious about the "Awards" that are mentioned (you can see it at the bottom of page in the screen shots) and the fact that we didn't seem to be working toward any. When I found out that the children had to actually go through the lessons to get the awards I decided we would go through all the lessons from the beginning of their respective grades. Yes, the idea of using awards as incentive was great, but another benefit of this strategy was knowing they weren't missing anything of importance. Sometimes they work on a couple of lessons in one day, other times they work until they receive their certificate. 

With CTC Math, a child can earn 1 of 4 levels of award: Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum. They earn the award after finishing all the lessons in a specific Topic. As they are working through the lessons a little note will be in the bar below the lessons, letting them know what award they are working toward. In order to increase their level they can rework lessons until they get a higher average. The program only averages in the 3 best attempts, so a child can continue to work until they (and/or the parent) are happy with their grade. Even after they achieve their award, they can go on to improve their grade. 

Before they answer their questions they sit through the tutorial. The instructor, Pat Murray, narrates the animated step-by-step lessons while they appear on the screen. I have to say, I really enjoy listening to his Australian accent and there have been no problems with the children understanding what he is saying. He explains the concepts in a way the children can understand, adding in computerized manipulatives and showing the correct way to find the answers.

They children then get a chance to answer approximately 10 questions for each lesson. The child does need to be able to read the questions or have help from a parent or older sibling as their is no narration in the question section. They just need to click or type their answer. I am always reminding the girls to check their answers before hitting submit, because they have been caught in simple mistakes that could have been fixed if they had caught them. If the answer is correct, a green check mark will appear. If the answer is wrong, a red X will appear along with the correct answer.

After answering all the questions the student will see the following results page, showing all the questions, their answers and whether they were right or wrong, along with the correct answer.

On the student account, there is accessibility to their Awards and Reports, showing which awards they received and for what subject, plus any Diagnostic Test results. 

You will also find a Summary Report, which shows the topics, plus how many lessons are available, how many lessons have been completed, the student's progress and average grade.

Additionally, you will find the Detailed Report, showing each lesson, and the grades received. It shows the average of the best 3 attempts, first attempt, high attempt, attempts made, attempts needed to pass and the date passed. As a parent you can set the grade you require as a passing grade, though that does not change the way that the program awards the certificate levels.

In addition to the lessons there are also Speed Skills. There are 4 levels.

Level 1 focuses on Addition and Subtraction.
Level 2 adds multiplication.
Level 3 adds division.
Level 4 adds order of operations. 

As of yet, I have not seen the need of having the girls try the Speed Skills. At their age I am not expecting the ability to supply an instantaneous answer for math problems. They are still working on the concept stage of addition and subtraction. Additionally, I believe they would be very frustrated in trying to type the answer quick enough. As they get older I can see the benefits in them however.

The children have really enjoyed using CTC Math and working toward earning certificates. Originally, Tabitha said she was not interested in using the program, but I insisted (quite firmly) that she needed to give it a try. While there are days she has been struggling and getting frustrated, overall she is doing well and having fun. She gets very upset when she misses one question because that drops her from Platinum level to Gold level. We have explained to her that Gold is quite acceptable as we know she understands the concepts. I can definitely see there can be pros and cons to having the certificates as incentives. It is nice to have something to work towards, but it is also easy to get too prideful and competitive, especially when there are siblings around.  There are times Tabitha is spending too much time trying to improve her grade just for the sake of the certificate. While we don't want them to just settle for the lower certificate level, there are times that it is a simple miscount that causes the error. 

They really do love their awards!

CTC Math is a great math program. It definitely has the ability of being a full curriculum for the younger grades. In our homeschool, we do tend to be hands-on though, so it will be more of a fun supplement for us, to review old concepts, as a tutorial to help explain new concepts when mommy is having trouble and as a guide to make sure we haven't skipped any important topics. I think it is wonderful that they can work at their own pace, reviewing as needed and zinging through lessons that come easy to them. I love receiving Weekly Progress Reports in my email so I know what each child has been working on. As I tend to be working with one of the other girls on other subjects while they take their turns on CTC Math, I am not always sure how many lessons they are completing at each sitting. The progress reports keep me informed.

There are a few concerns I have with CTC Math.

Though it is great that they can review the lessons they are having trouble with, there is the concern that if they are not understanding the concept the way it is being taught they will still be struggling after watching it multiple times. That of course is where mom and dad come in, which could be a good or bad thing as I have been known to confuse Tabitha more. 

Another issue came up when the lesson results appeared after a second attempt at one of Tabitha's lessons. In the box under the graph and before the review of the answers it states, "2 questions are not displayed because they were answered in a previous session. The results for these questions have been counted toward the final score."  I found this a little odd because I would like to see all the questions so I would know where any difficulties may lie. 

I know there were times when Amelia was frustrated because she was working on a lesson that had less than 10 questions and she would get only 1 wrong and suddenly be working at a Silver level. While I completely understand that Platinum level requires 100% on each lesson, having suddenly dropped to Silver level because of a smaller amount of questions seems a little weird to me. Obviously I don't want the focus to be on the certificates, but they are important to the girls and when they lose their Gold level due to one mistake I can understand their frustration. So there have been a couple of instances where I have allowed them to be satisfied with a Silver certificate.

All in all, we are enjoying our time with CTC Math. While I had plans of taking some upper level math to refresh my memory I just haven't had enough time in the day to get on my account. If you would like to see what other mom's thought of CTC Math and to get a glimpse of the upper levels, don't forget to check out the other Crew Reviews.

You can get CTC Math for the current sale price of $118.80 for a 12 months family membership (2 or more students) for homeschoolers.

You can find CTC Math on Facebook. In addition they have an Australian Maths Online Facebook page.

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