Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Homeschool Review: Math Facts Now

One of the products we were asked to review for the TOS Crew was a computer program called Math Facts Now. In a nutshell, this is computerized "flash cards". And, if you generally utilize flash cards for math, this would be an awesome option for you!

You can either download the program ($15.95) or purchase it on CD ($15.95 + $3.95 S/H). It's a small, easy-to-use computer program. It can be used for addition, subtraction, multiplication or division.  The parent spends a few minutes setting up a lesson. You choose the math facts your child(ren) needs to work on, how many problems are in the lesson, how much time to allow per problem, how to handle missed problems, etc. Then turn your child lose with it. That's really all there is to it. It gives the child math problems, they type in the answer, it tells them if they're right or wrong. If they're wrong, they type out the whole problem 2 or more times (depending on the criteria you set up), and are given the same problem again (sometimes several times) during the lesson to reinforce it.

This can be used for any age that's learning math facts, from the earliest addition (younger children might need you to sit with them and do the typing for them, since inaccurate, or too slow, typing is going to mess them up), until the child has learned all their math facts through the 12s.

As I mentioned earlier, if you use flashcards for math, you're going to love this option! It's going to be a good fit for anyone who teaches "math facts" using flashcards, workbooks, or "school" of any sort.  Unschoolers, or other relaxed schoolers who "teach" math through lifeskills, probably aren't going to use this much. That said, even though we fall into that last category, the girls enjoy occasionally "doing math" with this program, so it can work for anyone, but we probably wouldn't "get our money's worth" out of it if we had purchased it.

Teacher prep is minimal, it only takes 30 seconds or so to set up a new lesson. But since this isn't web-based, if you have multiple computers you're going to have to set it up separately on any computer you use. When we first got the program, I just put it on my computer, figuring that way I'd only have to set up each lesson once, but after a day or two of having to surrender my computer during "math time", I changed strategy and installed the program on each of their computers. Now I have to set up each lesson "twice" so that's more teacher prep, but then my computer isn't tied up while they're doing the lesson.

This program wasn't an ideal fit for our family, but it also isn't something that's targeted at our "style". I honestly don't understand why someone would want to make something "just educational, not entertaining". If you want your kids to memorize math facts (I've stated before, that I think math, certainly basic elementary level math, is better learned through life, so that children recognize, from the beginning WHY 1+1=2 AND why they need to know that), why not at least make it fun? So, I don't really understand the premise behind this program. BUT, that's just me, hee hee. Moving beyond that, does it do what it claims to do? Yes. Does it do it well? Yes. Even though there are many options the parents can set, I would like even more options. I'd like to be able to skip the "type it out 2 times' or at least be able to decrease it to only once when they miss a problem.  I'd like to be able to completely opt out of the timed aspect of this, I suspect if we used this regularly, that would trip them up sometimes if they got distracted by baby sister, etc. in the middle of a lesson.  And, I'd like to be able to choose "both sides" of the equation. The program is set up so that you can choose which number(s) to test, but, whatever number(s) you choose, it's going to give problems adding (or subtracting, etc) that number to all numbers from 0-12 . So, if we chose, to start by learning addition facts through 10+10, this would be a problem, because there's no way, that I found, to avoid having the program also test for 10+12 if you choose the 10s.  All that said, when we first began reviewing this program, the minimum number of problems per lesson was 50. Several of us asked about changing this & the company was quick to change this, reducing the minimum to 5. So I think in most cases, any changes like this, would be something the company would work with you if you asked.

My kids actually seemed to enjoy this more than I anticipated. Probably because "flash cards" is a novelty to them, hee hee. We got this program right at the end of our "season of travel", and we plan to stay closer to home over the winter. But since this isn't web based, it's something I think will work well in the car. I'll pre-set a few lessons on each of their computers and they can quietly work through them during Little Bit's nap or anytime they need a change of pace as we drive. There's also an option to set a reward if they get 100% correct. If we're going to use this in the car, I'll probably set those rewards to be some type of treat (candy, etc) to surprise them when they get to the end.

Disclaimer: We received a free download version of this program free in exchange for writing this review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

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