Tuesday, January 12, 2010

MathScore.com - A Review


Product: MathScore

Price: $14.95 (1st child). $5.00 (2nd child). $3.95 (Each additional child)

Company: Accurate Learning Systems Corp.

Where to buy: mathscore.com

Brief Overview:
MathScore is an online supplemental math curriculum, developed by MIT graduates. It provides a a great review, to the point of mastery, on many topics geared for students from 2nd grade through Algebra.

In-Depth Look:
As part of the TOS Crew, I received a trial membership to mathscore.com. I set up accounts for my 2nd and 5th grade daughters, so that they could give it a whirl.

MathScore was developed by MIT graduates. It is used in schools and now has a Home Version as well. I reviewed the Home Version. It is geared for 2nd grade through Algebra, but has been successfully used by 1st graders as well.

MathScore is a mastery-based program. It is based on the idea that a student should have complete mastery of the easier skills before attempting the more difficult topics. The first things that your student should do on this site are master copy cat prep and copy cat. The sole goal of these topics is to increase your child's typing speed, without looking at the keyboard. This is very important since the drills are timed. Next should be the fast multiplication, fact division, fast subtraction and fast addition ...again to build up speed and mastery of the basics.

Once your child has mastered the basics, you can begin to use the site as a review of their current math concepts. Whatever topic you are covering in their math textbook, you should be able to find a relative topic on the mathscore site. The topics also offer optional mini-lessons.

Some examples in 2nd grade are
1. Bar graphs
2 Telling Time
3. Making Change
4. Word Problems
5. Missing Terms
6. Counting Squares
Many more

Some examples in 5th grade are
1. Rounding
2. Factoring
3. Long Division
4. Fraction Word Problems
5. Triangle Area
6. Mean, Median, Mode

As your student begins a new topic, you will see that their rating is a "0". As they progress through the questions, their rating will continue to go up. When it reaches "100", it is assumed that your child has mastered that topic. When the rating reaches "100", fireworks are displayed on the screen.

As they complete the different topics, your children will earn points. The points lead to different "rankings". At 145 points, your child reaches "Trainee". At 1000 points, he reaches "Cadet". At 3000, "Senior Cadet". And so on.

Completing certain topics also awards your child various trophies. For example, completing the copy cat drill will open up a trophy called "Fingers of Fury".

As I mentioned before, the drills are timed. To prove mastery, it is expected that your child should be able to complete the task in the specified time. However, a neat feature is included to help out those who struggle in the speed category. It allows you to pad your child's time, adding X amount of seconds per question.

Your child is rewarded for a job well done. With fireworks for mastery. With rankings for accumulating points. And for trophies for completing certain topics. Another bonus is if you do a well enough job, you can skip levels. This should be a real boost for your child.

At the end of a worksheet, mathscore gives your total correct with a percentage, time spent vs. time left, and a list of the problems that you got wrong (listing both the correct answer and the incorrect answer your child gave). The worksheets increase in difficulty as you progress.

If your child does a good job, they progress to the next level. If they do an exceptional job, they will be given the option of skipping some levels to harder worksheets. If they are having trouble, they will stay on the same level. If they are having a lot of trouble, the program sometimes drops you down to an easier level. So, it helps those who understand the concept not to get bored by moving on more quickly. And it helps those who are struggling not to get frustrated by slowing it back down a little.

In the parent area, you can add a buffer to your child's timer, as I mentioned above. You can also view your child's progress, showing where there might be areas of concern.

Do I think this program can help your child? Absolutely. By using this program in short increments on a regular basis, I think that you will see an improvement in your child's speed and accuracy. It doesn't teach the math skills. But it should serve to reinforce the facts that you have already learned.

I do have a comment about using the program. It may affect just me; in which case, I feel rather silly. But here it goes anyway. The questions for a lot of the topics are lined up in rows down the page. So you enter the answer, tab to the next question, enter the answer, tab to the next question, jump down a line and continue, jump down a line and continue, etc. This requires your eyes to keep jumping from problem to problem, as quickly as possible because of the timer. This caused me to feel sick, like motion sickness. It also tended to make me feel sleepy. The first time my 5th grader used it, she also commented that it made her feel sleepy.

Did my daughters enjoy using the program? Not really. They said that it felt too much like school work. They are used to online math drills that have more of a game feel to them, with lots of color, animation and interaction. Mathscore is a no-frills kind of site: high on the learning and low on the fun. But according to the creator, this is intentional. Some children actually learn better that way. They get easily distracted with all of the colors and noises and "busyness" of other sites. However, that said, I do think it did my children good to use the program. It pushed them to think on their feet, to try to recall facts rather than "figuring out each problem", because they could see the timer running out. And they didn't like to "lose". Speed of recall is an essential part to success in math. They did get excited when they saw the fireworks and were proud of themselves when they received a promotion in rank. So there were some built-in rewards; it just wasn't too the scale that they were used to.

Want to learn more? Want to give it a try with your students and see what they think? Here is the link to a hands-on tutorial. And here is the link to a free trial.

I highly suggest trying it out for free a few weeks. If you see an improvement in your child's speed and accuracy, you will know that you have found a winning tool to use in your homeschool program.

Want to see more reviews? Go here.

Disclaimer: I received an online membership to MathScore.com free of charge to review, as part of the TOS Crew. The above is just my opinion. Please remember that opinions may, and do, vary.

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