Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Schoolhouse Review: A+ Tutorsoft

What to do about math?  That's a question I keep asking myself every year.  My daughter has Down syndrome and math is where she really struggles.  I have finally settled on letting her use manipulatives and sometimes even a calculator just so long as she is learning the concept.  It is so tedious though, to have to help her with each and every activity.  That is why I was excited to get the opportunity to review a math program from  A+ Tutorsoft, Inc. While it is not geared towards children with special needs, it has been helpful for me as the parent/teacher as well as Gess, who is the student.

A+ Interactive Math is a multi-sensory interactive math program that uses audio, visuals and text with interactive lessons, step by step instructions and instant feedback for 1st - 6th grade, Pre-Algebra and Algebra 1.   They offer a Homeschool Premium Software Edition available to purchase on CD as well as a Homeschool Online Edition with subscriptions that can be paid monthly, quarterly or yearly.  They also have an online school edition as well.  For the purpose of my review I was given a one year subscription to the 2nd Grade A+ Interactive Math, Homeschool Online Edition.

 Gess was already in a 2nd grade math level curriculum so we did not have to start on day one, though we did some of the early lessons for review.  Because of that we actually got to get a feel for a larger variety of lessons.  After reviewing the lessons on number sense, we completed the entire unit on addition, including the chapter exam where she scored a 92%.  After that we moved ahead to the unit on money and are almost done with that.  From there we will continue on to time, then go back and catch subtraction and stay in order from there.

I love the interaction portion of the lesson.  The audible instruction is pleasant and pretty clear and the visual examples do enhance the lesson quite a bit. In fact greater than and less than was something Gess always struggled with.  She knew which was bigger, but could never get which arrow to draw.  I always told her to picture the gator mouth, but saying it and seeing it are two different things.  The gator images they used in their example finally made it click for her.

After the instruction is given there is an interactive quiz that I also really like.  Instead of just typing in your answer you click submit on this little frog. Then if you get the answer right you get this fun response. 

 If you miss the problem they will not only show you what the answer should be but work the entire problem out for you using audio, visual and text.

At the end of interactive quiz you get a final screen that tells you how well you did.

The one thing I do not like about this part is that it does not permanently keep that score for you.  They say that this is practice and they don't want the children worried about how well they do, but I still don't feel like it would be too difficult for them to record it for the parents.  They do have an option that lets you insert that information yourself if you want to keep track, but since I let Gess do it independently sometimes I might miss the score if she closes the program before I have a chance to see it.

While I like the lessons quite a bit, I do think that the instruction is rushed.  As they tell how to work the problem they will ask questions to the student to see if you know the right answer, however they do not pause to give the student any real time to guess.  Rather they immediately say you were right or "if you guessed _____" you were correct.  Kids that are first being introduced to a concept need at least a few seconds to respond.  Of course it is immediately followed by an interactive quiz where the child can take all the time that they need so it isn't a major issue, but with Gess' special needs sometimes she watches the lesson twice and I pause it to help enhance the explanation if I think she doesn't understand it. 

After each instruction and interactive quiz, there are online as well as printable worksheets and exams that you can take. 

My biggest frustration with the worksheet was the way it was laid out.  There is a large menu at the top that lets you do a lot of things which is good but as you fill out the worksheet you have to go up to that menu to go to the next problem.  You can not simply hit enter to go on.  I almost missed that completely because I usually expect that the the submit button (in this case next) would be at the bottom or end of the problem right where the answer is.  I think it is tedious and annoying to find it at the top.  It certainly stalls the momentum especially when you sometimes mouse over something else, opening up a menu, keeping you from hitting the next button.  Still, once we got the hang of how it was done, it wasn't too bad.

The main website itself is really "busy" and somewhat clunky.  I do not keep a small resolution on my screen like many people do so I found this floating menu on the site very annoying.  It covered up my launch button so I had to really hunt how to even start the program to begin with, and each time I log on, I have to first close it.  Once you get past that though, it's pretty easy to work with.

They have a few options for keeping records.  I mentioned earlier that it does not keep the interactive quiz score, but you can insert that information on your own.  They have two different categories in the Admin Panel: Automatic for online scores and Manual for you to insert printed worksheet scores and exams.  I really did not use the manual myself, because I felt the automatic kept enough information for me and quite frankly I used that more often. Below are a few screenshots of some of the progress tracking charts.  I think it is a great tool to use and love the information that it does keep for you. 

For those of you have special needs students, I wanted to show you how I adapted this for Gess.  I am so thrilled with how she has been enabled her to work more independently in math because of it.  The program already had great visual tools that it taught the children. One I particularly liked was the addition table.  It was one we had not really used very often but once she got the hang of it I decided to let her keep using it, even when she was not supposed to.   The lesson really did a great job at explaining how to use it.

After that I made our own copy for Gess to use on her desk so she could see it better because in the worksheets it is very small. It was also helpful to use in problems where she was not supposed to be using it anymore but needed to since she is still unable to memorize her math facts.   Here she is practicing a problem from the online worksheet on the board.  Notice how the addition table is taped next to it and she is using it to add the ones, tens and hundreds slots separately using the carrying method.  She did such a great job with this one little tool!  At least we know she has the concept down!

Of course sometimes she would do the problem at her desk as well. I just moved the table where ever it was necessary.

She also did a pretty good job on the printable worksheet too.

For money I let her use a calculator.  For this we are focusing on learning how to count money more than add.  It's a life skill she will need, even if she is never able to memorize her math facts.  (She does great memorizing but freezes once they are mixed up together.)  The important part of these lessons were counting the coins correctly.  I had her count the highest value coins first, put that total in the calculator and then count the next largest set of coins, add that total and so on.  She picked it up pretty fast.  I was impressed.  It's the best she has done counting money yet. I think having the lessons in visual, audio, and text really helped.

While I had to adapt some of these lessons to first teach Gess, I was able to let her do some work on her own.  I always had her watch the lesson again and repeat the interactive quiz if it was a new concept.  There were also many online worksheets I let her do alone.  She did the exam on her own as well, but I had to crank up the time allotted for it and make sure she stayed on task.  It was almost too long for her attention spam.  I love that the worksheets let you save and complete them later. That was really helpful for us to allow Gess to do a small number of problems at a time, otherwise her frustration really builds up. 

A+ Interactive Math can be purchased by visiting the A+ Tutorsoft, Inc. website.

The Math Curriculum Software CD runs $99 for the regular edition or $124.99 for the premium edition.
The Online Math Curriculum is $19.95 per month, $49.99 quarterly or $124.99 for a full year.

Right now A+ Tutorsoft, Inc. is offering a 50% discount through the end of March if you use the code SPOFFER50.  If you are interested in purchasing this product, you might want to do it before that offer runs out!  I think I may go ahead and purchase the 3rd grade level CD now myself, just to save me money for next year!

While at first I began to wonder if this curriculum would work well for us, in the end I found it extremely beneficial.  I will certainly continue to use it.  To learn more about A+ Interactive Math visit their website or see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about it by clicking on the banner below. Many of my crew mates had opportunities to review this product in other grade levels as well as students who do not struggle as much in math.  I am sure you will enjoy reading their thoughts and insights as well.


Disclaimer in accordance with FTC Regulations: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I received a one year subscription of the 2nd Grade A+ Interactive Math Homeschool Online Edition for giving my honest opinion and assessment of this product in my review. It was not required to be a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

Note: All pricing is current at the time of posting and is subject to change

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