Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Schoolhouse Review: CTC Math

My daughter Gesserine has Down syndrome and math is the subject we struggle with the most. I have found that she is much more receptive to doing it on the computer rather than in a workbook, but finding a good program for that can be difficult. Then one month during my monthly homeschool mom's night out I had a friend tell us about CTC Math and how wonderful it was. I went home and began to look into it only to find out I was about to get the opportunity to review it! I was eager to see if this was going to work well with my Gess.

I was given the 12 Month Family Plan for the purpose of my review. CTC Math is an online math program for grades K-12 grade. This can be used as a full curriculum, at least for the elementary grade levels which is what I used it for, but it can also be used as a supplement to enhance any other program you may be using. The nice part about the family plan is that the price includes all the students in your family.

CTC Math is also not common core compliant which is actually part of what I loved about it. I am trying to teach basic math skills to my daughter who has special needs. I need her to learn math in the simplest form. I don't need it to confuse or confound matters for her. I also don't need it to include other subjects as I know what my daughter does or does not need.

When you first log on you choose your grade, your stream, and then your topic.

There is no assignment feature so you have to make sure your student knows where to begin, however once you are on a topic it will remain where you left off. It even has a nice feature to save your work so that you can stop in the middle of a lesson. It's only when you are starting a new unit that you have to direct the student where to go.  If you follow it in order it is even easier for them to navigate.

The teaching sessions were explained by an expert with a wonderful Australian accent. You can tell this program was not exclusively American as you hear dollars referred to as notes as well as bills and a few things like that.  However, it has been adapted to fit our needs. I loved how visually appealing these were. They had large font on the screen and most of the problems were demonstrated with tools to help the explanation. They worked them out step by step in easy to follow directions. While Gess struggles doing the math, she at least understood what was expected of her.

After the student watches the video instructions they have a set of questions to answer which demonstrate the skill just learned. These consisted of about 8 to 10 problems that were solved right on the computer. We were mostly using the 2nd grade level of math or lower and I was very glad to see that many of them allowed the student to use virtual manipulatives. For instance in subtraction sometimes you could cross off the number and other times you could move them out of the way. They also had place value blocks that corresponded nicely to the ones we actually use.

It does eventually make you drop the manipulatives, as it should. However since Gess has special needs I would let her continue to use some. She just cannot do the math without them yet so at least this way I know she is getting the concept.

When you complete your lesson you can view the results of the work and go over anything you missed. I wish these were saved and available in the parents' area. It would be nice to know exactly which problems caused them trouble and you can't tell that unless you are sitting with your student at the time or instruct them to print it. This is not a huge issue for me because most of the time I am sitting and helping Gess.

In order to pass you need to get a certain percentage correct. The program is defaulted to 90% but you can adjust it. I lowered it to 80% for Gess. As they complete each section they earn an award. Those are so very motivating for Gess. So far she has earned 1 platinum, 3 gold and 1 silver. There is an option for her to check her status on these at the bottom of the screen. She put her latest gold medal certificate as her background image on her computer. She is so proud of it!

The parents reports let you see the overall progress your student has been making and it also emails the reports to you on a weekly basis. Here is one weekly report I got for Gess.

In the parents' area you can review the report in summary or detailed form and view and/or print the summary as well as each individual certificate. I wish the parents' area had more, like viewing the individual worksheets, assigning lessons, or offering printable worksheets to go along with the lessons but what it has is helpful and can be exported easily for download onto your computer.

I was a little disappointed with some of the important life skills sections of math such as counting money and telling time. While these were well done visually, they weren't really done in a way that is comparable to our daily use. For instance the calendar was set up M-S. Calendars we use follow a S-S version.

That section on money seemed to be too short for me.  I definitely felt there could be more there.  They also do very little work with bills (which they often referred to as notes) and instead work mostly with change. While they address bills for one lesson, when you actually practice paying for things you do so with dollar coins instead of paper bills. They also emphasize half dollars quite a bit too. While its good to learn these coins exist and how to use them, these are ones we very seldom see or use in daily practice.  I can't even remember the last time I ever used a dollar coin to pay for things.  I would like to see those lessons include both notes and coins which is what the children will actually use in real life.  Of course this probably isn't as big an issue for kids who do not have the learning struggles that my daughter has.  I did love that they were very realistic looking so were easily identifiable.

While CTC Math can be used as an entire curriculum like I am doing, I don't feel like you will be able to get away with that for children that want to really excel in math. They will need more of a challenge and supplements to help such as printable worksheets. The lessons are repeatable but I am struggling to get Gess to do so. Once she sees the lesson colored as complete she refuses to go back. I need her to do that because she needs the practice.

Other than that I have found this program to be beneficial for us. I plan to continue to use it and will supplement some of the areas with hands-on examples that Gess needs anyway. I also love the way it excites Gess about math. She gets really excited when she gets an answer correct and is really fond of receiving awards. I love seeing her raise her hands and shout "yes" or give herself a thumbs up for getting a problem right. She is learning to do the math on her own and that is important. Even though she requires helps most of the time it is nice that she is recognized for her accomplishments.

CTC Math is currently offering homeschoolers 60% off the regular price. If you sign up as a homeschool family you get the 12 Month Family Plan for only $118.80. You can also choose a 6 month or monthly payment plan. If you have only one child like me you pay only $78.80 a year.  If you use this as your entire program there are no books, workbooks, or any thing else for you to buy so it really is a great deal. That is worth it to me knowing that Gess is getting all of her math concepts covered while requiring no prep work on my end. To learn more visit the CTC Math website or see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about it by clicking on the banner below.

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