Wednesday, January 5, 2011

TOS Homeschool Crew Review: Math Facts Now

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Math Facts Now is a program aimed at helping your students memorize their math facts. This covers not just the Multiplication tables, but facts for each of the four operations: Multiplication, Division, Addition, and Subtraction. It is a very simple straightforward program and it really works!


I admit, my first impression of this program was not so great. The student had to complete 50 problems correctly before they could stop and the lesson I created meant that there was LOTS of repetition. Too much in fact. Kirk and Maggie tried it and they too were frustrated and bored. But first impressions do not a good review make - so I played with the Math Facts Now some more.

Since both Kirk and Maggie have their math facts down pretty well - the lessons I was creating were too simple for them. I also was assuming that FRitW was not ready for this program since he has not done any formal math at this point. I returned to the lesson creator.

I will interrupt my story for a minute here to explain the way this program works: The parent creates a lesson by choosing the operation - multiplication for instance; then chooses which facts to address: (choices are from 1-12) originally I chose 4,6,8. The parent then chooses how much time the student has to work each problem: with possible being 2-60 seconds, how many times they must retype a wrong answer: 2-10 times - (note here: the program has the student type not just the answer, but the entire problem: ex:"10+2=12"). Next the parent chooses how many correct answers will be required to complete the lesson: 50-200 **. Once the lesson is created it is available to all students. The student simply chooses his/her name, selects a lesson, and begins. As they work the number of correct answers is tracked so they can see their progress. The parent can then choose to provide a reward for a 100% correct lesson - this is a blank line to fill in so it could really be any reward that your child might enjoy.

I now return to my story: When I set up the lesson with only 4,6, and 8 multiplication tables for Kirk and Maggie, the problems repeated themselves quite frequently in the 50 problems. So I made a few new lessons for them. I created one lesson for each operation including all possible facts 1 through 12. I gave them maximum time to complete each problem: 60 seconds, and only required them to retype the wrong answers twice. I added a reward for each lesson: 10-15 minutes of computer or Wii time. (This is a big deal in our house, because 1. That time is rare, 2. What time they get they usually have to share with a sibling. So the idea of getting to play a Wii game without any "help" was pretty motivating.

This time, both kids were more interested. They still worked through quickly, each averaging about 3 seconds per problem (per the report at the end) reached their 50 correct problems on each level and prepared to spend their computer/Wii time.

I learned two things: 1. Kirk and Maggie definitely have all of their math facts down pat. 2. FRitW COULD do this program.

So, story, part 2: FRitW was desperate to 'do math' like his siblings. FRitW is 6 years old and is a little calculator. He can add and subtract in his head very well, can recognize numbers and count to more than 60 - all with no actual school learning. However, he still cannot write many of his numbers and has never done a math problem on paper (note: I am not a huge fan of 'paper' school this early and ~grin~ he really isn't either). However, I decided to give him a chance, so I created an addition lesson with just the two's tables for him. If I had checked in with my Homeschool Crew around the time I was creating this, I would have known that Math Facts Now had changed the minimum problem count** already, but since I didn't I had to give him a minimum correct problem requirement of 50.

I was a bit nervous that he would get fed up before he reached 50, but he was chomping at the bit to try the same math as Kirk and Maggie. He began the lesson and reached his 50 with only 4 problems incorrect. I gave him 10 minutes on the Wii as a reward anyway! He talked about it all day long, even greeting Dad with, "I did fifty math problems - want to watch me?" and he did another set of 50!

One thing that I disliked and liked about the program was that the 4 problems FRitW missed were strictly typing errors. For example, in attempting to type '13' he held the 3 key too long and accidentally typed '1333'. He knew the answer, but his keyboard skills were lacking. The result was him having to type the entire problem twice. This didn't help him to get the fact down, since he already knew it. However, in the case of an older child I think it is a good feature because it encourages them to be cautious and careful.

Overall, I think the program has real potential in our family. Even 50 problems only take a short time: FRitW spent about 15 minutes, Kirk & Maggie about 2-3 minutes. The rewards were a real motivator and adaptable to your student. **As a result of the Crew's input, the creator adjusted the minimum number of correct problems to 5. Personally, I do not plan to share that information with my children,  ~sly grin~
although I might consider alternating 50 and 30 with FRitW. He might enjoy the surprise of being done at 30!

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Math Facts Now retails for $15.95 for the download. A CD version is also available for the same price plus $3.95 shipping. Try it for free on their website - click here for details. 

My final comment is this: I am very glad I continued to play with Math Facts Now - tweaking the lessons until I found the right combinations for our family. I think it is useful for increasing speed on known facts, learning new facts, and even practice for beginning math instruction.

Of course, I am not the only one who reviewed Math Facts Now. Click here to see what my other Crew mates thought about it.
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Any products reviewed by me as a member of the 2010-2011 TOS Homeschool Crew have been given to me free of charge in order for me to provide you with an honest review of the product and/or how we used the product within our family. I do not receive any other form of compensation for the reviews posted on this blog.

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