Sunday, June 26, 2016

CTC Math Review


I would love to tell you about what we have been doing for math for the past 6 months.  I had not been able to settle on any particular curriculum, even the most highly recommended Charlotte Mason style math curriculum's, while I knew they were good, just didn't seem right for us.  So we started doing a lot more living math which I wrote about here and were really enjoying doing math this way.  However, I was becoming more and more drained, not because from doing living math, but my health was just not keeping up and then I started really dropping the ball. I didn't know for some time, but I was very anemic and very low on vit D and just felt like I was dying.  

I didn't have the energy to plan and prepare the fun, engaging living math fun that we were finding so rewarding. I wanted to keep doing living math activities, but I felt like I needed something more stable and structured than what I was doing, yet still gentle and not stress inducing. So I went back to searching my top choices.  One that I kept coming back to was CTC Math. My husband and I were hesitant about doing an online math program, especially after doing math in such a hands-on way AND being very Charlotte Mason, Waldorf, Nature Inspired in our homeschool, we just weren't sure about doing math on the computer or ipad.  

The kids and I were traveling to visit family for 2.5 weeks, so I decided to do the free trial as our math while we were away and now here I am writing a ha;f a year later.  My son (K) was so excited by the certificates, he really thrived on the structure of the program and was motivated to plow through it. He thought is was fun and just took off and is almost a full grade level ahead now. He would ask me if he could do more math. I'm so happy that he is just starting out on something that he has taken to so well, hopefully we'll just avoid any math drama all together with him at this rate.

With my daughter (3rd grade) we had started out with basic math workbooks from the store in Kindergarten and done fun math sheets and activities from 1+1+1=1 and other fun pinterest stuff.  It was going well. Then first grade we started doing MFW and we did the math that came with that and that's when things started to get wasn't just wasn't good either.  We did everything by the book, but it wasn't working, nothing would was like starting over every day.  And part of that is how my daughter learns and the reason we went away from "curriculum" and more into relaxed eclectic, or what I coined Classical Masonori Waldunschoolers. (that's Classical Conversations, Charlotte Mason, Montessori, Waldorf and Unschooling all blended up into a super yummy and healthy smoothie!) 
Anyways, then by second grade we started Singapore as recommeded by MFW and she liked the pictures and how there weren't too many questions per page so she wasn't visually overwhelmed, but I was floundering in trying to teach it because I'm not mathy...I'm a math phobe!  I'm still haunted be a reoccurring nightmare that I skipped my last college math class the last semester and remembered right before finals and am freaking out knowing there is NO way I can pass the final or make up for the all I missed.  I hate that dream!
Meanwhile I had began looking at other options more obsessively (at least that's probably how my husband would describe it when he turns on the computer and there's 30 tabs open in just 1 of the browsers and I'm reading and researching too much).  We were getting through the Singapore book, but when skills came back up, it was clear she wasn't getting it, it wasn't sticking.  AND with any math I did with her, she was always immediately overwhelmed when we started a new topic or idea and would shut down before even giving it a chance and I'd be trying to convince her how simple it was if she would just listen for a second.  
I really wanted to like Math U See or RightStart, those are such good programs but every time I looked at them, I just knew  it wasn't for us, she would shut down as soon as she see's that page of problems just as much as I felt overwhelmed when looking at all the stuff that came with Rigthstar.  Anything that looked like a textbook just was a very hard part of our day.  So that is how we just decided to embrace hands-on learning and dove into Living Math.  

But once we gave CTC Math a try, I was amazed.  My daughter would watch the short video lesson that is like an animated and narrated power point presentation and would just be engaged, nodding her head like "Oh OK that makes sense" and then as soon as the lesson was finished and Pat Murray says "alright we've completed our lesson and good luck with your questions." She would just go right in and confidently be ready to do her math, even if it was something totally new...something that would have her sliding out of her chair and onto the floor in a ball of misery, excuses and overwhelm in the past.  

Some key things that really make CTC Work for us are:
  • Only one question is displayed at a time
  • There is a progress bar at the top that moves each time they submit their answer so they get that immediate reward of seeing how much closer they are to being finished with questions.
  • Their score is kept showing their current percentage on that lesson as well as how many out of the total number of questions they have completed.
  • Being able to type in or select the answer takes away the added stress for those with Dyslexia or other similar issues as they can just focus on the math and not worry if they wrote 25 when they mean 52 or hand fatigue for those who grip too hard, then write wrong and can't erase their answers since they press the pencil SO HARD.
  • The lessons are concise and to the point but do a great job explaining and demonstrating the concept. (Charlotte Mason would approve)
  • You can select how many practice questions you want your child to do and what you require for a passing grade when you set up your students account. You could set it for only having to do 10 practice questions but require 90-100% accuracy or you could set it up however you want.  
  • There are diagnostic tests for each topic and you can select short (20 questions) Standard (30 questions) or comprehensive (40 questions)
  • Parent can assign tasks with deadlines if desired
  • Parent can edit the students account so if they want to delete a lesson and redo it to get a better score and award, you can.
  • Kids love checking their awards section and keeping track of how many platinum, gold and silver awards they have earned.
  • They enjoy the speed skills.
  • My daughter likes that after she completes a lesson, it shows how long it took her to complete the lesson, but that it doesn't show a timer while she's doing the lesson because any sort of timer is stressful and distracting for her.
  • mobility - we travel quite a bit and this is easy to access from anywhere without having to pack anything
  • Built in manipulatives that kids can move around on screen with either a mouse if using computer or with their finger if using an ipad to work out their problems and find the answer.
  • No teacher frustration...I sit with my kids as support but if they don't get it (which has only happened on rare occasion thus far) they can simply re-watch the video lesson and try again.  
  • Affordable! Having a family subscription with multiple kids with access to all grade levels is an incredible deal.  The subscription for the whole family (with the home school discount) costs the same as other curriculum, but just purchasing one grade level.  And you can easily move your kids up or down based on where they need to be without having to buy more curriculum/materials.  
  • This program is great for a variety of learning styles as it is Visual, Audio and Kinestetic.
  • Kids like the new feature of being able to customize the color scheme of their account.  My son has Red and Orange and my daughter Teal and Blue. Sometimes it's the little things, like having their own user name and password, their own color scheme, records and awards...they like it.
  • This program has been like a burden lifted for me as I feel very confident in how my kids are doing in math now and I can still add in living math activities to our day, but I don't HAVE to always be prepared.  
  • I have a two year old...I don't have time and patience for whining and tantrums and dawdling over math!  I haven't had any of those issues since we started CTC Math AND my daughter is retaining what she has learned.  

I think if Charlotte Mason were around today she would approve.

A couple Cons:

  • I wish it was easier to go back and change one question that as wrong so they don't have to have a lower award or redo the whole set of questions because of a simple mistake like bumping the submit button or a typo when they knew the right answer. Although it's taught them to really DOUBLE check before they click submit.  
  • The Times Tables Game and Speed Skills didn't work on the ipad but they just fixed that so that's been great!
  • They have great built in manipulatives but every once in a while you may want to actually take out a scrap paper and pencil for your child to work the question out on. It's not a big con but sometimes you are used to the manipulatives and then you'll get a question without any and my daughter will stare blankly. this isn;t really that much of a negative but more of an FYI.  Also one some of the money questions, I brought out some of our fake money for her to use because on some of those there were not built in manipulatives...however, I was happy to be able to bring in some other manipulatives that she could use so not a big deal.
  • I would love if they made an app for the ipad instead of doing it within the Safari browser.  Sometimes it can be a little glitchy on the ipad sometimes. It definitely works smoother on the computer.
Those are the only Cons I could think of and I was really trying to be honest and thorough but there are really no HUGE complaints I have.  I think this program is totally awesome and I envision us sticking with this all the way through.  And...I'm honestly getting more confident at math from watching his lessons with my kids! I struggled to do mental math...but I am getting much better now and I don't think I've had my college math class nightmare in a while now! :0

And I will say, we are not total unschoolers, but I think many unschoolers would enjoy having this as a math program as I know many people resonate with the ideology but then wonder..."what about math?" I think CTC Math could blend well with any full on homeschool style out there...except maybe not full on Waldorf because you can't watercolor paint on your computer screen! :)

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