Wednesday, August 6, 2014

3P Learning: Mathletics (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

Mathletics from 3P Learning is an online math skills program for all ages and grade levels.  Designed for students in grades K through 12, this online program can be used to reinforce math skills in nearly any topic.  In addition, there are online, one minute math fact live challenges to help students work on speed recall.  Because Mathletics is an internationally based program (more on that in a minute), your student is competing against others around the world in these Live Challenges - so like in the traditional sports Olympics, you're competing not just for yourself but to see your flag atop the "podium." For our review, Matthew (grade 7)  and Celia (grade 4) were competing for "Team USA."

The Mathletics program is designed as a supplement to any current Math curriculum.  While it uses the Common Core as it's framework for use in the United States, it is not solely aligned to the CCSS.  In fact, you can choose your student's program of study: if your student is using an individual US program with its own standards (ie, California, the Texas TEKS program, or the international DoDEA), you can choose those programs as well; if you are an ex-pat in a supported country with a student in a local school, you can still "compete for the US" while working on a local curriculum.  Because it is meant to be used internationally, it also uses many countries' standards to create its program.  While I have mixed feelings on the strength of the CCSS, the program's goal is concept mastery, and when you've approached a concept from 15 different countries' goals (including world leaders such as Hong Kong and International School curricula) and have over 1200 practice activities at 3 difficulty levels, there isn't going to be anything left behind.

This is a screen shot of the student dashboard.  Here, Matthew is working on Grade 7 skills.  He had a choice between Easier, Core, and Harder problems.  I let him decide if he wanted to work on the Easier ones, but he had to finish the core program with at least an 80% accuracy rate in order to continue to the next section.  (He surprised me by doing some from the Harder level, too!)  If he didn't get that 80% rate, he was able to repeat the section until it was mastered.  I liked that even through there were a couple he needed to repeat a 3rd time, he wasn't doing the same program three times in a row.  While he may have seen a problem from Round 1 again in Round 3, the were generally all new problems each go-around.  I feel he mastered the topic - not the problem set - by the time he was done.

Mathletics is designed to be a supplemental program to a core math curriculum, but with Interactive, Video, and Concept Search features, it's a great support program for the student who didn't quite grasp what went on in his regular class.  When we began this program, Matthew had just completed the school year, and was transitioning from a private school to homeschool.  There were some topics that Matthew mostly understood, but that his teacher didn't quite get across to him.  He said they were things he knew she had discussed, but he just didn't get what she was saying.  These support features really helped him go from "Yeah, I've heard of that...I think," to "OH! I get it!"  For students who just aren't grasping a concept in their regular programs, Mathletics may present the same concept "just differently enough" that they have that light bulb moment.

At a glance, he can see where he is on a topic.  The Gold colored medals indicate proficiency above 85%.  Silver medals mean he needs to try again - mastery is at a 50-84% level.  Personally, I liked this cut-off -- it meant that if he had a Silver Medal, odds are good he was below that 80% and would be working some more.  Red is <50% proficiency, and Blue is "haven't tried it yet." The fractions at the sides help see how far he is in a program. 

Another feature of the international-based program is it truly is available 24-7.  It's not just a "oh, the internet is always on" availability, but with students around the world in different time zones, my US Eastern Time Zone kiddo can work mid-morning  with students who are doing after-school assignments in Europe; an evening session pits him against students from eastern Asia.  He really gets a wide variety of students to work with.

There is a parent dashboard as well, so you can see each student's progress.  

I liked being able to see not just his "final" scores but also how many tries it took to get to the score.  It also helped me see where he was struggling to understand...or not just focusing at all.

Not only is the program available online with a full computer (Windows or Mac), there are both iOS and Android apps as well.  This was much appreciated when we didn't have enough computers available for everyone to work simultaneously.  Matthew used an iPad while Celia borrowed my computer.

While I think the Mathletics program is very good, I'm a bit disappointed and frustrated by the navigation of the site.  You need to pay attention to what you are clicking to and from, if you want to navigate within the program.  Hitting the "back" button on your browser takes you back to the home landing page, and logs you out.  This frustrated Matthew often -- he would want to check something and hit the "back" button and be logged out.  I admit, it also frustrated me when I was trying to check between the two students - it's intuitive to look at one and then hit the browser back button to return to the dashboard.  I found the website difficult to navigate, and even the student programs could be tricky.

In addition, there is so much there that seems hidden.  At first, I started assigning sections of the "Activities" program along with two one minute challenges daily, but then found additional programs like Rainforest Math and Times Table Toons, as well as printable workbooks for offline work.   In talking to other crew members, I also found there were parent activities that I never saw -- and still can't quite figure out what/where they are talking about.  Even after six weeks, I still feel like I'm not using the site to its best advantage. 

A one year Mathletics subscription costs $59 per student.  There is also a free 10-day trial feature.  My recommendation is to use the 10 day feature to decide if you/your student like the program itself enough to spring for the annual subscription.  Unlike many other free trial programs, your account will continue where you left off, so you don't feel like you're trying to find a balance between "doing enough to decide if it's worth the investment" and "too much that kiddo feels like he's repeating everything twice once you start the subscription." 

Overall, I'm pleased with the program.  I believe will will be continuing with it through the year for both Matthew and Celia.  I like that I can change through the year the program level -- for example, this summer Matthew was working on Grade 7 math tasks, because I wanted to assess where he truly was.  Between this program and a few other placement tests, I've determined that he is ready to continue to Algebra 1, and I have been able to change his placement in Mathletics to make his practice tasks more in line with

Click the banner below to read other crew reviews about the Mathletics program.  You can also connect with 3P Learning's programs on Facebook and Twitter.

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