Monday, October 9, 2017

CTCMath (Homeschool Review Crew)

When Jude first started doing math, it was a huge struggle.  We went through several programs before finding CTCMath and found that it checked quite a few boxes for us. It was online; one of Jude's favorite ways to learn - tick.  It was comprised of short lessons followed by a few practice problems, so it ticked the "short and sweet" box. Most importantly, it was not a Common Core program.  I know opinion on Common Core is varied, but for us, it was practical. Jude got frustrated repeating the same concept in six different ways.  He's more of an "I know how to do this, why am I doing it again?" type of kid, so learn and move on was right up his alley.  Tick.

CTCMath is it is not only homeschooler friendly but also large family friendly.  We received a One-Year Family Membership, but it really covers the entire family.  The company's founder is a homeschooling dad of a large family, so he gets the frustration of "Family" plans that only cover two or three kids.  Homeschoolers also always receive a 60% discount! CTCMath has also given me a link to provide with my readers; by using it, you'll receive the 60% discount PLUS a Bonus 6 months Free.

This is our third time reviewing CTCMath - you can read our prior reviews by clicking the following links:

June 2015
April 2014

How does our experience this time compare to the past?

I think the quality of the program is as good as ever.  The lessons are short but thorough and well presented.  The concept is introduced and reviewed, and then the student is sent off to do the practice problems.  Note: the instructor is from Australia, so he does have a bit of an accent. He speaks very clearly, so it's not an impediment, but if you're not expecting it, it may be a bit of a surprise.  It's also still flexible - we've worked in Chrome, Safari, and Firefox, on both a Mac and a Chromebook, and on an iPad.  (CTCMath runs in HTML5, no Flash required.)  Nobody can say, "I can't get online and do my math!"  It continues to not be aligned to the Common Core -- you student will learn everything he needs to know, but it's not tied to the methods of that curriculum style.

However, what once was a pro -- online containment -- in the last year or so has become a drawback.  When the boys were younger, working on just a screen was pretty easy.  A few manipulatives on the table, or even their fingers, and the early levels (K-2) were a breeze.  Working solely with a keyboard and screen was no big deal.  However, now that the boys are at 3rd and 5th/6th-grade levels, it has gotten more unwieldy.  For example, they are into "borrowing and carrying" territory.  The program does give the opportunity to manipulate numbers on the screen, but it becomes a dexterity issue.  We wound up switching to pencil and paper.  It's not a huge issue to copy the problems, but it frustrated the boys because it wasn't the way it was "supposed to be."

Since we needed a paper-and-pencil type program, we explored several and decided on one that has a different scope and sequence than most elementary math programs.  As we got comfortable with it, we drifted away from CTCMath for no reason other than we had a different curriculum to work on.

Every day, the boys do both a lesson in their main math program and an extra enrichment activity.  I thought that CTCMath would be good for this type of assignment.  I felt that it would give them an opportunity to practice their skills.  When we got started with the review, we began working on the diagnostic tests.  Jude had some areas that he had minimal difficulty with -- his usual program had covered all the topics.

However, there were some areas where he began to struggle with the test because he hasn't been exposed to them.  For example, he has spent the last six months working on everything he could want to know about fractions but hasn't begun anything with decimals.  When he got into things that required them, he got answers "wrong" because he had to just guess so he could move on.

Damien had a similar situation, where he gave up on a diagnostic test and went back to work on an area in its entirety.

They're used to learning everything there is to know about an operation/topic, and then moving on to a new one. I felt like even if I wanted to just use it for extra practice, it would take a lot of guessing to figure out where to pick things up at.  For example, Jude is in fifth grade by age but has the skills to complete some of the Pre-Algebra fraction lessons (approximately 6th or 7th grade) already. I think if you're used to a typical first grade-second grade-third grade sequence,  CTCMath would be a good choice for if you're looking for something new and fresh.  We're just atypical students.  If you're not following a "normal" sequence, you may wish to give their Free Trial a chance and see how it works for you.

And, our original reason for wanting to get away from all-on-computer still holds.  The boys get caught up in "But I have to use the numbers on the screen..." instead of just writing on a piece of paper.  A problem that literally takes fifteen seconds on paper takes five minutes by the time they grasp the slash marks, move numbers into place, etc.  Since we're using it for reviewing skills, I had allocated about 20 minutes a day into our schedule. Some days were taking close to an hour to complete the task.

I can't complain about the content of the program.  I still believe it's a high-quality program and teaches math very well.  I think we're just in a bit of an in-between phase.  Peeking ahead at the Pre-Algebra and higher levels, there is a worksheet option that gives you a list of problems to work on scratch paper with pencil, and then you enter the letter of the corresponding answer in.  This eliminates having to work an entire problem with a mouse/touchpad, or the temptation to try to figure it all out mentally and make mistakes trying to calculate and remember at the same time.  Since the program spans Kindergarten through Calculus, I would consider coming back to CTCMath (again) when the boys are back in sync with the sequence of the program around Pre-Algebra and/or Algebra.

Lots of students have been hard at work using CTCMath. To read other Crew Reviews, click the banner below.

CTCMath Online Math Tutoring {Reviews}

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