Thursday, May 10, 2012
Homeschool Review: XtraMath
Saxon Math provides fact cards to be reviewed every day in addition to fact sheets that are supposed to be timed (1 minute for 20-25 problems, 5 minutes for 100). First Son started the year enjoying the timed sheets, but became increasingly frustrated when he didn't see immediate improvement in his ability to finish a sheet in the time provided. I think this was partly caused by a lack of adequate fact card practice, but mainly because the difficulty of the sheets increased as the year went on before he had become fluent in the ones before. Reviewing the fact cards was boring (of course) and again, it was very difficult to quantify improvement.
So I went looking for something different for our math facts fluency practice and found, through the wonderful community of the Mater Amabilis Yahoo group, XtraMath.
XtraMath is a free online math facts program. I created a classroom (called Mom) and entered both First Son and First Daughter as students in different grades. Each day, they can sign on to the program and practice for about ten minutes. The students begin with addition (though the teacher can change that to subtraction, multiplication or division) and are presented with a variety of facts each session. A timer of dots shows 10 seconds at the bottom of the screen, which a goal of three seconds to enter the answer. There's also a "Race the Teacher" section without a timer. If a student enters an incorrect answer, the correct answer is shown and he or she has to type it in before moving on.
As the teacher, I receive a weekly emailed report on the students' progress and can log in to the site to see more detailed information on exactly which facts have been mastered.
We started using the program in mid-January. First Son has nearly mastered addition, with only one fact he does not yet consistently answer correctly within three seconds. His addition skills therefore improved much more in the second half of the year with XtraMath than the first half of the year (when they essentially remained the same). Though it would be easy enough to send him to the computer for XtraMath every day of the week, even when we don't have school, First Son logged in three to four times a week. First Daughter was never required to log in and practice; I gave her an account and let her sign on whenever she asked just for herself.
The online program works wonderfully on the laptop, but the kids were frustrated using it on the Kindle Fires. It just didn't respond quickly enough with the touch screen.
I like the timed feature of the program, which is more difficult to enforce with math facts cards. I appreciate that the correct answer is shown immediately and that students are required to correct their answer before moving on. Though I always stay near-by when the children are using the computer, I can do other things while they use XtraMath. I'm very pleased with XtraMath and recommend it. We'll be using it over the summer, too, to continue our math facts fluency.