Thursday, May 10, 2012

Homeschool Review: XtraMath

First Son very easily mastered the concepts of addition, subtraction, multiplication and has even begun division, but it's a different thing altogether to become fluent in the language of these concepts - the math facts.

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.

3 comments:

  1. I missed this when it came up on Mater Amabilis! Thanks for your review - this should be a big help over the summer! My 4th grader really struggles with retaining her basic math facts, although she has no problems with new math concepts. She was almost in tears today over of a long division problem - not because she didn't know how to do it, but because she kept making simple subtraction and multiplication errors while trying to solve it. I've used a lot of other review programs with her over the years (flashcards, Calculadder, other free quiz sites that don't track your progress over time, worksheets... she's had this part of her schooling ever since Kindergarten!), but they all get a little dreary after awhile. Thanks for giving us a new option!

    She just came up to me after doing several quizzes and said, "this is a fun way to do math!"

    Thanks!
    Amber

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  2. I also meant to mention - just in case anyone finds this blog post while searching for info on XtraMath - the website works quite well on the iPad. I was able to use it without a problem to do the drills and my 6 year old son did well with it too. My 4th grade daughter, however, preferred the computer with a regular keyboard. She thought the website lagged on the iPad and made her slower.

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  3. Amber, thanks for stopping by. I hope your daughter continues to enjoy XtraMath.

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