With a new baby on the way in our house and wanting to simplify things for the next few months, I've been interested in having my daughters try out an online math curriculum that they could do mostly independently (especially for my fourth grader, in case I'm busy with baby and she needs to get some math done without waiting for me). So it was perfect timing when we were given the chance to review the Homeschool Membership program from CTCMath!
CTCMath is an extensive online math curriculum for K-8 (though it says it can be used as a supplement for higher grades) that appears to be completely secular and is not aligned with the Common Core standards. This is not a software disk, but rather a membership with online access, so students need internet access to participate.
It is designed to allow the student to work at their own pace. Membership to CTCMath is not limited to one grade, so the student can move from one level to the next as needed (at their discretion or as directed by the parent through the parent account), allowing for review of earlier levels and material. The program consists primarily of short, step-by-step video-based lessons, thousands of practice questions and printable worksheets and diagnostic tests with automated grading, as well as progress reports, activity logs, and feedback available to both student and parent. There are downloadable, printable lesson summaries (much like pre-made notes) for each lesson video. Diagnostic tests have three options for length, from 20-40 questions, depending on how comprehensive the user wants to be in evaluating the student's knowledge of a topic. There are various ways to see a student's progress, including a history timeline of usage, percentage of topic mastery, dates lessons are completed, and both detailed and summary reports.
Parents also have accounts for the program that let them manage one or more students. Parents are able to set up a specific assigned tasks, such as lessons and/or tests, including a time frame and due date for completion, to guide a student in their learning path. They can also choose to receive weekly reports via email to keep track of how things are going. Just as the student has access to material from any grade, so too can the parent assign material from earlier grades as review or later grades if the student is ready to move on or for an extra challenge.
We received a one-year subscription to the CTCMath Homeschool Membership program for both Big Sis (fourth grade) and Lil Sis (first grade). CTCMath has a lot of flexibility and options available to the user, so when we first logged in, I must say that I was a little uncertain on how to proceed. Unlike other programs we've used that are very directive and walk the student through from a specific starting point and then on to one lesson at a time that must be completed before moving on to the next, CTCMath allows the child to choose (or the parent to assign) which grade level to work on, which topic, and which lesson they prefer. We had to explore a bit to figure things out, but it only took a few minutes to get our footing and begin to see the breadth of possibility open to us and know what to do. Then I was pretty impressed! It's not the most fancy, high-tech looking program, but the content and scope of the program is what I found to be outstanding.
Once we got going, Big Sis really loved being able to decide what to work on and she said so nearly every time we used the program (including again last night)! The level of control that CTCMath offered my daughter was empowering for her! She felt motivated to learn and gained confidence in her math skills because she was had so much more say in things like how fast a lesson proceeded and what or how much to review. She liked being able to print the lesson summaries to keep close by if she needed to remember how to do something during practice questions. Some of the lessons she worked on were great review and others were new to her. She made a lot of progress, easily understood the material being presented, and perhaps most importantly, she retained a large amount of what she was studying and applied it to the questions. She still made several mistakes on certain topic questions, but it was great to see what those areas were in the progress reports and be able to return to those things for additional practice.
The program also has a Times Tables game and Speed Skills timed drills (plus another puzzle game called Swap Pieces). This was something that we found useful but didn't notice they even had a way to access it until recently. The links to get to them were at the bottom of the Lessons tab and in normal, small font, almost in the footer of the page, it seemed, so it wasn't immediately apparent that it was something we could do. On top of that, my daughter had customized the colors of the background and accent (yes, you can do that!) and she chose something blue, which left the blue links barely visible until they were clicked on and turned yellow! Until then, I assumed that it was something my daughter would encounter at some point and we hadn't gotten that far yet. (I knew it existed because it was in the reports section of the account.) Now that we found it, we'll be using it more often for sure! We're paying particular attention to improving speed of recall for Big Sis during the next few months and it's always nice to add another way to practice the facts to keep things interesting.
Lil' Sis liked the lessons just fine, but she prefers more hands on work that computer-based learning. The short (4-7 minute) length of the videos was perfect for getting a point across to a young child that doesn't want to sit still for long. Lil' Sis didn't complain about using this program and she found the lessons to be clear and easy to understand - at least after she got past the first few minutes of noticing the speaker's Australian accent - ha! She learned a lot, but tired of the amount of questions, so we had to break it up to let her do some during one session and the rest another time.
Of course, sometimes (or often) children need specific direction or to be shown exactly what to work on, or they might need a little encouragement to do extra review in areas with which they are struggling. Indeed, there were times when one of my girls didn't particularly like working on an area they were weak in and would try to gloss over it and move on to something else. For these instances, I loved the ability to login to the parent account and "dictate" (assign) specific tasks and diagnostic tests for my kids to work on next, along with a time frame to focus on it. We used this for extra review of multiplication facts for Big Sis, in particular, since she knows her facts but often stumbles or takes time to think of the answer.
One of the first things I noticed when looking into CTCMath was that, in at least one promotional video, they targeted an audience of students who might be "struggling with math". Certainly, this program has the potential to help those types of students (depending on their needs and learning style, of course, since no program is a perfect fit for every child), particularly through the parent/teacher's guidance and assigned tasks for learning, practice, and review.
But I would venture to say that this is also an excellent option for kids who are on track or even skilled/advanced in math as well! For students on track for their grade, like Lil Sis, this program can offer a comprehensive scope of math skills they need. And for those kids like Big Sis who are ready to move ahead and find joy in learning new math concepts, the flexibility and potential autonomy offered by CTCMath could be just what they are looking for!
I imagine that we will be getting a lot of use out of this program in the coming months, especially in the first weeks after the new baby arrives. We plan to use it as a supplement for Lil Sis (who still thrives on hands on practice with math and uses a lot of manipulatives) and might be using it as a primary curriculum for Big Sis (we're still deciding and choosing between a few options, but will definitely stick with using it one way or another). I would definitely recommend CTCMath to others who are looking into online math curriculum options!
At the time of this post, homeschoolers can get a 60% discount off the regular price for CTCMath! Right now, the cost for the Homeschool Membership ranges from $11.97/month to $78.80 for a 12-month single student plan (but they have a discounted family plan for 2 or more students as well). If you'd like to know more about this program, you can visit CTCMath at their website and/or on Facebook, Twitter, Periscope, Pinterest, and Youtube!
I'm a homeschooling mom of three, enjoying our time in Hawaii and hoping to share some of that experience with you, including ideas, reviews, resources, and information.