Friday, September 10, 2010

Review: America's Math Teacher

According to the Math Essentials website, only 4 out of 10 eighth graders are proficient in math.  By 12th grade, that drops to only 2 out of 10.  Having just seen the results from last year's CSAP tests (tests mandated by Colorado for public/private schools) showing only 27% of the 8th graders in my school district are proficient in math (none are "advanced") and only 14% of 10th graders are (none of them are "advanced" either), I have to admit that this really does concern me.  Especially since I know the schools have been teaching to the CSAP for at least a decade now.

Well, it concerned Rick Fisher too.  As a math teacher in San Jose, CA, he ended up creating Math Essentials, a workbook/DVD program to help get kids ready to tackle Algebra.  Recently, he also created America's Math Teacher, a web-based version of his award-winning program.

As part of the Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew, I got the chance to try the web-based program for 60 days.  I have used part of all the current levels, and I really do like this program.
  • Basic Math Skills: for 4th-5th graders.  I had my 4th grader using this level
  • Advanced Math Skills: for middle grade students.  My 6th grader used this.
  • Pre-algebra: I had my 6th grader using this level also.
  • Algebra I:  it took some convincing, but I had my 8th grader try some of this level.  He's really beyond it, so he wasn't really happy with me.
There are plans to expand the program to include Algebra II soon, and additional high school level math will undoubtedly follow.

All the programs work basically the same way:  you watch a video, and there is a worksheet for the child to practice the concept.  In addition, there are some other features on the website, but we primarily used the video/worksheet functions.

Kid by kid, here are my opinions:

Thomas, doing Basic Math Skills.  He was able to work through this really well.  The level is perfect for him.  It is definitely solidifying his ability to work the "core" math concepts.  My problem for him is that it is the other stuff that trips him up -- time, calendar, measurement -- and America's Math Teacher is focused on the arithmetic that he needs for higher math.  I love, though, that I am seeing that he does really have his core stuff down.

One aspect for him is that we can work through this, and I can find areas where he doesn't quite get it.  And THEN we can go find a textbook to use to really teach the material.  It is making much more efficient use of MY teaching time.  I don't have to spend time teaching him the stuff he already knows.

William is going to be starting algebra in October.  So I have had him working in both the Advanced Math Skills and the Pre-Algebra courses.  I don't really know which I like better for him, but it has been really nice to gain the confidence that he is, in fact, ready to move to algebra at this time.  I'm doing some of the same things I mentioned with Thomas -- having him view the video and do a worksheet, which takes about 20 minutes, and if he struggles (hasn't happened yet) I know to find some other materials to teach that concept.

Connor completed Algebra I, has done some Algebra II and is switching gears to do Geometry this year.  He did go over some of the videos in America's Math Teacher, but balked at doing the worksheets.  He thought the presentation was really good, and in looking at the worksheets, he said that this would be a great review of Algebra I before starting Algebra II.  There were a few areas where he commented on really liking how the information was presented.  One thing to note though, is that since AMT upgraded their site, the worksheets for Algebra I have not been available.  They assured me those will be linked up again soon, but as of this writing they still are not there.

Overall, I would love to subscribe to this site.  A subscription costs $195, and that includes everyone in your family.  I'm not sure it is something I can afford to do right now, but I will be thinking about it.  Meanwhile, I plan to enjoy these last few days of my subscription.  And I'm seriously considering purchasing the workbook/DVD option, as I might be able to more easily swing that.

I think this is a product that would be fantastic if you are pulling your child/children out of school and you aren't exactly sure what they really know with math concepts.  I think this would work great as a review before moving to the next level of math.  I think it would be great for someone who is struggling with math and needs to review, and master, the material they've been taught but haven't absorbed.  And I think it can work great with students who "get" math so you can take them through the material, pausing to spend more time on the concepts they actually do need.  That's how I'm using it.

Another thing to mention is that while we didn't use this feature, there is an evaluation option which can be used either for placement or as tests of the material.  Apparently, there are a lot of glitches in the evaluations at present, rendering it, well, pretty meaningless at the moment.  If you are likely to use the evaluation functions of the website, I'd advise waiting awhile before subscribing.

You should  check out what my fellow crew-mates have to say about America's Math Teacher at:

Any questions? I'd love to know what you would want to know in deciding whether or not this is something you want to purchase.

Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive a 60 day subscription to America's Math Teacher.  The fact that I received complimentary products does not guarantee a favorable review.  It does guarantee a review. A fair review. But I am not going to praise something unless I think it deserves the praise.  If I don't like it, you'll hear that.  And hopefully with enough detail as to why so you can decide for yourself if what I hate about it makes it perfect for your family.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

No comments: