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Friday, January 28, 2011

TenMarks, a review

tenmarksOur 10-year-old is not a lover of math. In fact, he hates math. I used to think that this stemmed from his early school experience of doing workbook pages without really understanding what he was doing (and perhaps some of it really was). So, the past couple of years we’ve spent trying to beef up his conceptual understanding through manipulatives and “real world” math.

But he’ll be in 6th grade soon, time to pick up the pace and get him up to speed. Except I think he’s allergic to hard work. Math comes hard to him. And he doesn’t think it’s much fun. Frankly, the daily math battles were wearing me out, but I desperately want to get him “caught up.” He’s ready and capable.

And then I was asked to review TenMarks. And I was thrilled at the opportunity.

TenMarks is a subscription-based online math program for grades 3 and up. For a brief overview of how the program works check out this video:

Basically, your child will complete short worksheets (10 problem each) covering the concepts for his grade. Each worksheet concentrates on one main concept, whether it be multiplication, long division, finding area, etc. There are videos available for learning as well as hints provided it your child gets stuck on a concept. Timed assessment tests are assigned as your child completes each section. The parent has the option of setting rewards for accomplishing chosen goals, and there are a few little games that can be unlocked by completing a set number of worksheets.

Your parent account will show you what worksheets your child has completed, whether he watched any of the videos or used any hints, his concept strength and more.

TenMarks can be used as a supplement to the math program you are already using or as a complete curriculum.

What did we think?

David likes that the worksheets only have 10 problems each, though he found out quickly that even a 10 problem worksheet can be hard. He initially loved the program (and unlocking the games), but soon changed his tune as the work became harder for him.

I have mixed feelings for TenMarks. While I like the ability to go at your own pace (David completed about half a year’s worth of work in less than 2 months), the ability for me to look at exactly what problems he missed, the email notifications when new worksheets are assigned, the ability to reorder the lessons, and having the grading all done for me, I do have some problems with the program.

The videos were often not very helpful. David found it frustrating when he had a specific question or something that he didn’t understand and he had to sit through a longish video that either didn’t directly address that question, or talked about it in a round-a-bout way. Or just didn’t make sense to him. We gave up on the videos. It was easier for me to teach him instead. At that point, TenMarks became more of a “smart” worksheet generator rather than a complete math program. I can see this being a real issue if I wanted to use it as a complete curriculum for more advanced work. Suppose I wasn’t able to teach the concept without textbook support?

All the problems are multiple choice. I don’t generally like multiple choice questions (for any subject) for 2 reasons:

  • They can guess at the answer.
  • If they goof it up, all you know is that they got it wrong. You don’t know why.

You can counteract some of that by requiring that your student show their work on paper (the program does suggest the use of paper and pencil). But the guessing aspect is a little harder to get around. Especially when they get a second chance.

They get to do 1 “do-over” for each problem they get wrong without it affecting the number correct.

I can see the reason for this. I do want my kiddos to learn to see their own mistakes. And sometimes a child will make a careless error. This gives them the opportunity to fix it. It also gives them the incentive to want to fix it.

But suppose they have narrowed down answer to the question to 2 of the 4 choices. They guess one and get it wrong. Aha, now I know what the answer is!

Plus, the program does not show me, the teacher, that they got it wrong the first time, only what their “final” score is on the worksheet. I’d like to know if he changed his answer so I can see if it was a careless error or trouble understanding the concept. I personally think that careless errors should cause point deduction. How else will they learn to be careful with their work?

Overall, using this program over the past several weeks has been a really good thing for David. He’s been able to play catch up on a number of topics he was missing (or had forgotten) and to strengthen his understanding of other topics. And I would definitely recommend it for that purpose or for extra practice.

And the past several weeks he actually hasn't complained about doing math (oh, ok, maybe a few times). It hasn't been the torture it has been in the past. And that's why, in a way, I love TenMarks.

I told you I had mixed feelings about it.

I think with some changes, this could be a truly complete curriculum. As it is now, I would recommend it as a supplement.

TenMarks is available for $10/month per student.

  • Pay ahead and save: $49/6 months, $89/year
  • Discounts available for families with 3 or more students using the program.
  • Money back guarantee.
  • Try it for free.

For more reviews of this product by other homeschoolers, please visit the TOS Homeschool Crew blog.

Disclosure: I received a free 6-month subscription to TenMarks for review purposes. I received no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.

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