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Monday, January 31, 2011

Times Alive by City Creek Press, a review

times alive

For some kiddos, memorizing the times tables is more than a chore…it’s pure torture.  No matter how many tips and tricks you give them for making those facts stick in their brain, it just isn’t happening, even after you’ve worn out the flashcards. 

Enter the mnemonic intense Times Alive, from City Creek Press.

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received a free download of Times Alive software for review purposes.  I received no compensation.  The opinions expressed in this review are my own.

If you learned about conjunctions while singing “Conjunction Junction” (am I showing my age?), your kiddos might enjoy singing with Times Alive, a collection of silly ditties about the multiplication facts, complete with bold, colorful cartoons.  The program also provides timed assessments (assessments can also be printed and given as a worksheet).  You can view a sample of Times Alive here.

Times Alive is designed to help cement the facts (through the use of mnemonics) for children who already understand the concept of multiplication.  Mnemonics are memory aids that help keep the facts on the tip of your brain.  They can be verbal or visual or both.  They work by making a strong, unforgettable impression, so the more crazy, silly, funny, outrageous they are, the better.  And these are pretty silly.

What did we think?

I’m using Times Alive with David, my math-phobic 5th-grader.  David claims that “this is dumb and the songs are annoying” (he’s way too mature for this, right?), but…the first go he watched the first 3rd of the 18 lessons…how’s that for keeping his attention?  The younger kiddos rather like watching along, but hate it when David turns the sound off (the text is printed on the screen, so he reads it). 

But, as they say, the proof is in the pudding.   Has he been doing better with those multiplication facts (and the multiplication facts really are a sticking point for him)?  Do the silly stories (if not the songs) make the facts stick?

Honestly, I have seen no improvement in his ability to recall the times tables.   He has been passing all the assessments, but his speed of recall was still very slow while actually doing his regular math.  If he were to watch the videos over and over again, perhaps he would get it.  Or maybe not.  But he doesn’t want to listen to those songs again.

I suspect that the problem is lack of active participation.  There’s no way for him to actually interact with the videos themselves, except to sing along (and he won’t do that), so in just passively watching his mind is not fully engaged. 

Besides the short assessments, the only active parts of the program are the “guessing games” and few other little activities.  The guessing games do require typing in the whole multiplication fact, which is a good way to reinforce it.  But the majority of each lesson just requires him to sit there and watch.  I know my son, he needs more active engagement.  He’s a hands-on kinda guy.

I do think Times Alive is a fun, entertaining program with the potential to work well for younger, visual learners, say 2nd to 4th grade.  I think even my younger kiddos who are just getting a very basic understanding of multiplying might benefit from it…we’ll give it a try when they are ready. 

Note:  I was able to install and run Times Alive on my Windows 7 PC with no worries.  Available for PC or MAC (see system requirements here).

Give Times Alive a try here.

Times Alive is available for $48.95 on cd-rom or download for $44.95.

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

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