Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A+ Interactive Math, Online Homeschool Edition (a review)

A+ Tutorsoft, Inc. has developed a complete, multi-sensory math program.  I recently had the opportunity to try out the 2nd grade Online Homeschool Edition of A+ Interactive Math with 7-year-old Peter.

Monthly $19.95, Quarterly $49.99, or Full Year $124.99

NOTE:  Get 50% OFF any product from A+ Tutorsoft, Inc. through the end of MARCH with this code:  SPOFFER50

In addition to being available as an online subscription, A+Interactive Math may also be purchased on CD-Rom.  The online version requires high-speed internet.  The CD version requires a Windows OS with a minimum of 250 MB hard disk space.  They currently offer grades 1-6, pre-algebra, and algebra 1.  Please visit their website for other options and pricing.

What is A+ Interactive Math?

This is a year-long, grade level course.  The 2nd grade level has 15 chapters:

  1. Number Sense-counting and identifying numbers
  2. Number Sense-place value, writing numbers, and number combinations
  3. Number Sense-naming, comparing, and arranging numbers
  4. Addition-includes multiple digit addition with and without regrouping
  5. Subtraction-includes multiple digit subtraction, with and without regrouping
  6. Multiplication-up to 2 digit by 1 digit
  7. Division
  8. Rounding and estimating
  9. Fractions-including adding, subtracting, comparing, and equivalent fractions
  10. Tables, Charts, and Graphs
  11. Algebra-patterns, finding missing numbers
  12. Geometry-2D, 3D, congruency, symmetry
  13. Time-calendar, telling time to 5s, duration
  14. Money-counting coins, dollars
  15. Measurements-both US and metric, perimeter, volume, weight, temperature

If you follow the provided lesson plan (printable pdf), you will complete a chapter every 1 to 2 weeks and complete the entire course in about 30 weeks, including time for review and exams.

a plus tutor lesson plansEach chapter is divided into several short lessons, which are available both as an online presentation, including audio, visual aids, and simple animations. 

a plus tutor lesson 3 number types

The lessons are also provided as a printable, full-color pdf, which you may choose to print off and teach from.

a plus tutor printable lesson

After watching the presentation, your child can try the interactive Q&A, which is a series of questions and problems designed to check his comprehension of the lesson.

a plus tutor lesson 3 q and a

Some of the Q&As are multiple choice and some require typing in an answer.  For the multiple choice questions, your child will receive immediate feedback once he clicks the circle next to his answer.

a plus tutor good job smiley

For typed in answers, he will need to click the tiny submit button on the frog’s tummy to record his answer.

a plus tutor lesson 4 q and aIf he answers correctly, the frog ribbits loudly and the program congratulates him.  If he makes a mistake the program will take him through the problem step by step to show him how to do it.  He can then try it again.

a plus tutor lesson 4 q and a answerAfter completing the Q&A, you have the option of printing a certificate.

a plus tutor q and a certificateOnce your child has shown understanding of the lesson’s concepts, he can then move onto the lessons online worksheet.  The format of these is a little different and each is also provided as a printable pdf.

a plus tutor lesson 2 ws

a plus tutor printable worksheet

Each chapter also has an exam both online and in printable form.

Record Keeping

The online version keeps automatic records of all online worksheets and exams (records are not kept of the Q&As) that you can easily access from either the student’s account or your parent account.

a plus tutor automatic worksheet recordPrintable worksheets and exams are tracked separately and must be entered by hand.  The program does not show both the automatic and the online results on the same chart.  The charts show only the number of correct answers, not what exact questions were answered incorrectly, but you can access each completed online worksheet individually to “review” it and see what mistakes were made.  Overall, it’s a simple, easy to use record-keeping system.

How did we use A+ Interactive Math?

7-year-old Peter is in 2nd grade, but math doesn’t come very easy to him.  I decided to go ahead and put aside his regular math program for a few weeks start at the beginning, because the very first chapter covers skip counting, a topic his has some trouble with.

I did not attempt to follow the lesson plan, we simply worked on one lesson a day, 4-5 days a week for 4 weeks.  In that time, we covered all of chapter 1, chapter 2, and nearly all of chapter 3.  He completed some of the online worksheets, but switched to the printable worksheets halfway through the review period, which he found he preferred.

We did not use the exams as I don’t feel they are necessary at this level.

How did we like it?

I like the clear presentation style, the easy record keeping, and the solid content.

I love that all the worksheets and exams are available in both printable and online form---this makes it much easier to fit the program to your child and provides you with access to ample written work if you need it in you state.

At first, Peter really liked the online lessons.  The lady who recorded the audio has a pleasant, clear voice and the lessons themselves are, for the most part, quite thorough.  I’ve gotten into a habit of having to re-explain things to my kids, so often I would pause the presentation to explain something, only to continue playing it and find out that the lesson explained it as well or better than I had.

But there were several things about A+ Interactive Math that frustrated him.  For starters, the presentation itself is not truly interactive.  The speaker would ask a question and Peter would try to answer it, but she would give the answer almost immediately.  No pause at all.  Often, I would try to pause it just after she asked a question to give him a chance at it, but I had to be quick and alert. 

There are studies showing that when kids are truly engaged and challenged, they learn and understand much better than when answers are just given to them.  I think a real pause after each question in the presentation would be a real plus.

Another issue was an inconsistency in volume.  The speaker for the presentation is different from the speaker who reads the questions in the Interactive Q&A portion of the lesson.  When the volume is adjusted just right for the presentation, it is too low for the questions in the Q&A

When we turned it up, the ribbits and congratulatory messages were way too loud (as in able to be heard 2 rooms away).  If all of the Q&A was the same volume, this wouldn’t really be an issue as I could simply turn the volume up for that portion, but as the result, the loud congratulations were annoying.

Peter is very sensitive to auditory stimuli so this was a big issue for him.  I would like to see consistent volume throughout any particular portion of the program.

Another issue was inconsistency in size.  Most of the visuals were colorful and easy to see on the screen, but we ran into several that made me squint and that were a real problem for my child with highly corrective lenses.  This is the approximate size at which this chart appears on the screen.

a plus tutor lesson 2 ws tiny chart

And this is the whole screen.

a plus tutor lesson 2 ws tiny chart

As you can see, there’s really no reason why this chart couldn’t be larger and clearer.  The chart on the printed worksheet is approximately the same size. 

Along those same lines, some of the counting exercises were just plain tedious and not really screen friendly.a plus tutor lesson 1 coins

The counting lessons in general were not much fun.  Watching the presentation count to 100 by ones, yeah, a bit dull---this is a bit of a problem with just about every primary elementary math I’ve used.  All my kids have hated hundreds charts, lol. 

On the other hand, there are also some fun lessons with cute animations.  Peter’s personal fave…the greater than less than crocodiles.

a plus tutor lesson 3 comparing 2 digit numbersI wonder if a cute animation for the counting would have helped with the tedium?  Hmmm, possibly.

Another minor issue, I would love it if A+ Interactive Math was truly a full-screen program.  This is what it looks like on my monitor.

a plus tutor opening screen

a plus tutor lesson 4 q and aAs you can see, there’s a lot of space to be gained. 

The table of contents appears there on the left.  You cannot read the topics without scrolling them to the right.  If you hover over each of them, a little window will appear showing you the full name, but notice how very similar most of the topic names are---It’s hard to pic the one you want.  It would be great if this table of contents could be widened by the user, and if the window for the program was larger and took up more of the screen (with options for those who have smaller screens, of course).

 

There was one more thing that we wish this program had.  The online worksheets and Interactive Q&As have varying numbers of problems/questions to answer.  The questions are numbered, but the program doesn’t tell you how many there are in that set when you start it.  Probably the #1 thing that frustrated Peter was that he never knew how many more questions there were in a set he was doing.  You can’t save your progress in a Q&A, so you want to finish it in a sitting (you can save your progress on worksheets).  The first Q&A he did had 20 questions and he thought he would never finish it, it just seemed like the questions kept coming. 

I would love it, really love it, if the Interactive Q&A sections and online worksheets/exams all had a progress bar or some other indicator that showed how much more to go.

Overall recommendations

We had mixed feelings about A+ Interactive Math.  The lessons are well done and the material is solid, but I do think there are a number of areas in which the program could be improved to make it a truly excellent program.

But, you don’t have to take my word for it!  I highly recommend that you sign up for the free 1 month trial, no strings attached.  It’s a great way to see if the program is a good fit for your child.

And don’t forget that A+ Tutorsoft, Inc. is offering a 50% discount until the end of March 2013!

Aplus Tutorsoft Coupon Code March 2013 

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Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

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