Thursday, February 4, 2010

TOS Review: FactsFirst

The fact that I had two math-oriented reviews going at approximately the same time left me in a bit of a bind.

Because of the specific make-up of my family and the leanings of my individual kids, I am very choosy as to who I elect guinea pig for the various review items that come my way. I don't want to introduce bias, frankly, where there ought not be any. For example, very rarely would I call upon Atticus to try out a new science unit with a solar system theme. The fact is that the boy knows more about the inner core of Saturn than your average bear, and would therefore declare any program not written at college-text level absolutely lacking ... whether it was or not. As for Language Arts, I know better than to ask Logan to help. Even if it's below grade-level and ought to be a breeze, he will cringe and crouch with his shoulders to his ears and act as if he has never in his life been asked to identify a verb before.

So I have staked out specific territories for curricula that is best tested with an individual child. Math, (un)fortunately for Atticus, falls in his court.

But as I said, he was already in engaged in a math review. What to do?

Jo was out. Absolutely out. Math is not her thing, and I have chosen to respect that by not adding more to her plate.

Which left Logan, my resident math wizard. The boy who had to be moved from his last math program because he was so eclectically advanced that it was impossible to teach him from the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade levels at the same time. The boy who relishes Pascal's Triangles. Oooooh, boy. This could either be very good, or very bad.

As it was, it was very, very good. Saxon Harcourt's passed Logan's strenuous math tests with flying colors.

Factsfirst is a subscription service. One year's access is available for $49.99. The program, importantly, was not developed to work alongside Saxon math specifically; It complements any curriculum. As a matter of fact, if you're familiar at all with Saxon's line of math texts, you'll be as surprised as I was to see the overall look and feel of this program. When I say, "Saxon" and "facts drill," my mind immediately conjures blank stares and black and white flashcards. Like Logan, I was delighted to find that those notions were way off base.

Silly and approachable, this arcade-style program allows children to interact not only with the numbers themselves, but also with the entire game platform. Games are varied and fun, and students customize avatar versions of themselves to accompany their journey. Addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts are covered in a spiral, mastery-oriented fashion. When students respond quickly and correctly, they feel immediate satisfaction as the game pops up a simple reward or encouragement.

Using the program, Logan was able to easily cement several division facts that have plagued him for the past few months. First, he had to complete a pre-test of fact subcategories, which he should have by rights found tedious (as he aced most of it), but somehow didn't. His take?

"I loved it! I got to play a computer game during school! It was really, really fun."

Oh, yes. Logan wants me to tell you one more thing about his foray into the math reviewing world:

"My guy had green hair. It was really cool, because you just don't see too many people with green hair like that unless you're in downtown Seattle."

So there you go. Great math drilling. Seattle-approved avatars. What more can anyone ask for?

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this product for review purposes. Refer to my general disclaimer for more information on my policies regarding reviews.

1 comment:

commoncents said...

We are all over the Friday-Saturday blizzard that is bearing down on the East Coast.