Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Teaching TextBooks


As we mentioned before we decided to throw in Teaching Textbooks to go with our Living Math Lessons. The idea was to use the programme to tie up some lose ends we had hanging around here. I was worried that my children knew stuff across three grade levels, but perhaps not everything within one full grade level. Make sense?
We ended up purchasing TT 3 & TT4. TT4 is taking it’s sweet time about arriving so I set Morgan up with some review lessons from TT 3 where he can work on his multiplication facts. Jayden, however started at the beginning with TT3.
Here’s my take on this math curriculum. Most curriculums are meant to last 180 days because that’s the average school days required, by law, in the US. Oddly enough Teaching Textbooks has 117 lessons plus an additional 17 quizzes at the 3rd grade level, totaling 134 math lessons. The 4th grade level has 2 more lessons equaling 136 lessons. 
I see this to our advantage on a lot of levels. We’ve never, until this year, counted school days! Ever. Seriously. It’s not a requirement where we live and we tend to school on a pattern of so many weeks on vs so many weeks off. This year I decided to count school days only so we could have a 100th Day of School party. {Something I had hoped to do last year but lost track of the days. This year we’re keeping track with a place value & tally chart, it’s a triple whammy for us!}  By not needing to do math every day of a 180 day school term you leave yourself with 45 additional days where you can either ignore math completely, move ahead to the next level, or do lots of fun hands on lessons! 

If you’re like us you’ll probably do a little bit of all of those options.Not only that, but if your child is having a hard time grasping a concept you’ve got time to deviate from the curriculum and work on the concept. We haven’t had to do that yet, but right now most of what the boys have seen in their lessons is all review work. All though, I will admit that while Jayden knew the days of the week he’s not big on saying them in any form of order which has led to a small snafu for him in a couple of questions he had in a math lesson.
There’s also the fact that they like to teach months of the year by saying things like, “What month would you most likely be outside doing this?” and they show a picture of a man using his outdoor bbq. Yeah, my charmer picked February, and in all fairness he’s right, unless we were under a fire ban. Then we’d be at the park using the electric ones. 
I’m not entirely keen on the way they teach new concepts in this programme though. This might be my overly pickiness or the fact that we’ve been doing our own thing long enough that nothing else compares. {Ever have that happen to you?} Let me explain. Instead of helping the child learn a certain set of math facts, let’s go with multiplication, they say things like: Let’s look at our 2x family. Then they spit the facts on the screen and let you look for about 20 seconds before removing them and explaining ways you can find the answers. They explained it as getting only an even number as an answer which was a great way to check if you were right. By skip counting, etc. Unfortunately they do this with all the multiplication facts which when they hit the 8x family my son’s head started spinning.

I heard moans like, “But I don’t know the answer!” Which left me running to see what was wrong. Needless to say we gathered up some of our multiplication resources and restocked our Joey-Joey can in order to better assist him. In fact, I’m really loving Times Alive! as much as he is. 
I will say that most of the time I like the fact that if the child gets an answer wrong, they can take a second chance at getting it wrong & then they can view how they should have solved the problem. However, there have been a few true or false answers that we’ve opted to find out why the answer is right and there’s no true explanation. {Ie. We know that 7x3=21 because we memorized it.} I don’t like that.
One of the things I really like about the programme is that if my child makes a typo I can go in and change if they got a problem right or wrong in their gradebook. That’s a big deal because I have a child who can still have number reversal issues and I often have to slow him down and say, “Please read the number again out loud, starting with the digit on the left.” Most of the time that’s enough for him to see the error.

My children’s favorite part? Overall they really enjoy the entire experience. I’ve had them request many times to do more then one lesson in a day. However, their absolute very favorite part is something known as a Bonus Round. They get 2-3 minutes to answer as many math facts, out of 40, that they can. There is no explaining the excitement this little section causes around here.
The creators of TT were wise and they only made it come up every so many lessons which means you don’t get to have a Bonus Round every day. I think that keeps the whole newness and coolness about it alive. I’ve even had them double up on lessons just to get to that bonus round lesson. 
Another nice key factor about the programme is that the kids can proceed with a lesson even when I’m incapable of being able to teach them. I was floored with a cold all last week, but that hasn’t stopped the boys from asking if they can tackle a math lesson. 

I don’t know that we’ll stick with this math programme forever, but I’m glad that the boys enjoy it and that it will help us tie up some lose ends. They’re enjoying checking out their “grade” after each lesson which cracks me up to no end. 

I will also state that the programme is pretty expensive at each grade even if you just buy the cds. We’ve opted to only obtain cds, all though I think one child could have easily benefitted from having the workbook as well.  A bit of graph paper, a laminated number line, and some scrap paper go pretty far in allowing him to work out the bigger problems without the need of a workbook.
I’ll also suggest that if you’re going to buy the programme, especially if you live overseas, look around for it used. It still has a pretty high resale value on it but it’s beats the excessive shipping fees they were going to charge! We were able to score one used and purchased the other new. 
All that said, as long as we can still enjoy our math games my kids are cool with the switch in math, & no, I haven’t been asked to review this programme. I did have questions about the switch though so I thought I’d share our general opinion on how it’s working for us thus far. 


Amber said...

I use this for my daughter and I love it!! :)