March 18, 2015

GPALOVEMATH: An Online Math Curriculum for K-5th {Curriculum Review}

Teaching math can be challenging at times because it can be rather...boring. Because of this, it is common for children to DREAD doing math--regardless of what program is used and how well they do in it. I am always on a mission to find curriculum which can both teach AND create a fun learning atmosphere. When I learned about GPALOVEMATH from GPA LEARN and saw that it was toted as being a fun and entertaining way to teach math, my interest was piqued. Was it possible that a curriculum truly existed that combined math AND fun? I was eager to review this product.

Product Information

Critical Thinking Company Review
GPALOVEMATH is a product from GPA LEARN. It is their first STEM discipline product designed to help kids learn elementary math (K-5) through fun and entertaining game formats. The math skills being taught follow national standards, but allow the kids to learn at their own pace in a way that is enjoyable and entertaining. Parents and teachers will enjoy the fact that they have access to real-time results, scores and progress reports so they can keep up with how the students are doing. One of the ways that this program is different is that motivation via rewards is already set up in the program! Children love earning points for their hard work that can be cashed in for real rewards!

For $149/year per child, GPALOVEMATH provides:
*Entire year math curriculum
*Includes all grades K through 5
*30 Day Money Back Guarantee
*Includes Learn, Engage, Motivate, & Parent dashboard features

The GPALOVEMATH online program can be played on MS Window or Apple MAC computer; Apple iPad, or Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 (10”). You can use it with your favorite browsers, Google Chrome (recommended), Apple Safari 6 & 7, MS IE11 and FireFox.

For this review, we were given a full year access to GPALOVEMATH focusing on the Kindergarten and Third Grade curriculum. We used this program with Google Chrome on our laptops and my Kindle Fire.

How Did We Use the Program?

There is so much I can say about this product, that I’m going to have to try hard to keep this review under 5000 words.

I was sent my log in for GPALOVEMATH via email. The email included everything I needed to know about setting the boys up. When I “bought” their subscription, I picked what level they were going to be in. This immediately sets them up in the program for that particular grade level for me. 

When I log into the program I go to the profile and set up the boys with their login information. You can upload photos if you want, but I rarely do. From here the boys were ready to go!

The boys logged in to their accounts and it takes them to their dashboard. They can see their progress so far, as well as how many of each level of achievement they have obtained. It also shows how many points they have earned (more about that later). To begin with the lessons, they click on the tab “learn”. This opens up the different math paths they have to complete. 
This is a snapshot of the learn page. You can see that there are 3 color paths. This shows what has been done and what is still locked and what is unlocked and ready to learn.

Each grade level appears to have 3-4 paths. The paths are locked so that your child learns them in a logical order—when they complete a level, it will unlock another one. Sometimes it unlocks the next level in their path and sometimes it unlocks a level in a different path. It  is easy to see what has to be done to unlock any level—simply click on it and it will open up the information telling you what path and level has to be completed to unlock it.
This is the new menu that opens when you click on a level in a path. It either allows you to do it (click the green button) or it will tell you that it is locked and advises what needs to be done before it is unlocked. This particular level is unlocked. (Click to enlarge)
To begin, the child watches a video where an animated character (different for each grade level) welcomes them and gives them a “tour” of what they will be doing. After watching this video, they are then to watch a guide which explains in more detail what to expect with each paths level. At this point the first paths are unlocked and are ready to be used!
The animated "teachers" for each grade level.
Each level is a lesson. Each lesson is separated into three parts: Instruction, Practice, and Quiz. The instruction is an animated slideshow walking your child through whatever concept they are learning. It shows the ins and outs as to what it is they are working on and gives MANY steps to explain how to solve it. The Instruction is read aloud by the character, making it great for children who struggle with reading. Once the slide has been completed, the students clicks the green arrow at the bottom right of the page to move on to the next one.

A sample of what it looks like in the lesson. This is from the practice portion. 
Once the instruction is completed, your student moves on to the practice portion. This is a step by step practice of what the instruction covered. By clicking the question text, the student can hear the question. They can then work on the problem. Sometimes the answers are multiple choice, sometimes they are fill in the blank and sometimes they are a manipulative that they drag and drop. When the child thinks they have the answer, they click the yellow button at the bottom right. If the answer is correct, they get a green check mark and a “Wonderful Job!” (or other positive phrase). If they are incorrect, the animated character will offer them some guidance. An example of this might be “oops, it looks like you clicked the number of groups instead the number of items in each group.” If your child is stuck, they have the option of using one of their three “lifelines”. These lifelines are only available in the practice portion and will give the answer to any problem they are stuck on. The practice portion isn’t graded and your student can work on it more than once. They can also go back to the instruction at any time. 

Once the practice portion is done, they move on to the quiz. The quiz uses the same methods: multiple choice, fill in the blank, and drag n drop manipulatives to solve the problems. Each quiz appears to be 10-15 questions long. The number of questions completed is shown in the upper left of the quiz screen. Once the quiz is completed, the score is given. 
The same scoring (varying only for number of questions) is used for the two grades we reviewed.
The badges awarded show up on the paths levels after they are completed. They will not unlock the next level until the lesson has been passed.

Your student also earns a certain amount of points from completing each level. These points are used as “cash” to “spend” on rewards. From their dashboard they click “motivate” and are taken to their rewards store. By clicking any of the menu on the left side, they pull up possible rewards they can spend their points on. The cool thing is that you the parent can decide what rewards you want to give! You do this by clicking motivate in YOUR dashboard. You can program them by how many points they have to have AND cater it to match each student. At any time you can visit the rewards record to see what they have earned so that you know what you need to reward.
Click to enlarge
Because this a totally online site, it can be activated by anything that connects to the internet. We used this program on our laptops as well as our Kindle Fire. The one thing we encountered was that it tended to freeze more when it was used via the Kindle. Baby Britches used it more on the Kindle than his brother, but it was easier for him—unless it got frozen at which point he got mad. LOL. But it still was definitely useable for the program.

We used this program at least 3 times a week with each boy. It is definitely a more independent program, though I did have to help Baby Britches with a few categories (addition). He was still able to do most of the things without my help.

What Are Our Thoughts?

Little Britches and Baby Britches BOTH love this program. Now that our review is finished, I give them the options of what math they want to use and they always ask for GPA. They both like the way it is presented and the little bits of animation. They especially like the rewards--both recently earned $10 gift certificates to Target and Toys R Us--provided by GPA!

My Thoughts:
There are many things about this program I like, but here are some of the top ones:

#1 The boys love doing it. This means they WANT to do math. Major win.

#2 The boys can each work on it at the same time on different devices. This is awesome because when big brother does math, little brother wants to do math too.

#3 The program GUIDES them to determining the correct answers during the practice. I love that instead of it just saying that they are wrong, the character offers them a suggestion as to what they did incorrectly. 

#4 The program encourages them to follow a 4 step process to solving math: Understand, Plan, Solve and Check. It also walks them through what that looks like during the instruction portion of the lesson. I can therefore reference these steps as I help them work through their problems or in math outside this program.

#5 I can always see how they are doing on my dashboard.
What my dashboard looks like when it comes up.
I can easily go from one boy to the other by simply clicking the tabs. It shows me their progress, their current reward count, their lesson summary and their badges. 

#6 I can test drive a lesson before they do it! When I'm logged in, I can visit the "learn" tab on my own page and can see what lessons they are working on AND test drive the lesson myself.
This is super helpful on the new topics that haven't been covered yet. It allows me to get a handle on how the topic will be taught better preparing me for any questions that they might ask me as they work through the lesson themselves.

#7 I can see how much has been accomplished, and areas that are more tricky for the boys. I can do this by clicking "learn" and then a drop down menu that changes it from showing the paths, to showing me either the grade topics or grade standards. The color key shows me how they are doing within these areas.
This shows me right away that Little Britches has some struggles in Geometry.
#8 I get emails letting me know their progress! One email is telling me they completed a lesson and how they did. It will even let me know if they didn't pass it and need more time on it. The other email is a weekly report on their use of is one I received this week for Little Britches.
I love that i can print these out and file them in my portfolio for the year. It also quickly shows me what he's doing, and HOW he's doing.

These are the main things that I really enjoy about this program...but there are a few things that I wish were different.

#1 The main complaint the boys have--the voice for the lesson on their animated character isn't the same voice from the introduction videos. It's very disjointed computer sounding and doesn't flow smoothly. They don't really like the voice and find it aggravating. They both wish that their character talked like it did when they first "met" him. I agree. I don't like the way the voice is on the lessons either and wish it was a smoother speech. Even though both boys have different characters, the voice for the lessons is the same.

#2 The locked lessons...I wish there was an EASY way to unlock lessons for the boys besides them having to complete the lessons in order. The way that it's set up is a "recommended order" but each boy wishes they could just continue on their path or jump paths whenever they wanted to. I have heard from another reviewer that they figured out how to do it, but the directions they gave did not help me find out where to do it at all.

Would I Recommend This Program?

I think the price of the program ($12.99/month or $149/year per child) is great. You are getting:
*Entire year math curriculum
*Includes all grades K through 5 (A brand new change that is awesome!)
*30 Day Money Back Guarantee
*Includes Learn, Engage, Motivate, and Parent dashboard features

That means you have access to all the grade levels! So 12 months of math could easily be two grades worth depending on how quickly your student works through everything! And right now (as of the publishing of this post 3/18/2015) they are offering a special introductory price of $129/year per child (using code GPAINTRO15).

If you are looking for a program that your children will enjoy doing--bringing fun into math--then this is a curriculum you need to consider. If your child doesn't do well with animation or completely online programs, this is not a good fit for you. 

Let me mention Common Core. I know that it's one of those hot topics right now and a lot of homeschoolers are trying to avoid ANY company that is aligned with it (for their own personal reasons). From what I can read about GPALOVEMATH, they meet and exceed common core standards, but don't specifically say they are aligned. As I went through the programs with the boys, I never saw anything that suggested things were done different from the way they've always been done in any math program we've ever worked on. There isn't any "showing of work". Mental math was encouraged, but not promoted over written out math. Story problems weren't all that was taught. It was a great balance and I never saw anything that raised any red flags in my eyes. 

We used it for third grade math and kindergarten math and each child enjoys doing their work and never complains about math time. This is as good of recommendation as I think you are going to get!

Will we continue to use the program now that the review is over? Absolutely. I now have two excellent math programs to pull from and both are loved. It's just a matter of which one to use! This is a great problem to have.

Will I renew? Right now, I will say no. But only because I purchased an 18 month subscription to a different math curriculum--not knowing I would have access to this awesome one! But I will definitely keep it in consideration when THAT subscription runs out and I am looking for a new one!

Want to Learn More?

We reviewed GPALOVEMATH's Kindergarten and Third Grade curriculum. There were 100 reviewers of this product, so I encourage you to go visit some of my fellow crew members to learn about some of the other grade levels and what they thought about them!
GPA Learn Review

Looking to stay in touch with GPA LEARN? You can find them on these social media sites!
Crew Disclaimer
I was pleased to discover yet another great online math curriculum that my boys enjoy! I am really thankful that I'm able to provide them math programs that teach what they need to know in a way that makes them WANT to do it. I am excited about this and hope that my review can help you find the same thing for YOUR family!
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