April 20, 2016

A+ Interactive Math~ Math Mini-Courses to Help Close the Gaps {Product Review}

It is no surprise that most children have gaps in their math skills. Sometimes it is difficult to find where they are--but other times, it's easy to pinpoint a math area that needs more work. A+ Interactive Math has created Math Mini-Courses to help parents with this problem! Because I know a few areas where Little Britches has gaps, I was interested to review this product and see how it helped us.
A+ Interactive Math: Math Mini-Courses Product Review

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About the Product

The Math Mini-Courses from A+ Interactive Math are designed to provide you with an affordable way to effectively close learning gaps in your child's math skills. Each mini-course gives you a logical group of math topics--specific for the several grade levels. It then offers an in depth review of the information within that topic from basic to a more advanced level. There are 20 Math Mini-Course available and they range in price from $9.99-$19.99. You receive a one year subscription to each mini-course which allows plenty of time for learning, and because each course should only take 2-3 months, you have extra time for review!

Each math mini-course includes:
*Multimedia Lessons that teach math concepts with animated video lessons, audio and text.
*Interactive Review for each lesson
*Worksheets that provide extra practice to help reach mastery of each concept.
*Automatic grading and tracking with easy-to-read progress reports.
*Solution Guides if your child wants step-by-step information on how to solve a problem
*Full text versions of lessons
*Printable worksheets and tests for practice offline.

Here are the math mini-courses available, with their target grade levels noted:
Counting and Identifying Numbers (1st-3rd)
Place Value and Number Combinations (1st-3rd)
Naming, Comparing and Arranging Numbers (1st-3rd)
Early Elementary Fractions (1st-3rd)
Early Elementary Addition (1st-3rd)
Early Elementary Subtraction (1st-3rd)
Elementary & Middle School Multiplication (2nd-6th)
Elementary & Middle School Division (2nd-6th)
Tables, Charts and Graphs (1st-6th)
Elementary Geometry (1st-4th)
Elementary Algebra (1st-4th)
Advanced Geometry (4th-7th)
Advanced Fractions (4th-8th)
Decimal Numbers (3rd-7th)
Percentages (5th-8th)
Time (1st-4th)
Money (1st-5th
Number Types and Conversions (3rd-6th)
Ratio, Proportions, Probability & Statistics (3rd-6th)
Measurements and Conversions (2nd-6th)

We were given the Elementary & Middle School Division and Ratio, Proportions, Probability & Statistics to review with Little Britches.

How Did We Use the Product?

Because we were familiar with A+ Interactive Math, it was very easy to get set up. We already had our account from last year's review, so the company simply added in our new courses. At this point, I simply was able to open them and get started!

Because we have already used A+ Interactive Math, I didn't bother with reading any of the informational links that are provided in the red boxes--but I highly recommend it to anyone who is new to the program. It provides excellent information on how to use the program.

This is what I get in My Dashboard when I sign in. I am able to make changes to my students log-in on this page and be able to see how he is doing. To launch from here--I can simply click the "view/launch" link. 
From My Dashboard, I can access all the programs that I have subscriptions for with A+ Interactive Math...at this time the only active one is the mini-courses. This will be the screen I use to check on his status and get reports...I will come back to that.

When my student logs in, his screen is nearly identical and he also will click the view/launch link to get started. This will take him to any mini-course that he currently has a subscription too. We have two and from here, he can open up whichever one he wants to work on. Clicking the word "launch" opens up a second screen with all your lesson options.
Each choice is clearly marked--you can do your lessons, do online worksheets, view written lessons, printout worksheets, check your progress, and then a generic--get started. This menu is the same regardless of what program you choose to launch.

To begin- you obviously want to do the Video Lessons...which opens up yet another new window. But this one is the one where all the video lessons and interactive Q&A questions will be. When the window opens up, you will see a side bar on the left which contains a menu of all the lessons for the topic. You need to click the little + to get the drop down list. At this point, your student can simply click one of the lessons and get started!

An example of what the lesson looks like from a ratio lesson
The lessons are totally interactive and completely animated. They can be paused and repeated as much as needed. Once the lesson is completed, your child will click on the "interactive Q&A" arrow to now practice what was taught.

The Q&A are multiple choice. If the answer is correct they are given a nice smiley face and a good job. If they aren't sure how they got it right, they can click "view solution" for more information. And if they are wrong, it gives them an explanation for how to do it correct.
Their score is added at the top of the window
When the questions have been completed, the child is given a scorecard with their results. This will show their attempts--I am going to talk more about this later.

There are worksheets available for every lesson. They can be completed by printing them off and doing them by hand, or through the online worksheet generator. They can both be accessed on the Student Dashboard that I showed above. They are simple to figure out--just follow the prompts and pick the worksheet you desire. If printing, it will pull up the pdf worksheet and click print. If you want to do it online and have everything recorded for you, simply follow the prompts given to find the worksheet you want. Once it has been generated, you will see a screen like this:

These are all either multiple choice, or a fill in the blank answer. As you see from the blue buttons above, you can move through the text without having it finalize your answer until you are ready. You can even save your work and come back later. If you want to check your answers right away, you can do that too. Some can even be marked for you to check back on at the end. Once your test has been completed, you can hit Finalize Worksheet and it will tally up your score and tell you how you did.

The final stage is the reports. Here are the four categories for a student report page:
This is where you can print out your scores for each section. Here is an example of what shows up when I click on "view generated worksheets summary report" for the Division mini-course:
the pink writing can be clicked on and you can be taken to that worksheet results
This is very straight forward--just a summary of how you did on each thing. Each of the reports follow this pattern. All of this information is also accessed in the parental log in...The difference being that on the worksheets, the parent can actually go in and override answers if they need to. Here is what a report looks like for the Interactive Q&A from the parental log-in:

Everything on this program is very straight forward and we found it easy to use for the most part.

As of right now, we have completed 10 lessons and 10 worksheets for Division, and 2 lessons and 2 worksheets for Ratios. We are working 2-3 days a week doing a lesson each day. This is a good rate of speed for us.

What Are Our Thoughts on the Product?

Little Britches:
"Well, I don't like it. But it's not horrible. The lessons are short and easy to follow and the lesson questions are simple. The worksheets can be a little harder, but I like that mommy lets me pick whether or not I want to do them as paper or online. That makes it easier for me. I already knew how to use the math program because we did A+ Interactive Math last year--so that made it even easier."

There are several things that I want to mention about this program.

1. It's very straight forward--not a lot of gimmicks or bells and whistles
This program isn't the latest and greatest and at times feels old fashioned with it's style and presentation. The animation isn't "fun"--just a step up from boring, but then we've used a lot of other online programs, so we have a lot to compare to.

2. It works
Yes, it's pretty dry in style, but it still works. I found that it helped Little Britches practice his division and gain strength and speed as it moved further in the topic. Ratios was something he was a bit unclear on--but then made the connection to fractions and reducing fractions which was something we had been working on. He consistently is getting 90-100% on all his worksheets, so I am seeing mastery happen.

3. It's very independent for your child
Once your child figures out how to use the program, they can work through it nearly independently even as a younger elementary. The lessons are a mix of audio and visual and answers are clearly explained. It is possible to do it totally online without any printing of anything. Results are tallied by the program and reports can be printed.

4. I don't like how it records scores and completion
I mentioned above that I would come back to this. Here is the thing. When your child is working through the lesson question and answer--it will only record them as having a 100%. Even if they initially get it wrong--it will only record the 100% answer- even if they NEVER got it. You can see that here:
If you look, he actually got 4 correct and 1 wrong...he only did the questions ONCE. Yet it shows that his score was 100%. It's marked as such at the top. it does this EVERY single time. Even if they get them all wrong! Fortunately, they do allow for me to go in and manually enter scores using the "update Q&A score". I simply enter the date, and the accurate score. It will then save it for this Q&A.  This is very annoying. The program needs to save the REAL answers--not give 100% every time. The report for the Q&A is totally pointless with all 100% when they aren't the real answers the child got (unless they legitimately did).

I wrote the customer service about this. Though they replied quickly, their answer was not helpful as it didn't assist me with the problem and their solution did not fix the problem, because we were already doing what they suggested (clicking the frog belly to submit answers--or clicking next on other lessons). This still does not record the actual score for the Q & A.

Secondly--even when the lesson video has been watched, and the final scores given for the Q&A, the lesson is not marked as completed--it will remain "in progress" until I manually again go and change it to completed through the updating of the lesson status. Yet another annoying aspect, but perhaps the program is set up for the PARENT to determine when the child has mastered the lesson...if so then I guess I can see where manually doing it every time would be okay. But I think I would definitely prefer if once the lesson was viewed and the Q & A is completed, the program automatically would mark it complete.

5. The lessons completed do not get marked off on the menu
The lessons are listed in a drop down menu as I stated up above. To view a lesson, you simply click on the one you want. This is easy for the first few--but once you start doing more, it can be hard to remember what you did last because there is no marking denoting what lesson has been completed already on the menu. I would like a way to have the menu marked with what has been done already so it's easy for my student to know where to start the next day.

6. We found a wrong answer.
One of the online worksheet problems had a wrong answer. We snapped a photo of it and sent it in. They responded that they will make a note of it and fix it. This is where the option on the parental dashboard to review the worksheets and override answers is very helpful.

7. You can skip the lesson and go to the Q&A.
My son was happy with the option to skip the lesson and go right to the Q&A on a few of them because the material was familiar to him. Because I had to manually change the status of the lesson, it didn't matter if he did one way or another.

8. The worksheets can be printed
There are some math lessons that a printed worksheet works better than an online one, and in those cases I'm happy that the option is there. But I don't necessarily enjoy grading the printed ones--though answers are provided. I solved that problem by manually entering the answer he wrote on the printed copy--into the online generated worksheet. The problems were exactly the same for the first 9 lessons--and I just had a bluff a few of the 10th one to make it work. This takes the grading away and still allows me to get a report with his status. Yes, it's more work for me, but I can do it a lot faster than waiting for him to.
Finishing his lesson with his worksheet printed and ready to go

So will we be continuing to use this product?
I think so, but maybe not right at this moment. I will have Little Britches finish the Division unit, but I might have him wait on the ratios for a while longer. I am thankful for the 1 year subscription in this case.

Would I Recommend This Product?

If you are looking for a very engaging, fun and exciting math program to catch your child's attention, then no. This is not super engaging, nor is it fun and exciting. But it definitely is better than a textbook and it does do the teaching/scoring/recording for you. I think that it will help your child fix any gaps you might be aware of and it does promote mastery. Because everything is read out loud, reluctant readers and younger students can still use it successfully without feeling burdened by math reading. 

Want to Know More?

We reviewed two of the Math Mini-Courses from A+ Interactive Math. You have seen what we thought about them--but how did other families use them? Check out the rest of the team's posts about this product for more information!
Math Mini-Courses {A+ Interactive Math Review}
You can stay in touch with all the latest news from A+ Interactive Math including any new products and sales through these social media outlets!
While we don't LOVE A+ Interactive Math, I have found them to be very easy to use, and they have assisted in helping identify and fill some gaps in the math Little Britches has been working on. I always think of them when someone mentions needing help filling in gaps because they really do work. I really recommend their placement tests with lesson plans for anyone wanting to know what their child's grade level is in math right now. You can read our review of one of those Adaptive Placement Test and Individualize Lesson Plan programs from last year.

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