June 21, 2016

LearnBop: Personalized Online Math Program {Curriculum Review}

Math. It's a subject where I am very grateful for online curriculum where someone else can "teach it" and I can be more a mentor. We have tried several online math programs and have had success with a few of them. We had a chance to review LearnBop for Families from LearnBop and I was curious to see whether this program would be a good fit for our boys or not.
LearnBop Online Math Program: A Review

Product Information

LearnBop is a personalized online math program for grades 3-12, specializing in providing a type of one-on-one instruction with a highly adaptive, self paced curriculum. The program is geared towards children who need to bring their math skills to a 3rd-12th grade level, prepare themselves for high-level exams, avoid a summer slump, or just improve and build confidence in math. The parent benefits by being able to use the program as a personalized tutor of sorts, and use it whenever it works best in their schedule. 

The LearnBop for Families is a new addition to the LearnBop curriculum (which has been used in schools for awhile now). This program allows homeschoolers to receive the same level of math help as can be found in the original version of LearnBop. The program is available as a Single Student Plan ($14.95/month or $149.95/year) or a Family Plan--up to 4 students ($19.95/month or $199.95/year).

LearnBop works best on the latest versions of Chrome, IE, Safari, and Firefox for desktop on of Apple or Windows. You will also need a stable broadband connection for all the videos. The program also supports the iPad Safari Browser (iOS 7 and higher). 

We were given a one year subscription of the Family Plan to be used by Little Britches (grade 4) and Baby Britches (grade 1). We used it with Chrome on our laptops.

How Did We Use the Program?

The program was a simple set up. Each child was given a character as their picture, and I could pick what roadmap to get them started. What are the roadmaps? They are the units or paths that you want your child to follow. Here are the possibilities:
You can see that there are three types of roadmaps--you can pick them by grade (3rd-8th), by subject (grade 1st-8th), or pick high school roadmaps. This really allows you as a parent to customized their math experience. If you want them to explore their grade level--then do that way. If you want them to work on a specific subject within the maths--and be able to back it up to 1st grade concepts--you can do it that way. You can also CHANGE the roadmaps at anytime for your students. 

I set up Little Britches by grade--focusing on grade 4 math. I set up Baby Britches by subject, putting him in Number & Operations in Base Ten for Grade 1. Little Britches was then able to pick a unit within the grade 4 math units to start with and I continued to let him do this as he completed units. Baby Britches continued to bounce through any of the Grade 1 subjects as he completed their units. 

Both methods follow the same routine--new unit means a warmup to determine what concepts are already known. This is a series of usually 10 questions of concepts within the unit. No scores are revealed--(that I could find)--but when done, the unit began where the child needed to start. Here is a beginning screen for Baby Britches as an example:
You can see that there are 5 grade levels in this subject. You can also see that he will begin by doing a warmup to place him within the Grade 1 level concepts. If he doesn't need to do all the concepts, he won't have to do them. (This is great!)

Once the warm up is completed, the student then begins with watching lesson videos. These are short 1-5 minute videos done like a powerpoint slideshow with narration to demonstrate a concept. Some concepts have multiple videos to watch before doing the problems (aka. bops), while others only have one. Some also include an optional video for the student to watch. Once these videos are done, the child can complete their problems. 

If your child didn't pass enough on the warmup, they will have "building blocks" lessons to finish before moving into the unit concepts. While the boys haven't had these--I have! LOL! I had them when I went to do geometry (high school), and then when I backed up grades, I STILL had them when I attempted a warm up in 6th grade geometry (I hate geometry! LOL).
Once I would complete these buildling blocks successfully, I can shift into the unit concepts. It's a great way to see where your child has gaps. Or yourself. (snicker)

So what do the problems look like? They are a mix of matching, multiple choice, or fill in the blank. 
matching what the numbers look like in picture form
Your child would need scratch paper for this, in order to do any calculations--especially for some multiple step problems. 

If your child gets a problem wrong, the program tells them immediately, and they have a chance to give it another go, or to follow the programs step by step process to solve for a correct answer. If at any time they get stuck, they can view the hints--to the point where it will show the answer. If your child doesn't get it right and chooses to show the answer, they won't get credit for the bop. MOST of the time, the step by step process worked for the boys to figure out what they messed up on. There were only a few times when I had to walk through it with them. And only once when even I couldn't figure out the answer--and needed the "show answer". (it was in first grade level! I felt so dumb! LOL). Your child can go back and watch the videos as many times as they need to in order to understand the lesson. If everything is too challenging, simply change out a roadmap for a lower level!

Once your child has successfully completed enough bops to earn mastery (90% I think), they can have the unit marked completed--or they can continue with more problems to increase the percentage to 100%. Interestingly enough, if they get 5 bops (the problems) correct in a row--this will give them mastery--BUT it won't give them 100%. They have to have SEVEN correct in a row to earn 100%. (I will talk about this more later).

As they complete different things within the program, they can earn badges for things like patience, initiative, persistence, dedication, focus, and more. They also earn badges as they master complete units.
Baby Britches Badges
As of right now, Baby Britches has watched 41 videos and done 104 bops--mastering 15 concepts and 2 complete units; Little Britches has watched 26 videos and done 57 bops--mastering 8 concepts and 2 complete units; I have watched 6 videos and done 14 bops--mastering 2 concepts. The boys usually spend 3-4 days a week on the program and complete at least 1 concept if possible, although several concepts are very large. (I love that all this information can be found on my parent dashboard!)

What Were Our Thoughts on the Program?

Little Britches: 
"I like the videos that show you the information to be done. I like that only 5 problems (bops) are required and you can CHOOSE whether or not you want to do more. I don't like that the videos are complicated and hard to understand. I also don't like that you have to do more than the required bops to get a 100%. I think the way they explained the problems made it more difficult because they had all these extra steps to do."

Baby Britches: 
"I like using the computer for math and watching the videos. I like doing math. I can't read fast, so mommy had to do all the reading. And she had to help me sometimes."

Me:
I think the boys touched on some good things about the program. It WAS nice that they only had to do 5 problems (aka bops) successfully for the concept to be mastered. It was nice to have the videos for them to watch that explained the concept. 

And I agree with them on the other things. The videos weren't always clear when explaining a concept and sometimes left it up in the air as to how to apply the knowledge. It would have been nice to have more EXAMPLES done on the videos for the concept before letting them do the bops. I also agree with Little Britches, that it was annoying that while you only had to do 5 bops to master the concept--that they required SEVEN bops to earn 100%. I also agree that some concepts were explained very poorly and even I had to listen to the video many times to get what was being taught. 
You can see here--he's completed all the required bops and gotten them right on his first attempt and hit mastery--however he doesn't have 100%. Oh how this confused us until we discovered we had to do more to get the 100%. 

What happens when you don't get the problems right the first time? Your graph has some ups and downs...
We found a few errors--like this one:
The question doesn't match the instructions...the questions says click on the digit in the tens place on 83--yet the small font instructions say click on the digit that is in the tens place on 91. A number not even related to the math problem. The smaller font is what the actual answer was based on. These two instructions need to match...I later discovered that you can report errors on problems by clicking "report error" and then typing in what the error was. This sends the parent a notice of an error found which they can review--if it's indeed an error, they can then submit the error report to the company. 

Now what the boys don't understand, is that most of the confusion was due to them NOT being familiar with the way common core "does" math. In fact, this was our first immersion in the common core way of doing math and it annoyed me SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO much. Little Britches could see some of the problems and he would see the quick way to do it--based on math skills he has memorized--and he would wonder why on earth they were doing so much to complicate what he saw as simple...and he HATES math and it isn't his strongest subject--so he fact he was seeing this says a LOT. 

FORTUNATELY, unlike doing this same math in a public school scenario, he didn't have to show his work to demonstrate THEIR methods and I encouraged him to just use the knowledge he already had to solve the problem quickly. So we were able to circumnavigate the common core aspect in the long run. 

Baby Britches touches on another aspect--none of the problems (bops) were read to the student. The student had to do the reading. My oldest had no trouble with this--but working on it with the youngest meant I had to read every single problem. I wish that for the grade 1 leveled units, it was possible to have the problems read aloud. 

Now my own additional observations--this math program is hard. I decided to try High School Geometry for myself. I couldn't even pass the warm up. I went to do the building block sessions and I couldn't even solve those! I ended up having to go back to SIXTH grade geometry to understand the terms and skills that were being used. I am not a dunce at geometry--I think this would be very disheartening for a high schooler to have to back up so much. Interestingly enough, there were problems in FIRST GRADE roadmaps that I struggled with--AS AN ADULT! 

Maybe this is being taught in the schools--but I honestly feel it is MUCH too advanced for an average student-especially a homeschooler who isn't keeping up with the same lessons in a public school. That being said--if you have an advanced math student, this program might be PERFECT for them because it appears to be very vigorous!

Now something else--there were times when the problems didn't seem to even match the video lessons. For instance, there was a problem in FIRST GRADE geometry that was supposed to be teaching fractions--in equal visible portions. 1/4 and 1/2 measures. In the problems, one of the questions had an answer that included equal SHARES not just visually equal portions (As in symmetric.) That was never covered in the videos or alluded to--so my son got the problem wrong over and over again--and then I did too because I was answering the question based on equal VISIBLE parts, not equal shares. 

I did like that every unit began with a "warm-up" to test the child's knowledge and then start them in the concept they need. If they had too many wrong answers in their warm-up, it back up and had them complete some "building blocks" before moving forward to actually doing the unit. Neither boy had this happen on their warm-up, but I did when I was doing the high school math. LOL.

The boys DID enjoy seeing their visual progress of the unit--noting how much more they had to do to complete it. They also enjoyed earning their badges--but they wished they got a prize of some sort. They also wondered when the character they chose would use it's "special powers"--as mentioned when they first picked a character. 

Another thing I would mention--the videos regularly referred to response papers and showed images of children filling out a worksheet of sorts that explored the topic covered by the videos. The video even encouraged the children to "fill in their response sheet". I looked all over the website and I don't see ANY response sheets anywhere. If there are response sheets available, they should be clearly marked--if there AREN'T response sheets, then they shouldn't be mentioned in the videos. 

One time, we had a video that didn't exist, and then we had a bop that referred to what we assume is the video that didn't exist. I mentioned it to their customer service, and they responded that they would check into it. 

I also will mention that because the boys could see their progress, they wanted to do "one more" to increase their score. Which meant a willingness to do more math. 

I think my most favorite thing was the ease of navigation through the program. I also LOVED that with a simple click I can change between each boy's status and progress on my dashboard. 
I am able to see his progress, recent activity, what he's working on right now, any badges he's earned, how much time he's put into it and how much he has left to finish in the unit!

Overall, here are the things I would like to see changed:
1. a read aloud option for at least the grade 1 subjects problems, to allow independence for the student who doesn't have the reading skills to read it themselves.

2. make the response sheets available--or remove mention of them from the videos

3. have more demonstration of the using the concepts in the videos instead of just one example. 

4. if 5 bops can produce mastery, than 5 perfect bops should provide 100%, not seven. 

5. remove the common core aspect (wishful thinking I know! LOL) so that those who aren't familiar with the way it works won't be confused by it. 

Will We Continue to Use This Program?
Hmmm. I don't know. The fact that the videos themselves were confusing to the boys, really makes me loathe to continue to use it, since those are the lessons. It's just really not our "style". The boys didn't find it fun or enjoyable, even though they preferred it to "written" math. I also don't like having Common Core involved, since we are choosing NOT to learn that way. I think I will let the BOYS decide if they want to continue using it over the summer at least--they might prefer to press on over working on our "normal" math. HOWEVER--I plan on continuing to use it for MYSELF until my subscription ends! :) Gotta brush up those rusty geometry skills at the very least!

Would I Recommend the Program?

In regards of using it for elementary age students---Yes and no. If you are wanting something that provides instruction, practice, and encourages your child to keep trying for success, then yes! If you are wanting something that covers the same maths (in the same grade level) as what is being done in the public school system--then yes! If you want your child to have a grasp of what Common Core math is like for testing later--then yes. If you want to be fairly hands off in the teaching aspect--then yes! If you want a more advanced math program--then yes!

Now--by that same measure--if you are trying to avoid Common Core, then no! If you are wanting something that moves more slowly with very very clear instruction, then no. If you want something that is a fun interactive program, then no. If you need an auditory option for the questions for a child struggling with reading--no. If you are wanting a K-12 math program for your child--no. This is definitely focused on grades 3-12 with minimal options for grades 1-2--but, if you have children in grades 3-12, then it might be a good choice.

Want to know more?

You have read our review of LearnBop for Families from LearnBop...but how did others use it, especially in the higher level maths? Make sure you check out what other crew members thought of the program!
LearnBop for Families Review
You can learn more about LearnBop by following them on these social media links:

Facebook: 

Twitter: 
@LearnBop

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Even though this program doesn't seem to be a good fit for the boys, it is fascinating me. I plan on continuing to use it off and on for fun, in order to strengthen some rusty math skills which will in turn help me later when teaching my boys. 

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