Chromebook School: Math

This is a Chromebook School post, about a few math-related web apps that we are using, hope to try, or just find intriguing.

  • MathSeeds, (AUD 60/yr, ages 3+), from the same company as Reading Eggs, has proven a great introduction to math. Our almost-five-year-old is well into the “first-grade” portion of the program, which has a nice progression and a variety of games and exercises. I recommend it. Downsides include the fact that it’s quite scripted rather than adaptive, and their early introduction of “number words” assumes some early-reading ability, an assumption that seems unnecessary and un-helpful.
  • XtraMath.org (free) is a completely-free site to help kids review and build fluency with math facts. It’s not flashy, but seems effective. It adapts to a child’s particular needs.
  • Reflex math (USD 35/yr, grades 3+) also works to build math-fact fluency, along with some helpful teaching methods. It involves a number of fun games, with extra “hazards” thrown in besides the solving of math problems. Our 4-year-old daughter, who has a high aversion to failure, found some of these challenges too challenging–and it also requires keyboard input, which was a barrier for her. For the intended grade-2+ market, I’m guessing it’s likely to be a hit. (The site uses Flash, though I believe they intend to transition away in the next year or so.)
  • Redbird Math (USD 80/quarter, K-12) at GiftedAndTalented.com looks amazing, though we haven’t yet tried it out. It’s an adaptive curriculum, based on Stanford University’s research into methods of educating gifted students–which they’ve found actually benefit students across the spectrum. It weaves in a lot of STEM video content, connections with real-life, digital manipulatives, digital projects, coding-related content…wow. As noted, we haven’t tried it yet…but I suspect it will be hard to resist the pull.
  • DragonBox Math (USD 5-8 for several apps, Android/iOS) looks like a lot of fun. I discovered it through The Homeschool Scientist, who recommends their app–which purports to teach algebra to kids from age 5 on!  In addition to “Algebra 5+”, they have a number of other apps for building number sense, or learning geometry and going to higher-level algebra. (Later, after having my daughter play the first few levels: great mechanics, horrid aesthetics! Use at your own preference.)

For future reference

I’ve come across a few sites that I’m guessing will be useful a few years from now. No experience with them yet, except for the wonderful Khan Academy.

  • ExploreLearning Gizmos covers grade 3 to college, with online math and physics simulations.
  • Uzinggo.com looks interesting for math and science from grades 5-12.
  • Maths-Whizz (K-8? GBP 99/yr) looks interesting, an adaptive curriculum.
  • Khan Academy (free), of course, has a collection of good video explanations–along with practice problems, a content map, and a brilliant spaced-repetition system to review at just the right time.
  • Beast Academy takes an interesting comics-based approach to math in their print version, and promises an online version in 2018.

Offline

I can’t resist tossing in a few offline options:

  • We plan to use Math Mammoth. (We’re now in the very earliest stages.) Inexpensive, conceptual, mastery-oriented but with good review. Purchasable as PDF.
  • Judging RightStart Math by a video I just saw from someone associated with it, I’m intrigued!
  • We’re dabbling in Miquon Math, which uses Cuisenaire rods and a fairly discovery-oriented approach.  (Available in PDF from CurrClick.)
  • We’re planning to try out MathTacular–haven’t done so yet, but it looks like an intriguing supplement.
  • …and finally, I love the idea of “literature-based math” that drives Life of Fred. Some people love it. I’m not completely sure, based on samples, about whether I–or, more importantly, my daughters–will love it as well.

Do you have other great resources to share? Add them in comments.

Chromebook School

I studied at home through 12th grade, and we’re planning to teach our daughters at home as well. I loved the experience (including the memory of getting up at 6 AM to do math with my dad), and love the idea of helping our daughters wake up to the world of knowledge. That will involve a lot of hands-on teaching, and a lot of learning woven into real life. I’m also realizing that it’s likely, unexpectedly, to include a fair amount of “screen time”. This is partly because we live where it’s hard to ship paper curriculum, partly because of schedules…but partly because the selection of digital resources is so rich! We’re getting the kids Chromebooks (for educational apps, reading, music, and audiobooks) soon. Some of the Web apps they’ve been using on Mom’s and Dad’s computers will migrate over, and a world of new ones will become options as well. I’ll share a few of the online resources I’ve found in various posts, and try to index those posts here.

Bear in mind that I do see “Chromebook school” as a fairly impoverished approach, if that’s all one’s doing. I don’t, however, have any intention of this being all we do with the kids. I expect the future to hold lots of lovely books, free and creative play, table games for the sake of play or with an academic goal, household science experiments, Lego robotics, art, music, emotional/social intelligence, fun exposure to languages and cultures…and, yes, math worksheets, writing assignments, and all the other “3R-y” parts of school. Activities involving wandering through the woods or tossing a ball also seem like lovely ideas, but living in a flat in a megacity may limit some of these possibilities. (Though I’m sure we could come up with some great nature studies re. particulate matter concentrations in the air, or of the behavior of crows!) As part of a holistic approach to school, though, I’m ecstatic to have online curricula and educational resources available!

Note that there’s a bit of irony in this series: as I’ve researched the various apps available, it’s become apparent that while many apps are available both in Android and iOS flavors, a number of interesting apps are iOS-only. And so…while I still prefer the ethos of Android, a Chromebook or Android tablet may actually not be the best device if you’re looking for kids’ educational apps.

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