Friday, January 28, 2011

TOS Review: Ten Marks

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As a family trying out products with The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew, we've had the opportunity to explore several new math programs this year. Sometimes we continue on with our regularly scheduled math curriculum, but this time we used TenMarks as our entire curriculum. The only thing I added in was a bit of math facts review using either Math Facts Now! (reviewed earlier this month) or Math Kingdom (review coming next month).

TenMarks is an online math program that can be used to teach new concepts or to review areas where your child needs more practice. They offer complete programs for grades 3-10, including Algebra 1, Algebra 2, and Geometry. A subscription costs $10 per month (for one child), with discounts offered for six or twelve month subscriptions.

Each week my children are assigned four worksheets that are due the following week. (Note: the number of worksheets is parent controlled.) The worksheets are always 10 problems long. The student can choose to watch a video lesson prior to working the problems on the worksheet or to just move right into the assignment. Brennan often just jumped in without watching the instruction. When (or if) he realized that he didn't know what he was doing, he could later decide to watch the instructions. As Addison encountered harder concepts, she started watching the video instructions before doing the problems.

There are three hints available for each assigned problem. We found that the hints at Brennan's level (4th grade) were sometimes so helpful that they gave away the answer. Addison has been working on geometry concepts lately, specifically how to find perimeters, areas, volumes, surfaces areas, etc. She recently admitted that she used the hints to make up for the fact that she didn't know how to graph the triangle the problem wanted her to use. When she asked for enough hints, it just told her the base and height so she didn't have to understand how to do the graphing. As she continues through the TenMarks program, she'll have an opportunity to study the graphing skills by themselves. Also, if she had been using this program in earlier grades, she probably would have already covered the basics of these skills.

Brennan gives this program a thumb's up. He likes doing his math work on the computer, and he was thrilled to see that each worksheet only contained 10 problems. He sometimes chose to play the games, and he was excited to unlock new one after completing a certain number of worksheets. He really likes the idea of setting up a parent reward, even though we didn't use that feature. He thinks he should be able to earn an iPod touch if he finishes 200 worksheets. 

From a parent perspective, I think the program worked fairly well. I have a few reservations, especially in our situation. I normally spend a lot of Brennan's math time trying to make sure that he writes down the problems instead of just working it out in his head. The worksheets have multiple choice options which makes it even easier for him to work things out in his head and guess at the correct choice. Also, I'm accustomed to working through a concept until he reaches mastery. I thought the TenMarks program moved a bit too quickly through some concepts that were new for him. Perhaps he will retain the concept well-enough, but it's still a bit too soon to see.

Addison found some of the worksheets to be very easy and others to be very challenging. She was especially frustrated on the day that she spent more than an hour watching videos and then calculating the surface area or volume of complex 3-dimensional objects. This was a new concept to her, and I was proud of the way she stretched her math abilities to be able to finish the work. On the other hand, I share her frustration when suddenly a math assignment takes three or four times as long as it did the week before. She is also accustomed to working through a concept until she reaches mastery level. She doesn't mind an occasional review problem, but she was a bit annoyed when one of her worksheets this week was about perimeters and areas of 2-dimensional objects. She grumbled that obviously she had proved she knew how to calculate the area of a circle because it's pretty hard to figure the volume of a cone without it.

As I said earlier, we used TenMarks as our complete curriculum. It is also suitable to use as a supplement to another math curriculum. Parents can rearrange the topics to choose specific ones that the students needs more practice with or a topic that hasn't yet been covered in the primary curriculum. At any time, a student can log into the practice section and choose a topic. It is set up in the same manner as the worksheets -- 10 questions, hints, and video instruction. The practice area gives step-by-step explanations for how to solve the problem.

Many other homeschool children have been using TenMarks over the past month. If you'd like to see what their parents thought about it, please visit The Old Schoolhouse Crew blog.

Two of my children received six month subscriptions to TenMarks as a member of the 2010 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, and I received no other compensation. In return, I agreed to give an honest review of the materials and how they worked for my homeschool family.

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