Review of Mathletics - an online math practice system
Mathletics.com (formerly LiveMathBowl) is an online math practice system for grades K-12 (subscription based). It includes a "Full Curriculum" section where students practice hundreds of math topics in 10-question increments, a "Mathletics Live" section where students "race" with math problems against other students around the world in real-time, some games, Rainforest Maths, printable resources, videos, and a reporting system. I was invited to write a review of it in Spring 2009, and given a free trial account for me and my kids.
Full Curriculum section
Mathletics "Full Curriculum" section is where students can practice various math topics. After choosing a topic, the student either enters a sequence of 10 questions to answer or can choose to view an example of how the problems should be solved. Answering those 10 questions will earn the student a gold bar in that topic.
The student can go through the 10 questions again, if additional practice is needed, and they will be different. Each major content area also contains a test.
The section "Full Curriculum" contains all topics for a given school year AND examples of how problems are to be solved. In each activity, if you click the big question mark at the left hand side of the screen (see the screenshots), that takes you through a tutorial. You can click on 'easier examples' or 'harder examples' at every level.
This section also incorporates a lot of motivational items, which I liked a lot. First of all, by solving enough problems, the student can unlock some separate games. Secondly, the student also earns points AND credits by answering the questions. With enough points, he will get an award. With the credits, he can go to a store to shop various things for his/her avatar.
Please see the screenshots of some of the types of questions found in the main curriculum section. Click on the images to enlarge them. You can see a complete list of topics for each grade at the main Mathletics.com website - choose the "About Mathletics" button in the top.
Mathletics Live - race with math question
Mathletics also includes a "Mathletics Live" part, which is a "race" with arithmetic questions against other children around the globe. It is pretty much identical to the race that students do in the World Math Day, which is in fact done by the same company as Mathletics, 3PLearning.
In this 1-minute race, the game engine finds 2-3 other kids around the world on the same level as you are, and then they all answer arithmetic questions as fast as they can. The person with most correct answers wins.
Rainforest Maths section is actually a totally separate website with its own set of interactive activities (more than 800) for each of the grades K-6. And it used to be its own website (by Jenny Eather), but has now been bought to be a part of Mathletics. It is designed to appeal to young students - bright, colorful, and interactive. Below you see the home screen for grade 2 (level C).
Many of the math activities also include explanations and examples that explain the concept, and related activities appear as buttons on the left. I really liked Rainforest Maths activities, because many of them teach concepts, strategies, and patterns, besides just calculation practice.
See for example the subtraction activity in level "E" in Rainforest Maths, about grade 4 (click to enlarge the image). The example on the bottom of the screen shows how the subtraction 69 - 24 can be done mentally: first subtract 10 and another 10, then subtract 4. The student can draw the jumps on the number line if he so wishes. The related activities on the left have to do with place value or subtraction with regrouping.
The Parent Center
In the parent centre you can view the student's progress, change the course to some other grade level, or assign specific tasks to your child before they can go on to other features of Mathletics.
It also includes printable resources called "Instant Workbooks". These aren't just a few, but DOZENS. At the time of this writing, the workbooks for grades 5-12 were available. This amounts to hundreds of pages per grade.
I especially found the workbooks for levels F and G (grades 5 and 6) to be of exceptional quality, easily surpassing your "grocery store" math workbooks or even mediocre math curricula. They include some teaching and a variety of exercises, including an emphasis of exercises requiring conceptual understanding, some puzzles, games, and word problems. For the grades 7 and onward, the workbooks were more of a "standard" fare.
Then, the parent centre also contains "Parent Toolkit", where you find short videos and animated examples on various math concepts,and an animated math dictionary. These resources SUPPORT the parent in the fact that they help him/her to actually teach the concepts.
Also a valuable part of the Parent Center is the ability to search for resources using keywords. I feel the search engine is very valuable, because that way a parent can find all the possible help and resources for any particular topic that his/her child might be struggling with.
The system also sends the parent a weekly report email.
Overall, Mathletics is a great math website, and offers a lot. The different parts - the main curriculum section, the race, Rainforest Maths, printable workbooks, and animated & video examples - provide a nice mix of online (and some offline) activities for students.
Mathletics would definitely be beneficial for most kids, especially in the elementary level - and I'm not just saying that because I am writing a review on it. I realize it is possible to practice math from math books and worksheets alone, but I have seen the benefits of a computerized environment, when rightly used. These benefits lie largely in these points:
- A computer math practice environment such as Mathletics can motivate kids to practice and learn;
- It helps children develop a positive attitude towards math in general;
- It helps children develop self-confidence in their math skills;
- It frees the teacher from doing the drills and checking simple calculation problems.
The other resources in Mathletics (the printed workbooks - especially the series F/G - the Rainforest Maths website, the math dictionary, and the short videos and animated examples) also add to its value.
While I realize suscribing to Mathletics is not financially possible for all parents to do, I still wish that each child and parent would get at least an opportunity to see how much a well-built computer learning environment can boost children's math skills. You can arrange for a free 5-day trial by emailing or call toll free 1.866.387.9139 to receive a username and password. This trial gives you an unrestricted access to the student center only.
Mathletics.com online math practice system. Subscriptions: $59/year with a 10-day money back guarantee.
Review by Maria Miller, MSc, author of HomeschoolMath.net
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