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Time4Learning Online Curriculum - Mathematics

Time4Learning is a complete online curriculum for grades K-8 and includes language arts, social studies, science, etc. This review will deal only with the mathematics part.

Time4learning mathematics curriculum consists of interactive computer lessons, online quizzes, and printable worksheets. All of the content is delivered via the internet. The content for this curriculum is provided by CompassLearning Odyssey.

Time4learning math curriculum - Geo teaches third grades about zero as a placeholder
Geo teaches third grades about zero as a placeholder

The math curriculum is very comprehensive as far as the topics covered. On each grade, there are activities for each of the five mathematics strands: Number Sense and Operations , Algebra, Geometry and Spatial Sense, Measurement, and Data Analysis and Probability. (On 8th grade, one can also choose a complete Algebra 1 course).

Also the number of activities (or lessons) is quite large; it seemed to vary from around 50 to as high as 100 per grade. BUT, no matter which grade you're in, you ALSO get access to neighboring grades math curriculum, so actually you have hundreds of math activities at your disposal.

In the elementary grades, the lessons feature cartoon characters that are sure to appeal to little folks. The characters act as teachers, and every little while the student has to interact with the lesson by choosing right answers or providing them. In the end of most lessons is a multiple choice quiz. For most lessons, you will find a corresponding worksheet that provides further practice on the topic.

On 5th and 6th grade the cartoon characters are gone. Now, many of the lessons (though not all) have just text to read on the computer screen with pictures and illustrations (sometimes animated), and multiple choice interactive questions. Some lessons have a voice explaining the mathematics instead of text.

Some lessons are still animated, with some kind of backround story to motivate. For example the activity "Safe deposit" has a story about bank manager who accidentally locked himself in the safe. The student has to enter 6-digit numbers correctly to let the poor guy go free.

Time4learning math curriculum - pattern explorer on third and fourth grade
Pattern explorer on third and fourth grade.
Click to enlarge.

Basically Time4Learning delivers the math instruction just like a teacher would, but the computer environment makes it all self-paced. There are no time limits. The student can even go backwards in the lesson, and 'replay' the instruction as many times as he wants.

On third and fourth grade I saw lots of "Exploratory" labs - for place value, for geometry concepts, money, elapsed time, for fractions, etc. These labs were doing what your manipulatives would, plus they had questions or projects for the student.

Since you can access third grade mathematics from 1st and 2nd grade launchpads, too, and access fourth grade math from 5th grade launchpad, I would recommend checking the exploratory labs out even if your child is on some other grade. They are an excellent addition to a child's mathematics experiences.

 

I noticed two major weaknesses or limitations of this program:

  1. It does not always provide enough practice. For example, most children would need additional practice to learn their basic addition facts and multiplication tables.
  2. It is not very challenging when it comes to word problems and problem solving - especially on 7th and 8th grades: many problems found there only require simple addition or subtraction or multiplication - just one step. (However, on 8th grade you can also choose Algebra instead of the "8th grade math")
    On 7th and 8th grade math there is a special 'Problem solving" section (identical for those two grades) where the student is supposed to do some exploring while finding the solution. This is, I feel, a good idea in the right direction. However, the problems presented there would rather belong to 5th and 6th grade. Also, the computer interface here makes the solving process very rigid.

And one other somewhat minor weakness is:

  • The instruction is "announced" or "given from above". Usually things are not justified or proven. Of course most mathematics instruction is that way, anyway.

For these reasons, I am of the opinion that Time4Learning is not enough to be the only mathematics resource for a child. HOWEVER, I feel it has lots of excellent material in a very appealing form! Many of us parents are very pleased to find an educational solution that is so motivating, fun, and self-directed.

Proportions practice
Proportions practice. Click to enlarge.

If you are aware of the limitations of the program, you can work around those and use the program for a big part of your mathematics instruction. I give some suggestions below.

For example, you could use Time4learning math together with an existing math book. First do an activity on a topic, and then the possible worksheet, from Time4Learning.com. Then, let the child study the corresponding section in the math book and do a few more practice problems from there, if needed. (Remember here that the goal is not to do all the problems from a book, but use the math book as a "worksheet" tool from which you choose problems for more practice.) And, obviously you can print out worksheets from my worksheet generators or find more by searching in Google.

For problem solving, I would recommend adding more challenging word problems from somewhere (especially for 7th and 8th grades). Maybe again your existing math book can supply some. I have a collection of problem solving websites on my site.

Example: Division of decimals by decimals from 5th till 7th grade


The lesson on fifth grade (picture above) is for initial teaching. It is like reading textbook on the screen with little multiple choice exercises on each screen.

On 6th grade there are two learning activities for dividing decimals by decimals. Both are very similar, and have text, explaing the steps in long division, with some problems that computer checks the answer to, and some multiple choice problems.

On 7th grade there are again 2 activities for this topic. The first one goes through two examples step-by-step in an animated setting. This actually, in my opinion, would belong to 5th grade.

The other 7th grade activity had the student doing each step on computer from moving the decimal point to typing in each step of the long division process. There were several problems to solve this way. Also a worksheet with questions about the topic, division problems, and word problems.

In summary

The principle of "variable learning" says that we all benefit from studying the same information from multiple (varying) sources. In that sense, no matter what math book you are using right now, adding Time4Learning is not going to hurt.

It has the math presented in a very child-engaging, fun, and appealing manner, and surely we all parents just love it when we find a product that gets kids so motivated as this one does.

The weaknesses - lack of facts practice and word problems - are fairly easy to get around, and don't in my opinion negate the great value you get from Time4Learning math.

Remember also that when you purchase the subscription, you also get complete language arts, science, and social studies curricula. And remember that for 8th grade you can also choose Algebra, which this review did not touch.

Website Time4Learning.com. Subscription $19.95 per month, $14.95 for second child.

Review by Maria Miller, MSc, author of HomeschoolMath.net


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