Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Just the Facts, Ma'am

These days, educational games are a dime a dozen. There are aps for your iphone, math games for your child's handheld devices, and of course, very flashy and high res graphics games for your laptop. As a whole, I don't have a problem with any of these things, if they are working to help your child improve his or her skills, or even if they are simply entertaining them from time to time in a more educational way. But sometimes I wonder at the wisdom of wrapping up something as basic as memorizing math facts in the middle of an elaborate game scenario where the bulk of the child's time is spent running from one virtual place to another, fighting monsters or outwitting villains, with a minimum of time spent actually doing the math problems that need work. All the (sometimes confusing and distracting) bells and whistles can make one long for a simple pack of flashcards.

Math Facts Now! takes you back to the simplicity of flashcards. It is basically a highly customizable electronic pack of flashcards that gives the teacher the ability to choose an operation to work on (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division), determine a problem set (using numbers 1-12), assign a number of problems to complete, set an amount of time allowed per problem, and even offer a reward for succesful completion of the assignment. The program is downloadable, or you can order it on cd-rom, and priced at $15.95 for both versions (with an additional $2.95 shipping and handling charge for the cd version), it is very affordable. It is available for Windows 2000, ME, XP, Vista and Windows 7 (with 4.5 Mb of free hard drive space required). Unfortunately, Math Facts Now! is not available for Macintosh users at this time.

Here are the particulars about the program:
  • The teacher may choose to have the student work on addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division.

  • The teacher may choose which numbers will be practiced (ie. you may choose to work on multiplying the numbers 1-12 only by the numbers 1-7).
  • The teacher may create multiple problem sets with differing parameters (ie. you can make "Addition 1-10" and "Subtraction 1-5") that can be saved and reused.
  • The program can be used with multiple students and each student will have access to every problem set, so you don't have to remake the same problem set for each student.
  • The teacher can set the number of problems to be completed for each problem set, from as few as five problems, to as many as fifty (or maybe more...we never did more than fifty). So if you have one student who needs to work on addition 1-5 and is only able to complete ten problems at a time, and another who is also working on addition 1-5, but can do twenty problems, you can make different problem sets for each student. But if they both can only do ten problems, you can use just one problem set. Pretty handy, huh?
  • The teacher can choose the amount of time given for students to solve each problem. We used sixty seconds for Ladybug, just in case she had trouble finding the keys, but you can use a much shorter amount of time to increase speed of recall. 
  • The teacher can set the number of times a student is required to type out missed problems (ie. 1+5=6) from as few as two to...well, we went up to four, but I imagine you could do more!
  • Missed problems are repeated once a student has typed out the correct problem. A red warning of "Be Careful!" shows to remind your student that this is a problem that was missed before. I thought this was great. It worked especially well for Ladybug because she can be impulsive and just guess. The warning slowed her down and reminded her that she needed to THINK.
  • The teacher can assign a reward for students to be given upon completion of each problem set with 100% accuracy. This reward can range from something as simple as "a kiss and a hug" to something like "fifteen minutes playing time on the Wii fit." Or you can forego the reward. It's up to you.
  • Teachers have the ability to keep track of each child’s progress and mastery of their math facts through reviewing past performance and progress reports.
Here's what we thought about the product:

Me: I loved it! What a great program for drilling math facts. I mean, I think math games are fun and all (my kids play them on our older computer), but sometimes it is more useful to just get back to the basics and drill, drill, drill.

My mom was telling me the other day that at her old public school they used to make every FIFTH GRADER write a graph of the times tables at the beginning of their SOL testing (there was no time limit, so wasting time making a chart wasn't an issue). That way, they wouldn't miss any problems because of not knowing their math facts. Come on...the average fifth grader needing a chart to help them remember 8 x 8? Sad. Math facts are the building blocks of everything having to do with math, so quick recall of them is essential to mastery of any other math skill that comes after that.

It was nice to see the progress my five and seven year olds made on their addition facts, to see the increase in their speed of recall, and to give out rewards of hugs and kisses, stickers, and an occassional cookie (hey, sometimes that is a fun incentive!) when a new skill set was mastered.

I liked that I could assign the drills and the kids could complete them without my having to be there every moment (I was still available, but I could be loading the dishwasher while they worked on their problems), and that they were enthusiastic about using the program.

The company even listened to the TOS Crew feedback and changed the problem limit from a minimum of fifty (yikes! for younger kids) to a minimum of five. How's that for customer service?

All in all, it was a huge A+++ for our family!!!

Here's What We Have to Say About Math Facts Now!:

Ladybug and Cowboy: We liked it. It was fun. It was a little hard to find the keys at first, but we figured it out. Ladybug was the best at that. We learned a lot. We want to keep doing Math Facts Now!

Tex: I tried the program just to drill and practice my facts (I already know them well), and it was a good program. I actually increased my recall speed when I used the program more (it tells you the average time it took you per problem). I think using this program is a good way to help make all math skills better because knowing your multiplication tables is so basic. The easier it is to remember your times tables, the easier it is to solve other problems, even algebra.

Math Facts Now! is an excellent tool to help your children practice and master their basic math facts. If you have children who are struggling with this skill, if your children are just beginning to work on this skill and need more practice, or even if your kids are doing pretty well, but could stand to speed up their recall, this program will definitely be a benefit to your family.

Click HERE to go to Math Facts Now! to try out a free trial.

You can go HERE to find out how to order Math Facts Now!

Click HERE to read what other TOS Crew reviewers have to say about this useful and efficient drill program. Check out other testimonials about the product HERE.

I hope our review was useful to you.



Our family received a complimentary download of this product in order to test it for the purposes of this review. The review you have read here is a reflection of our experiences using this product, and our honest opinions about its usefulness. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

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