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Thinkwell is an online math education site. I have heard so much about it that I thought I would try it out. I wanted to see if it was accessible for the deaf, blind, and deafblind. I also wanted to see if the program would be suitable for an accredited umbrella program that required the parent-teacher to submit documentation such as copies of tests and grades for credit. I had heard from many that it covered several age levels from middle school through high school and Advanced Placement and college level, too. While educationally, it might not be a suitable option for everyone, the program is high quality and proves beneficial to many.

While, I may not be discussing the academic portions of this program, I will quickly describe it to you. There are numerous chapters in each course covering a full curriculum of objectives for each course. Each chapter has a video lecture followed by practice assignments, a quiz, and a chapter test. There are also interactive activities for added interest, practice, and enrichment. Along with that, you will also find printable worksheet type exercises for off-line practice, too.  A fellow contributing writer and co-founder of Homeschool Mosaics reviewed this site a few months ago following actually using the programs for two years with her own son. You can get her educated opinion by reading her review on Homeschool Mosaics here:  http://homeschoolmosaics.com/thinkwell-for-math/ .

Now, let me tell you what I found out in regards to accessibility and umbrella programs. Although, the site isn’t totally accessible to a braille display, I was impressed by how much the site developers did try to consider handicapped students. Their lecture videos which are the key to the program are closed captioned. You can turn them on from the buttons at the bottom of the video window. In addition, I was shocked to see that they had a complete print transcript of the video’s audio with detailed descriptions of the examples written on a chalkboard in the video. This would make it very easy for a hearing blind student to follow the video during play. It also would make it possible for a blind student to use a screen reader to read the transcript for the video to further understand the teacher’s lecture. A deaf student could also use the transcript to augment the closed captioning, if needed, since the problem examples are described well. In addition, the transcript file is a text .pdf making it accessible to a braille display, too, so a deafblind student could use this transcript to access the all-important teacher lecture. I highly commend the site developers for taking this much needed, but rare extra step to add accessibility to the site. Normally, the deafblind student would not have the ability to use a site at all even if a transcript is provided, since most provide image-based rather than text-based .pdf files. The practice worksheets, quizzes, and tests that I have mentioned that follow each video lecture are also available in two formats:  the online, computer checked format and the .pdf format. There is no audio connected with the practice tests, quizzes or tests, so a deaf student can easily take the on-line test to receive their results. A hearing blind student can possible do the on-line format with the screen reader. I can’t verify that because I am DeafBlind, so I am unsure if the screen reader is voicing the on-line version. Regardless, the .pdf format of the worksheets, quizzes, and tests are also text-based instead of image-based, so a braille display will be able to read these. To facilitate this use, open the on-line version and let the student orally answer or open .pdf version , print,  and use a braille and slate to record the answers for these assignments. The teacher can then use the on-line format to record the student’s answers for computer grading and record-keeping.  This is definitely an easy way to do the program for the blind and deafblind. There are some animated flash interactive activities that are not accessible for blind and deafblind and possibly not to the deaf for the ones that have audio that is needed for completing the task. However, these are enrichment activities that are not critically needed to ensure successful completion of the courses. Although the blind and deafblind can’t do the entire site independently, the quality of the education is high, and there is sufficient access along with a simple step for modification to make this program a beneficial choice to those students who are already good with using a computer with a screen reader and/or braille display. So, if you need or want an on-line choice for your student’s math curriculum, Thinkwell is a beneficial option to try.

In addition to usable access for the disabled, Thinkwell pleases me as Principal of an accredited homeschool umbrella program, too. Regardless to whether the program is a divided home/center program or a home only program such as mine for the most part, Thinkwell has the capability to fit your documentation and contact hour requirements. The courses cover objectives for each subject and level well with suitable instruction and practice for a typical school year. All assignments can be printed as blank assignments to be used for on-site observation, as needed. Completed on-line activities can be printed with answers to show correct/incorrect questions specifically, as well as, the overall grade on the assignment. In addition, there is a suitable number of activities to allow for the programs that meet one, two, or three days a week and allow for practice at home through practice worksheets and interactive activities, as needed. Since there are also courses that are Advanced Placement level, students in these programs have access to AP materials that can be difficult for some students to obtain easily or affordably. Some colleges also use Thinkwell to provide actual college courses for them, so that adds to the evidence that Thinkwell provides quality instruction with a high quality content level, too.

A twelve month subscription to Thinkwell is $125-$150 for full year, full credit course, but there are many places that provide discount codes if you look for them. Either way, it isn’t too bad for a high quality program that is accessible and suitable for many accredited umbrella programs, too. You can find out more at http://www.thinkwellhomeschool.com/.

 

I was not asked by Thinkwell or anyone else to review this program. I chose it to review to provide options for disabled students and students involved in umbrella programs. I did use their advertised free trial to gain access to the program as any consumer can do. I have not and will not be compensated in any way for this review. The review expresses my honest opinion of this program.

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I have often been asked for products that teach the concepts of fractions besides the old and possibly tired fraction pie resource. TOS Crew has reviewed a few good and different ones in that you can check out in the Blog Cruise archives. Recently, though, a couple of fun game products were sent to us to review that I think are quite unique. If your student really doesn’t feel motivated to learn fractions, the one I was sent is definitely worth a try. Fractazmic is a fun game that teaches fractions and numbers and measurement. And did I mention that it is a game! What better way to learn!

The basics of the game are to create a hand and have the most hands before any player runs out of cards. A hand is created by adding together the fraction cards of the same suit to equal one. There are three suits in three different colors. The sixteenths suit is red, the twelfths suit is blue, and the tenths suit is green. Within a suit, the cards show fractions that can be added together. When you have cards that total together to equal 1 in that suit, you have a hand. For example, in the twelfths suit or blue cards, you might have ¼ and 1/3 and 5/12. Those fractions when changed to equivalent fractions with the same denominator can be added to equal 1 such as 3/12 plus 4/12 plus 5/12 equals 12/12 or 1. Using graphical depictions on the colorful cards, the student can quickly make the mental calculations required while learning and reinforcing the concepts of equivalent fractions and adding of fractions. Each suit uses a different application for representation of the fraction amount such as eggs in a cartoon for the twelfths suit, water in a water bottle for the tenths suit, and a close up view of a ruler for the sixteenths suit thus teaching the concepts of numbers, fractions, and measurement. To aid even further the quick mental calculation, the ruler graphic used in the sixteenths suit also depicted cute little brown ants and green grasshoppers to visually and quickly see one sixteenth unit and 4 sixteenths units. This visually helps the student to remember that 1 grasshopper is 2/8 or 4/16 allowing for quick denominator change and adding along with the addition of the number of ants to better see and calculate the ones. This is an excellent use of visuals for mental calculation and concept reinforcement.

Along with the colorful concept depictions, the game play is simple and fast moving to motivate and encourage even the most reluctant of math learners. The play really does make it fun while teaching the complex concepts and the “why it works” behind the math.

Many special needs populations should benefit from the colorful representations of the fractions in comparison of equivalency especially learning disabled students. I will give suggestions for modifying the cards or adding to the cards that can work, especially if you wish to include your special needs students in play with your other students. These are merely suggestions. You may feel that they are more complex or work intensive than the benefit brings. You can decide that for yourself. If you have students who really need more tactile and kinesthetic representations, start with tutor-aided demonstration games where the student has a tutor to help him manipulate real objects of an egg carton with wooden or plastic eggs, a liter water bottle with the same graduated increments (if the student needs more than just counting the line markings to visually see the amount, use a clear water bottle and pre-measured colored plastic page strips that can be slipped inside the bottle to represent water to the desired level), and an oversized ruler or card-drawn ruler (if needed or to add more textured manipulation for the student who needs multisensory input to attach meaning to objects and words, and allow for the same visual effect for quick mental calculation, use appropriately sized models of an ant and a grasshopper). For blind and DeafBlind students, I would use the real objects first to help the student grasp the representation of the fraction and addition of fractions. The cards are easily brailled with the fractions each card represents and the word name or fraction name with the word suit to distinguish suit differences. After the student fully grasps the object representations, tactile markings can be placed on the cards to remind the student of the components for calculation. Or the cards can be brailled with the additional cell for the suit fraction such as the ¼ card of the twelfths suit can be brailled with “3 eggs” or the 3/12 fraction cells. Thus, the card would have the ¼ braille cells (with or without the number braille sign), the word twelfths or the number 12 and ths cells for 12ths representing the suit, and the braille cells for 3/12 or “3 eggs to cover all of the needed information to play the game successfully depending on the memory aids needed for the student. It must be noted that tactile markings and braille cells will make it necessary to be gentler when shuffling and during game play. Tactile markings may have to be reapplied occasionally, too. Again, these modifications are just ways to try to make the cards more useful to more student populations.

Fractazmic can be found at http://www.fractazmic.com for just $6.95. The website also describes other ways to play and listings of other great card games to learn other math concepts.

 

To read other reviews about this product and others from The Old SchoolHouse Crew, go to the TOS Crew blog.

Though I was provided a product to review for this blog, I have not been compensated in any other way, and the opinion expressed here is entirely my own.

 

As a Principal of a private Christian school, I see test scores for a lot of students whether they are enrolled in my school or not because we provide testing for all kinds of students not just our own. What I see most often is low math scores all the way from Kindergarten through the 12th grade and even on the SAT/ACT college entrance tests. It isn’t saddening to me because math is so important for our children. Why are the scores so low? It isn’t from lack of doing. I know that. Many of these students do lots of math every day. It isn’t lack of ability because many of these students have exceptionally high intelligence. It isn’t because the teacher whether parent or school teacher has difficulty in math themselves. It seems to come down to a lack of problem-solving strategies and true understanding of the processes of math. A little help seems to be on the way from AIMS Education Foundation’s Solve It! Series.

Many curriculums cover the basic facts and concepts in regards to rules and definitions, but the lack in transferring the understanding of why something is done. The “whys” are really more important than the “hows”. If students do not understand why they perform certain operations they can’t learn to think mathematically. If students can’t learn to think mathematically, they won’t be able to apply their skills to more advanced concepts and problems. AIMS (Activities Integrating Math and Science) Education Foundation has created a series called Solve It! That does a really nice job presenting the problem-solving strategies and thinking skills to students. It is a workbook which some think is overdone and certainly can be, but this series will make a good complement to any textbook curriculum to help smooth out the presentation of these skills, give plenty of practice, and let students learn to love math. Learning to think mathematically actually can and does bring an element of fun and discovery to math. The activities are varied and diverse. They are well-designed and use manipulatives, art and craft creativity, charts, etc. All to keep the students actively focused as they explore the concepts and practice the skills. The teacher will find a chart detailing which problem-solving skill each activity develops. I only used the 3rd grade edition, but if the others are as well-done, I think the series deserves a close look.

There are other activity books and products in other subject areas available on the web site, too, including downloadable e-books. The prices range from $9.95 to $24.95 depending on the size of the activity book. To find out more, go to aimsedu.org.

To read other reviews about this product and others from The Old SchoolHouse Crew, go to the TOS Crew blog

Though I was provided a product to review for this blog, I have not been compensated in any other way, and the opinion expressed here is entirely my own.

Game playing is a wonderful way to bring a family together. It is even better during the tough economic times. As a family, we are always looking for new games, but that can be difficult in my family due to special needs issues. Recently, I was sent a product called Wits and Wagers Family from North Star Games. My husband was excited. He had played the game with the same name, but not a family version, years ago from another company that no longer exists. He was very happy someone had decided to publish it again. As per our tradition, I got the game out after Thanksgiving Dinner. We would just see how it went.

With overfull bellies, we got the game out to play rather than sleep the afternoon away. My children and a girlfriend who are grown and just out of college or in college groaned when their Dad said he had played it years ago. The idea of playing something he liked long ago didn’t sound very promising to them. With that, we opened the box and as promised, explained the game play in just a couple of minutes. My husband explained it to me by fingerspelling the steps as I needed to do something. First, a question is chosen and read aloud. My husband fingerspelled it to me. We each had little dry erase boards to write our answer on to and place face down when done. Our first question was how many different colors of Froot Loops are there? Everyone tried to imagine their morning cereals from breakfasts past and wrote down a number and placed their card face down. When everyone was finished, the cards were turned face up and placed in numerical order. We each then got to decide if we wanted to stick with our answer or try to help our chances by backing another’s answer. You each have two little meeples or wooden people shapes. One is larger than the other at about ¾ of an inch high and each set of meeples is a different color than matches an answer board. The large meeple is worth two points and the smaller one is worth one point. You place your meeples on any of the answers you think might be correct. You can place them all on your answer board if you are really certain you are correct, or you can place them on one or two others to help your chances of gaining points. The answer to our question was six. I had written 4 as a guess, but I knew there had to be more. Other answers given were 5, 6, and 8. I decided to put a large meeple on 5 and the small one on 8. If your card answer is right, you get one point. If your meeples are on a correct answer, you get one or two points for a possible high of 4 points if all of your meeples are on the right answer. I totally missed that one. My younger son’s girlfriend, Rachel, got that one right as I had watched her count imaginary Froot Loops. The only question I got right for the game was how many feet are in a mile. My two sons missed that one. I guess I didn’t teach that fact very well, did I? Rachel won despite not getting too many questions right as did none of us. That is the beauty of the game. Even those of us who have gotten foggy in our brains have a chance to win by mooching off the right answers of others. We all laughed at our silly and far-fetched answers and even enjoyed our temporary status of victors with appropriate trash talk. The game proved to be a hit.

Well-made and durable, the quick play of about twenty minutes is also perfect for most families regardless of ages involved. North Star Games states that it is best suited for those 8 and over and with three to ten players. As most of us know in homeschooling families, you often have younger children around. “The questions are varied and range from easy to hard making the game fun and easy for young and old people”, Rachel said. If you need a few easier questions though for a much younger child, you can let all of the family help you write up a few more to mix in. Brendan felt that “some of the questions could become outdated”, but you could also add a few more timely questions to replace them if you want. Brian thought it was really fun and “worked well for all ages” to play despite differences in abilities, but he agreed with his brother about some of the questions becoming outdated. Most though will stand the test of time and popularity. My husband really liked that it was the game he played and enjoyed so long ago, but also had a good playing and scoring format for families that might not feel the connection to wagering was a good example.

I liked the game setup and durability of the materials. The questions can be redone in braille, large print, or signed for family members with sensory impairments quite easily because the questions are short and simply stated. Scoring is simple even for the youngest members. North Star games can easily add additional question packets to be purchased separately to address issues of outdated questions or for providing special play topics, too. The game is easily modified for any family and their specific needs and a perfect fit at $19.99. There is the more adult party version available, too, if your family needs more of a challenge.

Check http://www.northstargames.com for more information about Wits and Wagers Family or any of their other games.

I was provided a free product to write this review. I was not compensated in any other way, and the opinion expressed here is entirely my own.

Measurement is a necessary skill that we use in our daily lives. Many children struggle to learn the concepts length, weight, distance, etc. The ruler is one of the first tools we teach when beginning to develop measurement skills. A student might grasp the idea of a foot and 12 inches as the same because it is something they can see and touch with our standard ruler. Try to break that down to smaller increments, and you quickly lose many of the students. Master Innovations has designed a system of rulers to help better teach that task with their Master Ruler.
The Master Ruler is designed as one rule with several parts that lay over each other, but transparent to see the addition of smaller increments within the large increment at the base. The ruler comes in Standard English and Metric increments available separately. The idea is to show that the smaller increments are still measuring the exact same amount of space, but breaking the space up into different size parts or increments. We have all seen similar techniques used with fractions and fraction pies. The white base ruler simply has 12 red lines dividing the space into 12 equal parts each 1 inch. A second, but transparent ruler is laid over the base ruler that has 24 blue lines dividing it into ½ inch increments. Each line that matches an inch marker below is a little heavier. The red line of the base ruler marking each inch is a little longer than the blue lines to help reinforce the concept that the space is equal regardless of the number of increments. There are three additional transparent rulers that can be place on top of the rulers below to correspond with ¼ inch, 1/8 inch, and 1/16 inch increments each with a different color-coding. The lines of each of the rulers are sized so that all of the increments can be seen clearly even through the last layer of 1/16 inch increments. The white base ruler also has a conversion chart on the back for many of the mostly commonly used facts that every student needs to know as second nature. Having them handy will help them to memorize these facts easily. The metrics ruler is essentially the same, but uses metric increments. With practice using The Master Ruler, the student can begin to visualize the concepts of basic measurements and use them successfully.
Many special needs students will find the system great for helping them understand the concepts. The color-coding is great for may learning disabled and ADD/ADHD students as well as the overlay system to emphasize the fact that the unit space or distance is the same, but the number of sections it is broken down into is what changes. Of course, it fits very well for students are more kinesthetic or hands-on learners. The system of color-coding and overlay also works with low vision students, too, without too much difficulty. There are some tactile paint and bumps that can help some, too, but as is, the totally blind might have too much difficulty. A workbook available separately has activities that will help you introduce the use of the rulers, too. However, though many of the pictures used for measuring are fine, there are some that are blurry and would definitely be difficult for a low vision student to use. The company will probably address this issue in future versions. Overall, though, the system is very beneficial for most special needs issues.
The products are also very durable as well as affordable at $9.95 each. The workbook, full of activities, is $15.95, and a teacher’s ruler that is suitable for demonstrations and overhead use, too. You can also purchase a Starter Set for $41.25 for a $4.55 savings. Master Innovations also has other affordable systems available great for learning other math concepts with their Master Clocks, Master, Angles, and Master Fractions. Go to http://www.themasterruler.com for more information.

Though I received a free product to write this review, I was not compensated in any other way. The opinion expressed is entirely my own.

You might be like many homeschool moms out there who have developed homeschool burnout. A case noted by a sink full of dishes, arts and crafts, textbooks, paper sprawled everywhere, and a haggard looking mom bent over the kitchen table full of research books, lesson plan books, and teacher editions trying to create that perfect lesson to spark the glow in her children’s eyes over bugs or pronouns. As the school year dwindles down to a close, you might be finding yourself in the description above. If so, Ideal Curriculum thinks they can help make your life easier if you have pre-schoolers and early learning students.

Ideal Curriculum is a curriculum program designed to fully cover the academic concepts of literacy, oral language, math, calendar, science, and social studies. The curriculum uses art, music, play, and movement to make learning fun. With literacy in mind, the activities cover letters and sound, phonological awareness, sight words, and concepts about print. Each unit includes a read-aloud text for each major concept, full-color flash cards, letter cards, sight word cards, and music files. Lesson plans are provided for each subject Literacy, Math, Science or Social Studies based on the monthly theme. In fact from start to finish, everything you need is provided along with every detail you need to implement it.

The monthly kits are available as print or downloadable .pdf files. Either of which can be made more accessible for either disabled students or parents with a few modifications. Low Vision can copy or print out the pages in larger print or blown up. The files are left open and accessible for copying to a braille translation program or read by Adobe’s text to speech reader. Letter cards can be made tactile with glue or tactile paint. Pictures can be recreated with objects if detailed, or if line art, they can be made tactile with glue or tactile paint. Tactile images such as letter cards or word cards are useful for the blind, deafblind, low vision, and learning disabled. Most of the activities are accessible or easy to modify as needed.

The monthly kits are $95.00 for print, and $30.00 for downloadable files. In the coming months, packages will be available that will combine parts of the curriculum and provide a savings for buying them together. The website also has a blog with interesting information about literacy and useful tips for teaching. Check out http://www.idealcurriculum.com for more information. With Ideal Curriculum, you can develop your children into strong readers and writers while teaching them to love to learn.

I was provided a downloadable copy of monthly kit 1 in order to write this review, but I was not compensated in any other way. The opinion expressed here is entirely my own.

If you have been looking for computer software to help strengthen your child’s basic math skills, I recently received a copy of Math Galaxy: Whole Numbers Fun. You might find this program suitable for your needs especially for children in grades 1-4 or on that math level. Many drill programs just do the basic math facts of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division if they even do all of those. This program allows for practice of time, place value, graphs, probability, and much more.

Math Galaxy provides good practice for all those essential math skills. This one doesn’t just stop at addition and subtraction. It is also a little more than just a set of electronic flash cards. There are sections on word problems, probability, area, length, volume, money, patterns, and more. Most sections have different options for problem set up such as 1 digit, two digit, or three digit multiplication, difficulty, etc. Some of the topics such as word problems and probability also have a review area to help the student when needed. The program isn’t overly glitzy and has a basic problem area and then an answer area where any needed information about how the answer needs to be typed is also given. The student uses the keyboard to type his answers, but must use a mouse to click the buttons for next problem or quit, for example. The number of problems is fairly extensive to allow a parent or teacher to give students a good bit of practice, supervised or unsupervised, as needed. There are also a few game formats to add a little variety to the practice that might be an incentive for some students to practice more. The program also uses graphical helps to show the answers and how to derive them.

Accessibility issues are definitely present for certain populations. Blind and DeafBlind needing a screen reader and/or braille display will find it impossible to use the program as is. Low vision students not needing a magnifier will probably do fine with the problem area which is written in fairly large and bold print. The instructions in the answer area might be difficult to read and will probably need to be read aloud by a helper. Review area information is mostly written small in the answer area of the program, so this will present difficulty for many low vision students. For Learning Disabled students with reading difficulties will have few problems because there is actually very little text even in the review area. If the program was more accessible to text readers or had one built in, this problem could be lessened for at least LD, hearing blind, and low vision students.

Math Galaxy: Whole Numbers Fun can be found at http://www.mathgalaxy.com. At $24.95 for this program or any of their other programs, it can affordably fit in most budgets. Their website gives a good overall view of their programs including screen shots to help you decide if this would be the math program for your family. The programs run on Windows 98 or later and Mac OS X and a CD-Rom drive is needed for installation. Wynfield students found the program easy to use and fun enough to keep going back. It might just fit for your family, too.

I was provided a copy of Math Galaxy: Whole Numbers Fun, but I was not compensated in any other way. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

I I have heard many parents say I wish I had the old textbooks back when they knew how to write a textbook. Those old textbooks are difficult to find and even more difficult to find in good condition. Dollar Homeschool has provided a series of textbooks that are definitely from days gone by. The Eclectic Series was used between 1865 and 1915 as the exclusive curriculum for schools in the United States. The books are definitely written in the time when things were detailed, elegant, and concise.

 Included in the Eclectic series are the subjects of Grammar, History, Reading, Math, and Science. All of the books are in the .pdf format. One of the best known sets of books available is the McGuffey series. It has long been held as a true classic. Also available is Ray’s Arithmetic, White’s Arithmetic, Norton’s Elements of Physics, Norton’s Elements of Chemistry, Norton’s Elements of Natural Philosophy, Cromwell’s History, and many others. You will find something for every subject and age level that covers the topics in a style that can’t be found today.

 Accessibility for the most part is limited not by the textbooks themselves, but by the technology needed to present them for use today. The .pdf format is unsecured which would normally allow accessibility equipment to use the material either directly or copied into another accessible program, but the .pdf sources were pictures derived from the scanning in of the documents. Accessibility equipment needs text in most cases. Optical Character Recognition or OCR is the only way to get text from scanned images. That might be possible here, but the condition of the original texts may have made this too difficult of a process. For many of my readers and for me, this makes these incredible sources useless for the most part. However, for those who can use them and love the teaching styles of these old texts, Dollar Homeschool has delivered a good product for you to use.

 Yyou can get the entire Eclectic series for $159.99 on CD and for a limited time, you can get free shipping. To get a much better idea, go to http://www.dollarhomeschool.com.

 I was provided a copy of the entire Eclectic series for the purpose of writing this review. I was not compensated in any other way, and the opinion is entirely my own.

Last year I reviewed a DVD from MathTutor. The company provides a DVD with a teacher standing in front of a white board explaining math concepts from basic math on one DVD to Algebra concepts on another. You can read my MathTutor review for those DVDs from my archives. When I got this one on counting for preschoolers, I was a bit hesitant because the teacher before I had been kind straight to the point with no humor and no flash at all. It had been fine for the age group and especially for the length of each lesson. A student could focus on the needed concepts for the time needed without any distractions. I really didn’t think the method would work for preschoolers. Fortunately, the method for Young Minds: Numbers and Counting was right on target for the age group.

The DVD has wonderful full-color pictures and video showing different objects, people, or animals. Along with beautiful classical music from Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Vivaldi, and others, numbers are placed beside the objects, people, or animals in each scene one at the time as a narrator, a child, demonstrates counting. The child makes a sentence using the counted objects, and if it is an animal or a machine; the sound is played after the child narrator says, “___ makes this sound.” Each chapter counts up to a different number from 1 to 10. The things or people counted are numerous in each chapter to give the child plenty of experience with counting to that number. Bonus chapters use counting with puzzle pieces of pictures and connecting dots to finish pictures. Several preschool skills are addressed with this DVD besides just numbers and counting. The child is exposed to various objects, people in different activities, and animals along with sound recognition skills for the appropriate animal or machine. The bonus sections help the child with picture recognition skills, adding details to an unfinished picture of easily recognized objects, and small part to whole recognition practice with the “Guess what I am” activity.

Although many parents do not like to use television for young children, Young Minds: Numbers and Counting could be beneficial if used periodically for short periods. A parent could use it for a quiet moment together listening to the music and together naming and counting the objects in a chapter. Do one chapter at a time and repeat a chapter a few times before going to the next over a period of a few weeks. The bonus materials could be done similarly. As far as accessibility, I used it with several of my children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders with no problems of significance. It worked well here in the sense that these students need activities with a clear cut beginning and ending. Using the DVD by chapter only gave that clear cut ending. The child narrator already uses brief sentences, but for ASD or other receptive language disorders, the teacher probably needs to shorten the statements to one or two word chunks such as, “Fire Truck, 1, 2.” Or, say, “Red Fire Truck.” Low Vision students will benefit from the full color and contrasting pictures especially with the fact that there is limited motion. Deaf children used the DVD, too, and understood the concepts and were on task without a teacher signing or verbally repeating the narration. I do suggest that communication be added for normal use though. If possible, the MathTutor producers could consider adding closed captions that would benefit some, especially Deaf parents using the DVD with their Deaf children. There are lots of uses for this DVD if a parent is willing to give a little television time for the purpose of learning. Using the program with the child rather than letting the program be a break time for mom could help the program be more of a benefit, too, and relieve some of the fears about overusing the television at this age.

For $19.99, the program is affordable enough to give it a try. Many children will find the program fascinating and find learning to count fun. For more information, go to http://www.mathtutordvd.com/products/item58.cfm.

 MathTutor provided me a copy of Young Minds: Numbers and Counting for the purpose of writing this review. The opinion expressed here is entirely my own. I was not compensated in any other way or asked to write a specific type of review.

Recently, I received from The Old SchoolHouse Magazine as part of the Crew a request to do a review for MathScore. As with other products, I received the chance to use it for free, but I will review it based on my own opinion. MathScore is an online math assessment and practice program. It provides thousands of randomly chosen problems to assess your student’s math level and practice their weak concepts. Math levels covered include first through Algebra I. This site could provide a much needed assessment tool for schools and homeschoolers.

 The program, developed by graduates of MIT, is designed to accurately assess and prescribe practice regardless of math curriculum or method taught to the student. Students have access to a basic Core assessment test which then lists the results and any necessary topics that need to be further taught. The system has worksheets and mini lessons for each topic covered. The student can access as many worksheets as needed to practice the skills taught in the mini lessons. The student can then be reassessed for the topic after practice. Student gets detailed results of their assessments and practice answers. Parents have a separate log in that allows them to get detailed results and teaching suggestions including details of their students’ use of the program. Each time the student logs in, the program keeps detailed records of total log in time, time spent actually working, number of problems done, percentage correct, and percentage of attention span. I had several students at different levels try out the program. I even tested each student with the television on nearby, too. Of course, I never allow TV watching in school, but I wanted to test this attention span percentage. The program very simply, but accurately gave me a report to let me know just how distracted my students were while doing the lesson and worksheets. I also received emails letting me know when my students worked and how much was accomplished. This could be a useful tool for a busy parent to monitor their children’s working time without having to actually sit by them the entire time. If they don’t work you know it. When they do work, you can tell just how much effort was put into the work and how successful they were doing it. I particularly liked the Copy sections of the program which helps the student learn to type their answers more accurately and more quickly. This is a much needed skill for most students. The program wasn’t designed originally to be a teaching program in the sense of a full curriculum, but the site information states that many homeschoolers do use it that way because of the presence of the mini-lessons. I personally don’t recommend that blindly, but it could be used as a tool to decide when the student needs additional and more teacher-focused instruction.

In regards to special needs and/or accessibility, most parents and students will find the program easy enough to use. Children with reading difficulties will find there isn’t a lot of difficult text to read, but if there is a problem reading a text to speech reader such as Text Aloud or any free program should help there. Hearing blind using a screen reader will find it useless as will braille readers because the site uses frames, and the main text frame isn’t provided for the sc reenreader to use. This is a major reason why accessibility rules of the ADA and FCC require web sites to maintain a text only or accessible version for alternate use. Flash, Java, JavaScript, frames, etc. are not seen by screenreaders and braille displays; thus, it makes these types of pages inaccessible to the hearing blind and deafblind user. On MathScore, some of the links are available and can be followed, but the main part of the program or details on the page sent to by a link is in the main frame inaccessible to the reader because it is not actually on that webpage, but accessed from a separate file. Therefore, I can’t recommend this program to many of my readers at all. Although useful to some, a web site needs to be accessible by all, or it is discriminatory. A reorganization of the interface could easily eliminate these issues and broaden the market of the program.

The MathScore program, though not a good solution for all students, is affordable. The cost for one student is $14.95 per month, but can be as low as $9.95 per month with a time commitment. Additional students can be added for increasing discounts to as low as $3.95. Check it out for yourself at http://www.mathscore.com.

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