My kids enjoy doing school on the computer, and are quite willing to try out anything new that’s computer-based, even if it’s a subject we’re saturated in. We’ve had several math products to try out this year, and when we found out we’d get to try TenMarks, an online subscription math instruction service, we were pretty excited. We were only allowed two student accounts, so I chose the oldest (9th grade) and the youngest (3rd), to allow us to get a general idea of how the program worked at all age levels.
TenMarks encompasses grades 3-8, plus Algebra 1, 2, and Geometry. Since the oldest is doing Algebra in triplicate this year thanks to various reviews, decided to try Geometry for him. The Princess is doing 3rd grade math. Thank goodness she likes math.
The program is set, by default, to assign 4 “worksheets” of ten problems per week. (It can be adjusted from 3-7.) If a worksheet is completed with a score below a certain point, a “do over” worksheet is given, for additional practice. Notices are sent out via email to the parent when new worksheets are added to the child’s page, and reminders are sent a few days later if the assignment hasn’t been completed. If the child completes their regular assignment, they can request a second set for the week, but it doesn’t allow them more beyond that.
TenMarks was created to be a supplement to regular math curriculum, and in that regard, it does quite well. Lessons adapt to the child’s progress, and material is presented in a rotating manner, so there is frequent review until the topic is proven to be mastered. The short worksheets ensure that the child is not overwhelmed with work, and there is some flexibility in both the quantity of problems and the topics they cover.
A rewards system is built into TenMarks. By default, TenMarks unlocks games for the student to play that are available after their regular work is completed. “Certificates of Mastery” are added to their online accounts for viewing, and may be printed if desired. An optional parent-determined reward system is also available, and would be especially effective in situations where incentive is needed to get the student to participate fully.
The parent interface is simple to use, and detailed enough to use for record-keeping, though it would be nice if a more concise method of attendance tracking was available. I appreciate being able to view each actual worksheet that has been completed, along with my student’s answer – it means if my child asks me about a problem later, I can go back and see exactly what they worked on. Makes it much easier for me to help find a solution when I can see it just as they did.
Answers are all multiple choice – there were no fill-in-the-blank questions that we have seen, and that appears to be the manner the entire program is set up in. Hints are available, up to three per question, to guide the student toward the answer when they need a little more help.
Most math curricula are set up to first teach, then practice. If it’s just practice, then it would be considered supplemental rather then complete. That’s one of the things that makes TenMarks just a little bit different.
TenMarks does include instructional videos, but they’re very clearly relegated to a use-only-if-needed basis. The links to view them are small, and nowhere is the student encouraged to view them before proceeding to the practice problems. The links are there, but small, and obviously not the primary focus, so it’s easy for the students to avoid them, if they desire.
My students rarely used the videos. After observation of this, and then talking with them about why, it was clear we had two separate reasons that were occurring.
My 3rd grader felt comfortable enough with the material that she didn’t see the need to watch the videos, and since she was flying through each week’s worksheets, requesting more, finishing those, and then having to wait several more days before more were assigned. This was good, in that since she was already familiar with the material, she was able to apply what she already knew, brush up on what she needed to, and complete the worksheets. But the inability to move further ahead slowed her down, and so she wasn’t truly able to move ahead at the pace she would have preferred to. (And was quite annoyed by it at times. This is the child that completed the first 35 lessons (days) worth of her regular math the first week of school last September, so her impatience with the delay was no surprise.)
For my 9th grader, though, there were several topics that were new to him. He tried the video lessons, only to discover that for him, the accent of the instructor was nearly impossible to understand. He found himself spending far more time trying to decipher the video then he actually was doing the worksheets. He then gave up on the videos, and turned to first to the hints, and then to alternative sources, Mom and Google among them, when he was otherwise stuck.
His younger sister had no such complaint about the instructor, which led me to listen to some videos on both of their levels. Different instructors. The 3rd grade one speaks a bit too fast in some places, but other then that, is fairly easy to understand. The Geometry one, on the other hand, has quite an accent – and not one that we’re familiar with and used to adapting to. No wonder he was avoiding it, in my opinion – I’d likely have reacted the same.
I explored each of the course levels to see what the variation in voice was like. I discovered that while the instructors for the younger grades are fairly easy to understand, Geometry, Algebra 2, and the second half of Algebra 1 are all spoken by the one we were having difficulty with.
I also found that there is significant variation in the quality of the audio recordings themselves. Some are loud, some are quite soft, and others have occasional artifacts of the recording process, like puffs of air and feedback. It’s not enough to make it difficult to understand, though it will mean some ups and downs of the volume.
I like TenMarks in general, though I’d really like to see more flexibility to move ahead. As I’ve said, I also have concerns about the videos. But if your goal is for an interesting supplement to your regular math curriculum, TenMarks is a good product for the price. It’s trackable, it’s automated, it doesn’t require prep time, it’s easy to use and fun for the kids. But I wouldn’t advise anyone to use it as their primary math curriculum due to the method of presentation and the audio faults. (Solely multiple-choice questions is another concern here. A student that is good at ruling out multiple choice answers is going to be able to slide through quite a few of these problems without actually finding the answer.)
I would strongly recommend that you go to this page, Experience TenMarks, and try it out for the specific levels that you’re interested in. Listen to several of the video lessons, and make sure you’re comfortable with the audio part of the content. Or, sign up for a free TenMarks trial, and have your child test out the actual program for a worksheet or two. If you’re still not sure at that point if it’s right for your child(ren), it’s reasonably enough priced that a month’s subscription isn’t going to make a huge dent in your budget.
TenMarks is an online subscription service. Priced at just $10/month per student, they offer a money-back guarantee. Discounts are available on longer subscriptions – $49/6 months, or $89/year.
To see what other crew members had to say about this product, check out the TOS Homeschool Crew blog post, TenMarks.
**I received this product for free as a member of the 2010-11 The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew so that I could provide you with an honest review of it by our family.**