Online Math From Down Under ~ CTC Math #Review
Regardless of whether you use online math as a fun supplement, to fill in missing components, or as your daily math curricula, there IS a online math program out there for every need. We’ve been using CTC Math, a new-to-us service that offers a 12 Month Family Plan for a surprisingly homeschooler-friendly price.
What does CTC Math include?
CTC Math is an online subscription service; the parent and each student will receive their own logins, perfect for easily tracking “who did what when”. Graded levels include kindergarten through 6th, which are then followed by Basic Math and Pre-Algebra, Elementary Measurement, Elementary Geometry, Algebra 1, Pre-Calculus, Calculus, Algebra 2, Geometry, and Trigonometry. If you’re between kindergarten and high school, or you need a refresher math course, CTC Math has what you need.
When the student logs in, they’re presented with a screen that displays all of these options, as shown below:
The first column, COURSE, lists the grade or “level” of the math. The second, STREAM, lists (up through grade 6) topics that can be completed out of order, should the student wish to do so. After grade 6th, this lists “parts”, which really need to be completed in order to make sense. The third column, TOPIC, displays what each particular lesson or group of lessons is about.
Here, on the navigation screen, we encounter a particular pet peeve of mine. I expect – and want – the progression through the lessons to be obvious, even if we need or choose not to follow that order. So, see the bottom half of the course list on the left? They’re not in order. They’re not in typical grade-level order, they’re not in skills-needed order, heck, they’re not even in alphabetical order – and it *bugs* me. Plus, it makes it really hard to tell the kids that they just need to work through all the lessons in order, from the top to the bottom of the page, and that each level prepares them more for the next. By following the “no-brainer” route displayed here, students would complete Pre-Calculus, Calculus, and Algebra 2 before Geometry. In that order. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m inclined to think a little Algebra 2 before Pre-Calculus would be helpful…
When a topic is chosen, a new screen displays:
Students then have the option of doing one of two things: take a diagnostic test (either standard or comprehensive) by clicking the buttons at the top right, or starting a lesson, by clicking on the lesson name.
Students taking a diagnostic test will work their way through a short (or long) test comprised of questions relevant to the topic area they have chosen. When complete, it shows as a printable file that includes scores per topic area, plus complete views of each question on the test, along with scoring. (If you don’t want your kids printing everything they encounter, especially, but you’d like to save a record of these, another option is “print to PDF”, which can be done on most computers these days – and it’s not very hard to do, aka, yes, the kids can learn to do it themselves.)
If the diagnostic tests identify problem areas, or the student chooses to work on lessons anyway, they will first be shown an instruction video. These are narrated by a teacher with a charming Australian accent (according to three of us) and the kids felt that they were reasonably easy to understand. (In regards to both the accent and the lesson.)
What did my 6th grade daughter think of CTC math?
In weird 11-year-old news, my daughter is unreasonably annoyed by the accent, informing me as I was interviewing her for this review, “Australian accents just don’t fit school”. She couldn’t identify a good reason. It’s not hard to understand, she says. Maybe it seems odd to her that it’s somewhere other than a movie?
She does, however, really appreciate all the bright variety of colors used in CTC Math. If her drama were to be believed, all other online math programs are in black and white, or monochrome at best, and the world was a grayer place before she encountered CTC. (Me, I think she’s exaggerating just a wee little bit, but to each, their own impressions.)
She also appreciates that the lessons don’t just stick with numbers – they use colors and shapes and pictures and even moving images. She did, however, get a bit frustrated with some of the money. “Sometimes, it’s just too small to see the numbers on the bills clearly, even though I’m using my laptop.”
I like how there are usually two questions of the same type in a row; it makes it much more likely that I’ll get the second one right. And I *really* like how, if you get an answer wrong, it shows you what the correct answer is immediately; you don’t have to wait til you get all the way to the end and then you’ve forgotten what it was all about. – Chey
There’s one more area of the site I haven’t show, but I’ve had a terrible time getting an image of it. (It displays as a pop-up, so no easy screen shot for me.) It’s a speed drill section, with four separate levels. The first includes just addition and subtraction, the second adds multiplication and the third, division. Level four changes things up, having five options: 1) addition, 2) subtraction, 3) mixed multiplication and division, 4) division with remainder, and 5) order of operations.
Each level uses a one-minute timer, and the student’s best time is saved. If this isn’t THE best speed drill app on the internet, it’s darn close. Cheyenne put it thus:
“Speed Skills? That thing is HARD. I’m not as good at it as Chris. In addition and subtraction, I’m close, but multiplication, I’m really bad.”
Heck, the harder levels are a significant challenge for me, and I’m both good at math and fast at ten-key. Speaking of which – if your kids are doing the speed drill on this, or on anything, and they have a keyboard that lacks a ten-key set-up (in a square, not the line of numbers at the top of the keyboard), seriously consider getting them an add-on USB ten-key. We discovered that they can be pretty cheap to buy online, and they make drill that much more fun because they speed things up.
What’d Chris, my 8th grader, think?
Chris’ biggest challenge with CTC Math was his OCD tendencies. He’s a perfectionist, and he *really* likes having everything crossed off just so. In this case, that meant he pretty much refused to do anything other than start at kindergarten level and test his way through EVERY.SINGLE.LESSON, stopping to do the complete lesson when he discovered a topic he didn’t know perfectly.
While I understand the impulse, this was driving me nuts. I really began to wish I had a way to “hide” some of the lessons from him, choosing what he could – or more importantly, couldn’t – see and choose from.
Chris, however, is quite pleased with his progress, and has every intention of continuing as he has begun. He informed me that he did have a “gap”, struggling a bit with the pie charts for 5th and 6th grade, but he’s got them all figured out now – and this experience has totally reinforced his intent to proceed methodically through CTC Math, no matter how much mom intended for him to simply start at the level he’s working on in his regular math curricula.
One thing he really likes about CTC Math is how, in the speed drill, you can choose to have it auto-enter the answer and move on to the next problem. He feels that this really makes things move faster and gives you the impression you’re doing better than you thought, so then you’re more likely to continue moving fast.
An aggravation he found, however, was with how the test results are – or rather aren’t – displayed. Though the data is available to print right after taking the test, it doesn’t show up on the Awards and Reports link, nor does it show like the lesson percentages do on the navigational page. He feels – and I’d have to agree – that it would simplify things for the way he works, and he’d appreciate that visual documentation.
What’d Michael, my high school senior, think?
Michael was the first to encounter lessons where the lesson answers could not be entered directly on the computer. These are marked with a N/A instead of an answer percentage bar, and mean that a worksheet must be printed out to complete the lesson. One such example he shared with me didn’t use the alternative multiple choice style of worksheet, either – it had to be completely hand-graded and the score entered in individually.
However, once the scores is entered, it does appear on the navigational list and is tracked, just without a lesson completeness percentage. If only the test data could appear in a similar manner…
Michael had a pet peeve of his own that he mentioned. He’s used several online math options in the past, and to him, having to print out and then re-enter either answers or scores online really feels like a step in the wrong direction. It’s a hassle, it makes it less portable and mobile and convenient than it could be otherwise, and it’s just not his preference. That said, it IS possible to work around the challenge, especially if you arrange things so that you can plan to print beforehand, or simply skip lessons until you can.
What do we thing about CTC Math overall?
On the whole, it’s been a positive experience. Despite Chey’s current anti-accent stance, the nationality of the creators really makes no difference, especially since CTC Math is able to be adapted for the area of the world you’re in, regardless of the currency and standards of the place you live. The widespread appeal is a strong plus in a market full of U.S.-centric products.
While I really like the approach and the instruction that I’ve observed, I, as usual, have my concerns about CTC math being a “complete” math program. Instead, I’d recommend it for use as practice, supplement, and a different approach to topics that your students may be struggling with. However, that preference is all mine – I’m pretty picky on math, and lean toward a moderate level of practice and an expectation of showing – and reaffirming – competence. Especially at the younger end of the age span, CTC math may well be more than sufficient and propel your students beyond what they might otherwise do by sticking to traditional leveled math courses.
I’m ready. Tell me how to get CTC Math.
The 12 Month Family Plan of CTC Math (for Homeschoolers) is priced at just $118.80. That’s a huge discount over regular family pricing ($299/year) and makes it very competitively placed, pricewise, in the online homeschool math market. A free trial of CTC Math is available, and I really recommend you check out CTC Math and see if it’s right for your family.