Online Times Alive: City Creek Press Review

My daughter has been struggling to learn her times table, so I was very happy for her to learn math tables in a fun way, with the Online Times Alive subscription from City Creek Press, Inc.

Overview:

The Times Alive program is based on a best-selling book, Times Tables The Fun Way Book for Kids. The program teaches children multiplication with animated videos, songs, games and more to make math fun and interesting.

 
 

Membership Details:

The membership is very easy to use! It is a month-to-month subscription, and you can cancel anytime. It is very affordable at only $9.95 a month. There is a one-time registration fee of $6.95 as well.

Overview:

When you log in, there is a video that gives directions about how to use the program. I think it was helpful for parents as well as my daughter just to get an overall feel for the program.

How we used it:

My daughter was able to use the program for about 15 minutes each day. Even in that short amount of time, her math ability increased. I like how there is a parent area which allows you to go in and check your child’s progress.

The parent area also allows you to see a progress report to follow along with your child.

First, when you log in you can see the entire lesson list. I like this easy way to see the entire program at a glance.

Times Alive Lesson List.JPG

It begins with a fluency check, which can also be printed, to see where your child is before they begin.

Lesson Overview:

There are stories for the facts, games, review problems, songs and more to make each fact “come alive”. There are also coloring pages, matching, and quizzes.

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Other Benefits:

There is also an app that you can download for iOs devices. This makes it easy to practice multiplication facts on the go or when you are traveling.

Improvements:

I think that the inside of the account could be a little more user-friendly.

Also, we were confused because sometimes my daughter did an assignment and it wouldn’t be marked as complete.

It also only remembers where you were on one computer. I didn’t know that, so my daughter had to always use my computer in order to go back to where she was. I would prefer that the program allowed for multiple device usage, so that we could use the program anywhere in the house.

Overall:

All in all, my daughter really enjoyed using the membership. As a credentialed teacher, I liked the way that the math tables were presented.

Besides the minor suggestions that I have, overall I think this is a really good program. Instead of the boring flashcards and memorizing the multiplication table that children are usually subjected to, the Times Alive program really brings multiplication to life.

I think that this program makes your student want to learn due to the many different activities inside the program. Whether you have a second, third, or even a fourth-grader all children who need assistance with multiplication can benefit from the program.

If you have a child that needs a boost in learning their multiplication, or just want a fun way to review definitely check out this program.

Online Times Alive {City Creek Press, Inc. Reviews}
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Easy Grammar Systems: Homeschool Review

It is important for children to have a solid foundation in grammar in order to be excellent writers, which is why I was excited to receive Easy Grammar: Grade 1 from Easy Grammar Systems to use with my son.

Grammar is one of those skills that is often overlooked as unimportant, but is actually the basis for writing. Students who have strong grammar skills tend to write better, which is important as they advance in their academic career and all of their work turns into essays.

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Overview:

I received the Easy Grammar: Grade 1 Teacher’s Edition Book. The Teacher’s Edition book can also be used as a student workbook and contains everything you need to teach grammar for the entire school year.

The Easy Grammar Systems book consists of 5-10 minute daily lessons. Each lesson is designed for students to gain mastery on grammar skills.

The book includes a Scope and Sequence which explains where each concept is discussed. This is a good reference tool especially if you are using another reading program that also includes a grammar component.

There is also a Suggestion and Comment section that clearly helps you teach grammar in an easy way.

At the end of the book is an answer key that you can use to quickly check your child’s work. I like that it is similar to a regular workbook that a child already used it.

How We Used It:

It is hard to teach grammar, so I liked the fact that I had a book that specifically taught my son grammar.

There are 180 lessons in the book, one for each school day. The pages are reproducible so that you can copy them, or you can just have your child write in them.

I chose to have my son just write in the book since it was much easier to use it as a workbook then have something to copy daily.

Lesson Overview:

Each lesson includes the following sections:

Capitalization- students must capitalize a word in the sentence.

Punctuation- students have to practice using punctuation.

Lesson- a short mini-lesson.

Sentence- students will trace or write the words in the sentence. I like that how as the lessons progress, the sentence section becomes sentence combining. There are two sentences listed, and students have to combine them to make one sentence. This is helpful for teaching writing skills as well.

Areas for improvement:

The only suggestion I have for the book is to have pictures. Since it is designed for first grade, I would have thought there would be more pictures to describe the topics. For example, when describing nouns to use a picture of a person, place or thing.

The font could have also been a bit bigger if you are teaching your child to read the directions.

Overall:

I liked how easy it was to teach grammar. Although the lessons were short, which my son loved, I liked the fact that I was teaching important concepts each day. Also, the lessons were review, so each concept is touched on multiple times.

All in all, this is a simple way to introduce grammar to your student without all of the headache of piecing it together.

Easy Grammar, Daily GRAMS & Easy Grammar Ultimate {Easy Grammar Systems Reviews}
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Learning Dynamics Review: A Simple Reading Solution

You can teach your child to read in just 4 weeks with the Learning Dynamics Reading Program from Learning Dynamics.

I was very excited to try this program with my daughter (5) who needed more assistance with her phonics skills.

There were a few things that I was instantly impressed with about the program:

First, almost the entire program is reusable. The books, flash cards, music, letter rewards, and lesson manual are all reusable. This is great for parents like myself with multiple children. Instead of buying the entire curriculum again, you just have to purchase an extra workbook for about $18.

Another great thing is that this program is designed for children who don’t know their letters or sounds, or for children who are struggling to read.

I like that this can be done at home so that even if you have an older child that attends public school who is behind they can gain reading confidence at home instead of being in class around their peers.

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What’s Included:

  • Lesson Manual

  • Flashcards

  • Student Workbook

  • Letter Rewards

  • Reading Books

  • 30+ Songs Music CD

The CD can easily be played as background music while your child is playing or engaged in another activity.

Books

The books are full color books which are great to keep young readers engaged. The books are also short so it is easy to build your child’s confidence while reading these books.
I like to read the book with my daughter, then have her read the book. It gives her a chance to hear a fluent reader as well as practice what she learned.

Getting Started:

To begin the program you can go to the training website or read the first two pages in the Lesson Manual. I chose to read the Lesson Manual since it is very simple and easy to do. You also need to download the music or use the accompanying CD included in the package.

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Of course, if your child is younger or struggling you would want to start at Lesson 1. We chose to start at Lesson 20. My 5 year old daughter already knows how to read, but still struggles with identifying all of the sounds correctly. Lesson 20 begins with the letter X, and is about midway through the program which I felt was a good start.

Lesson Manual:

The Lesson Manual is a bit small, and is the same size as the student workbook and student books. Each page gives detailed instructions on how to teach the lesson. It tells you what the focus letter or sound is, the story to read, the song to play, and the worksheet to complete in the student workbook.

As a parent and teacher, I found the lessons very easy to follow even if you have no teaching experience. I also like how they included a mini-assessment piece to each lesson called a “Final Check” to make sure your child understands the concepts that you taught.

Things I Liked:

Reading books have comprehension questions at the end of them, which makes it easy to ask your child questions to ensure they were following along with the story.

Sound cues on the back of the cards- so you know how to clearly pronounce the sounds.

New vocabulary presented at the beginning of the reading books, you can put on large cards to introduce to your child before you begin the story.

Songs:

My daughter loves to sing naturally, so the songs really kept her engaged. I like that the songs reinforce what is taught, so while your child is singing they are actually practicing their reading skills.

Room for improvement:

The student workbook was small in size and in work. The pages were also thin, so you can see the pictures on the other side.

I think that your child will need more assistance than just one page to go over each concept. However, some of the lessons did have 2 pages of activities, such as Lesson 39 below.

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Overall:

The programs is really easy to follow and can be done in 4 weeks. I would recommend adding additional days just to ensure that your child has truly mastered all of the concepts.

The Learning Dynamics Reading Program is a complete program, meaning you don’t need to buy any additional components in order to complete it.

The included books provide you with an instant library, so it easy to go back and review and make sure your child can read.

Read more reviews below:

Learning Dynamics Reading Program  {Learning Dynamics Reviews}
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Tied 2 Teaching STEM Activities, Full Year of Challenges with Close Reading Review


Tied 2 Teaching provides a great break from boring textbooks with their STEM Activities, Full Year of Challenges with Close Reading!

It includes 61 STEM challenges, which is more than enough for an entire school or calendar year.  Many of the activities are seasonal, so they would make a great addition to any unit. However, there are activities that can be done year round.

Materials:

In each challenge pack, there is a list of materials that you will need to complete the challenge. I appreciated that all of the materials were things that you would already have, so there was no need to purchase any additional supplies.

What’s Inside a Challenge:

  • Design Challenge Overview

  • Reading Passage Link

  • Comprehension Questions

  • Example Pictures

  • Student Worksheets to plan their design (multiple formats so choose the one that works best for you)

  • Student Reflection Sheets

  • Parent Letter

How we did the challenges:

Since my children range in ages from K-4th, I chose the activities that all of my children could enjoy. After going through the list, we chose the following four fun challenges.

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Challenge 1: Build a Foil Boat

Of course since this challenge used water, I knew it was going to be a hit. This activity was very easy since all we needed was aluminum foil. Although it seemed simple, my children really had to think about ways to create their boat using the foil. We actually tested our boats in the bathtub to determine if they would float. I appreciated the planning sheet since it allowed my children to really think about their design before actually building. Since there are multiple formats of planning sheets, they are adaptable for multiple age groups.

Challenge 2: Design a Building Block Structure

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This activity was easy and fun to do for all of my children. We used larger blocks and my children enjoyed building the tallest tower they could. I added a math component by having my children count how many bocks they used in the challenge. For my fourth grader, I had her read the passage and complete the comprehension questions. She was very interested in the website that was linked since it has many interesting reading passages about a variety of topics.

Challenge 3: Design a House of Cards

The house of cards challenge was an actual competition in my home. My children split into partners to design their house of cards. First they used the planning sheets to decide how they wanted to build their house. Then afterwards we talked about their designs and they thought about how they could have made it better. The included reflection sheets helps children extend their learning by reviewing their design.

Challenge 4: Design a Pencil Tower

This was a new challenge to me. My children love to make towers, but I had never heard of a pencil tower. We used unsharpened pencils for this one, but I think it can also be used with crayons if needed.

Overall:

My children really liked the variety of challenges that were available in the bundle. I think that they can really be used all year, since your child can go back and make their designs better. STEM is everywhere now, and these fun challenges will stretch your child’s imagination and get them more interested in Science. With the added reading passages, these activities can easily be integrated into any curriculum.

Click the banner to read more reviews!

STEM Activities, Full Year of Challenges with Close Reading {Tied 2 Teaching Reviews}
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Homeschool Complete: A Unit Study Review

Sometimes it is nice to take a break from regular studies and try something different so we were excited to review  Unit Studies:  (K-6) from Homeschool Complete.

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 We received the Ants Units study. Since ants are all over, and since children are interested in living things around them, I was happy to review the Ants curriculum package. My daughter is interested in insects and since ants are so easy to observe, I was happy to have the chance to teach her more about these interesting creatures!

Contents:

The printed curriculum included a full-color cover, table of contents, and the actual curriculum/worksheets. There was also a materials list for each of the activities.  Most of the materials were very simple and things that would you already own.

How We Used It:

I followed the detailed lesson plans, which I think would helpful to new homeschool moms, or parents who like their curriculum already prepared.

The entire unit contained four lessons which could easily be taught in one week.  The unit is based on a five-day school week, with four planned activity days, and one open day for activities of your choice.

My Second Grader’s Thoughts:

She liked doing the activities that were related to the ants. One activity she enjoyed was coloring the diagram of the ant body parts. The vocabulary taught the body parts of the ants.

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Curriculum:

The curriculum was really complete and included Science, Math, Reading, and Language Arts activities. There was also a Skills List, which covered the skills that would be taught throughout the unit. There was also a Literature List of recommended books which could easily be found in the library to enhance the lessons.

Science - The science information was basic information about ants. It gave a lot of a facts, which was perfect for my second grader.

Math- The math was place value activities, and two-digit addition problems. The math included the answers as well, to easily check your child’s work. Since the math covered different skills such as place value, addition, and ordering numbers, it is up to the parent to decide what your child should work on, since some skills might be new and need to be taught.

Reading- There were multiple short passages about ants to read.

Language Arts- The language arts included fill-in-the blank sentences and there was also cursive practice included as well.

In the curriculum, there was also a hands-on activity of making an ant. This was a good way for us to review the parts of an ant.

Conclusion:

Overall, my daughter liked completing the unit study. I wish that the worksheets were on a different page. All of the pages are combined, so although it saves paper, it is a lot to read.  I felt that putting all of the information on one page was a lot for a child. I did like that it included all of the subject areas, so although the focus of the unit study was ants; there were lessons for the entire week.

 

Check out more Unit Studies below:

Homeschool Complete K - 4th Grade & Unit Studies {Homeschool Complete Reviews}
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IXL Learning: An Honest Review

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My children love any chance to get on the computer, so we were more than happy to review the annual membership, IXL, from IXL Learning. IXL Learning is an all-in-one solution to practice skills in subject areas (math, language arts, grades 2-8 science, grades 2-8 social studies, and intro Spanish).

My 4 children were all able to use IXL at their individual levels.

My 4th Grader’s experience

My daughter really liked the fact that if she got an answer wrong, there was an explanation that helped her to understand the right answer. She did not like the fact that the questions were timed, since she felt that sometimes she need an extra moment to figure out the answers.

My 2nd Grader’s experience:

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My second grader was excited when she saw that IXL offered intro Spanish. We have been studying Spanish at home so it was a good opportunity for her to test her knowledge. She also liked being able to move on to the next level of a lesson and not be stuck in a certain grade. The way that it is setup children can practice by grade or by skill.

My kindergarten twins experience:

I really wanted my twins to gain practice on the computer, but I wasn’t sure if they would be able to navigate the site. However, I was pleasantly surprised that the questions were really at their level, and the only skill they needed was the ability to use the mouse.

My twins liked that the questions could be read to them. I liked how they were able to practice test-taking skills on the computer. The explanation for the most part was a bit over their head, since it wasn’t an actual video. However, I sat with them while they were doing their work and used any missed questions as an opportunity to go over it with them.

Conclusion:

Overall, I really like the way that IXL Learning is setup. It allows parents the ability to see when your child has logged in, as well as what they have been practicing on. It also gives parents the ability to check on any milestones their child has reached, and celebrate any achievements.

I think that IXL is a good review tool, after your child has learned a particular concept. Since the lessons start right in with the questions, a child has to already have an idea about the topic otherwise they will have a hard time succeeding. Again, if a child gets an answer wrong, they will be able to see an explanation for the right answer.

The subscription also emails the parent when a child reaches a learning milestone. It is also a good motivational tool to print out any certificates for your child, especially if it is an area of concern.

My favorite part of IXL is that children are not stuck on their current grade level. Whether your child needs extra review, or is advanced, the membership allows your child to work at their current level.

Click the button to read more reviews:

Immersive, Adaptive Learning Online {IXL Learning Reviews}
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How to Teach Grammar in Homeschool: Hake/Saxon Grammar Review

Today I want to introduce you a homeschool grammar program, Hake/Saxon Grammar and Writing 3, from Hake Publishing

I was excited to review the Grammar workbook from Hake Publishing since I am always working to improve my daughter’s grammar skills.

Even in public school, language arts is not usually as focused on as far as the rules are concerned. In order to become a better writer, children need to learn the rules of grammar.

Hake Publishing

I was pleasantly surprised to see when I opened the box that the curriculum includes a Teacher Guide, Student Textbook, and Student Writing Workbook.

Hake Publishing Writing and Grammar

This curriculum is clear and easy to use even if you have never taught before.  There are three products in the set which includes the student workbook, a student writing book, and a teacher guidebook.

The Products:

Student Workbook

The student workbook contains 111 grammar lessons.  Each lesson is divided as follows:

  •     Grammar meeting
  •     Vocabulary
  •     Teaching
  •     Examples and solutions
  •     Practice
  •     Review set

The beginning of the book starts with learning about sentence structure and at the end students learn how to write a chapter summary. I like how they added the writing piece to make the grammar that children learn have a purpose and be used in context.

The student workbook is definitely designed for older students in mind, there are no pictures or clipart, just the work. It was an adjustment for my daughter from her previous language arts book that she used. I think that the lack of images prepares children for middle and high school textbooks.

Student Writing Book

The Student Workbook has 21 lessons. The writing lessons are designed to be done on the test days. The writing activities include short answer and paragraph writing practice.

Teacher Guidebook

The teacher guidebook has answers so that you can help your child with their lessons. The teacher guidebook also has teacher notes, as well as a teaching schedule to help you plan your lessons accordingly. It is recommended to teach the lessons in order so that your child doesn’t miss out on any important skills that are taught.

There are also additional review pages for selected lessons when you need to review with your child.

How We Used It:

My daughter completed one lesson a day each week. It took her about 15-20 minutes to complete the activities, then we spent another 10-15 minutes going over the answers and clarifying the information.

There is a Meeting component of the lesson that we didn’t always do, since it seems more geared to a group of students in a class setting.

After every five lessons, there is a test that you can give to check on your student’s progress. I would actually do them every six weeks, so that way there could be a one week of review before the test.

I like how the curriculum progresses in difficulty, so that it builds student confidence as they are working.

Overall:

I really liked the layout of the book. It is great for homeschooling parents as well as parents who see that their child is either lacking or needs more assistance with their grammar.
It is also helpful that the curriculum constantly reviews what was previously taught, so students do not forget what they have learned.

This is one of the most comprehensive grammar curriculums I have seen, and I will continue to use this curriculum for all of my children. The curriculum actually goes up to the 8th grade, and even if your child attends a traditional school, I would definitely recommend this program to supplement their learning.

 

Read more reviews by clicking the button below:

Hake/Saxon Grammar and Writing 3 {Hake Publishing Reviews}
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How to Improve Reading with Reading Interventions Programs: MaxScholar Review

My daughters have been working on improving their inference and highlighting skills with MaxReading one of the Reading Intervention Programs from MaxScholar.

 

MaxScholar

Introduction:

MaxScholar has a program called Reading Intervention Programs that is designed to help identify and bridge the gaps in reading that children have.

Getting Started:

First each of my daughters were set at their current grade level (first and third).

When they logged in for the first time, they took a diagnostic test for their skills. The program adjusts to the child needs and teaches to their current level.

How We Used It:

We used MaxScholar as a supplement to our reading program three times a week. My daughters were on the program for about 20 minutes each session.

My First Grader:

Once my first grader logged in, she had to read a short reading passage. The words are not too difficult and she could read them without assistance. After reading, she was prompted to first highlight information. I think that your child may need help doing the first few assignments until they get the hang of it.

The highlighting was a new experience for my first grader, but I feel confident that by introducing the skill at a young age it will improve her reading.

There is also a dictionary section that defines all of the words in the reading passages so that children know what the new words would mean.

 

My Third Grader:

My third grader first had to read a detailed passage which was more than a few paragraphs long. After she finished reading the passage, she was given comprehension questions to answer. The comprehension questions are multiple choice, and I always make sure that she goes back into the story before choosing an answer.

My third grader really enjoyed the feedback she received after each lesson.

Parent Dashboard:

Here is an overview of the Parent Dashboard once you log in:

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I like how you can see the main components of reading as well as the areas that need improvement. Since this is a reading intervention program, it works to focus on the areas of weakness.

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Our Experience:

My children really enjoy improving their reading online.  Unlike just reading a regular book, your child actually has to prove their understanding of the story through their answers, so it holds children accountable for their reading.

I also like that it covers all of the components of reading, instead of just focusing on reading comprehension. My daughters actually had high comprehension scores, but need more assistance on making inferences and highlighting. Highlighting is a good skill for children to learn because it teaches them to be more aware of what they are reading, and provides them with text evidence they can use when answering questions.

Reading Intervention Programs {MaxScholar Reviews}
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Learning to Read: Reading Kingdom Review

Reading Kingdom

Basics:

Since my twins will be in kindergarten in August, I am always looking for ways to help prepare them for school. I was very excited to review the online reading lessons from Reading Kingdom.

Getting Started:

If you have younger children, (the program starts at 4), I would suggest skipping the assessment and starting with Level 1. The reason that I would skip the assessment is that the program has children locate letters on the keyboard, and if they don't know how to do that it could get frustrating for them.

How We Used It:

The program recommends one session per day, four times a week. Since both of my twins were on the program, I did one session for each child a day.

My twins really enjoyed the program, and would request to go on "Kingdom" to learn to read. They also liked the animated characters that would sing and make noise when they got an answer right.

Lesson Walkthrough:

Each lesson focuses on one word. In the lesson, children have to do multiple activities to show that they understand what is asked of them.

First, the focus word is introduced. Children have to know where the letters are on the keyboard and push the keys before the letter disappears.

Next, the word is shown with missing letters and children must guess which sign holds the correct word. After the sign is shown, children have to type the missing letters. I like how it helps children learn how to spell, and helps to improve their recall skills.

Another part of the lesson is the short phrases. The focus word is shown with another word, for example “a boy”, and children have to click on each word.

My twins favorite part of the lesson is when they are finding the matching word cards. The focus word is shown and spoken, then children have to find the matching word. They like the dancing character that pops up when they get it right.

When you first start the program there is an option for an assessment to see where your child is and what they need assistance with.

 

Helpful Tips:

If you are using the program with a younger child like I did, make sure that you help them find the keys on the keyboard. My 4-year old twins "missed" questions because they didn't know where the letters were.

The program does show where the letters are located on the screen, however since they were so little they couldn't transfer the information.

Overall thoughts:

I think that Reading Kingdom is a great program for older children who have more familiarity with the keyboard. I liked the way that it worked on the same word throughout the lesson, and that the words were reviewed in a later lesson.

I also liked that the program explicitly teaches phonics, and doesn't solely focus on sight words like many other programs.

There is also a program for children on the autism spectrum called ASD Reading, be sure to click on the other reviews to read about it.

Learn to Read with Reading Kingdom OR ASD Reading {Reviews}
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A+ Interactive Math: Homeschool Curriculum Review

Since I have been homeschooling my oldest two daughters for this past semester, I have noticed some learning gaps in their math skills. So I was very pleased to try the Adaptive Math Curriculum Online from A+ Interactive Math (by A+ TutorSoft Inc.) to identify and address learning gaps in their math skills. The program is skill-based and covers grades 1st-6th and Pre-Algebra.

Getting Started:

Adaptive Math

Introduction:

This program requires students to take a placement test first. I chose my daughter's current grade level as their target grade level.

Then they had to take small tests for each math concept to determine their skill level. The great thing about the program is that it adjusts the question difficulty based on their answers.

What it Looks Like Inside:

The Parent Dashboard gives you an overview of the different sections of the program.

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Summary Report

The Summary Report is an overview of the grade level skills and exactly what skill level your child is working at. I was honestly surprised at the results, however you have to keep in mind that it depends on how well your child did on that particular placement test.

So if your child is not a good test-taker, or doesn't take his time, he might not score well in the beginning either. However, I don't mind making sure that my daughter reviews over math skills, because I want her to really understand what she is doing regardless of the program or curriculum she is using.

Let's look at my 3rd grader's results:  

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Lessons

The lesson overview shows the status of each lesson, as well as the date completed. My daughter usually does two or three a day for her math assignments.

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Interactive Q & A

The Interactive questions and answers are a fun way for your child to engage with their math lessons. I like when I enter the parent dashboard how I can see the percentage as well as any remarks that my daughter has for me. My oldest really enjoys using the program as you can read in her remarks below.

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Online Worksheets

There are online worksheets to practice the math skills. When you log into the parent area, you can see your child's progress on the worksheets, as well as their score.

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Overall, both of my daughters enjoy using the Adaptive Math Curriculum Online. They like the games and how the lessons are broken down into simple sections.

There is also a Family subscription available as well.

Click below to read more reviews about the A+ Interactive Math.

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Family & Adaptive Math Online {A+ Interactive Math Reviews}