I ended up subsribing, and I'm put off by the same things. So here's my review after using it for 5 days ;-).
DD (9) has good understanding of concepts, but very low math confidence. She was also expressing a desire to be better at math. We unschool, and up until now she had only minimal math instruction, here and there, and I expected her to be low on her 'math age'. So with this in mind, here are my thoughts.
The program keeps her interest, and so far she spent over an hour each day, and when they remind her to take a breake, she's surprised that she's been on it for so long. Time definitely flies for her. She still says she doesn't like math, but there are many things that she enjoyes about the program. She learned some concepts that she didn't know before.
She is motivated to be the whizzer of the week.
She is motivated to get more credits so that she can buy her pets and pet food.
I like the animations and the visual explanations.
I like that I can message her via my account--she loves getting my messages and replying to them.
I like that I can preview the next 3 lessons, and that I can skip a lesson for her. For example there was a timed lesson, and we skipped that as she doesn't like when she needs to beat the clock, and she was directed right into the test on the subject.
She likes the program much better than the 'free fun things', because most of the free math games availalbe either require rapid recall and are timed, or feature some kind o shooting. She is not into games, especially not fast paced games.
The Things I can't help but Question: (aka the bad)
1. Where are the "lessons?" Where are the "multiple explanations of the same topic in different ways"? Each lesson is a 5 second animation of the concept. You get it--great. You don't get it? You endure 10, excrutiatingly slowly going questions, during which you have no clue of what to do. There are no interim explanations. Is she supposed to guess? There's no way to go back. There's no way to access the initial explanation, never mind a different one. This is frustrating. I end up explaining the concept myself to her, so she can move on. Not to do it is simply cruel and counterproductive.
2. Even if there's a measurable math age, I question how mathwhizz measures it. DD was assessed at 7.64 math age. Now, after 5 days her alleged math age is 7.99. Which is all fine and dandy, if her projected progress wasn't estimated at 19 years old by the end of the year. This is supposed to be encouraging to parents, I guess, but what the heck does it even mean? If she keeps plugging in the hours, she'd be college level in a year? Riiiiiiiiiight.
3. Several of the topics she wasn't tested on--space / shapes (early geometry) and data handling, for example. These are actually the topics she is good at. She is being offered K level tasks on them--over and over again, while her alleged math age on those tasks slowly grows. With the slowest rate of all. Never mind that in my opinion the questions that are offered are suitable for a 5 year old.
4. On the other hand, she WAS assessed on place value, and made several mistakes on some very basic questions, due to not understanding the language and rushing through (she knows some of the concepts only in Russian). Ironically, she was assessed the highest in this topic, at her actual age. I found the correlation between the assessment questions and the assessment results incredibly shaky.
5. Yes, there are typos and mismatches with oral vs. written.
For my math-ambivalent 9yo it seems like a great fit so far. Even though I suspect that their claims of being like a 'tutor' are vastly exaggerated, I'm glad we subsribed. However, I don't think the program warrants the price, for what it is (we got it at 50% discount, and the price is still steep). Reading Eggs, for example, offers much more in terms of animations / programming, games, and curb appeal, and is considerably cheaper. I think the only reason Math Whizz is getting away with the cost is because they say they are cheaper than a private tutor. Well, nice try, but they are not a tutor either. They need to be transparent about their programming and how the 'individualised' programs are actually delivered and adjusted to each child. For example, I do suspect that the time it takes a child to respond to a question is factored into the 'mastery' level. I wonder i this is the only factor, other than the obvious mistakes. But the moment DD hears 'answer as quickly as you can', she sips her tea before answering :lol (Also their site reeks of infomercials, with very little relevant information, while trying to look like there's more information than there's actually available.)
If a child is already doing well in math, or has good levels of math confidence, the program might be fun (nothing wrong with being fun, in my books), but if money is an issue, not actually needed.
I will come back to this, as we use the program more and do another review.
We're currently trying the free trial of Math Whizz, and I'm just not sure it's enough for us to truly judge it. And there are things I'm a bit put off by...
My daughter is 4, doing level K. First, we did the assessment, and she was able to do nearly everything. For some reason, a few times in the middle of the assessment, there were full-on 'lessons', or practices anyway, where there was a set of 10 questions on the same topic. That darn turtle who counts from 20-30, ten times in a row, seemed pretty unnecessary for an "assessment".
After the assessment, though, we didn't get any results. I was looking forward to seeing her 'math age' and the nice little bar graph, but it seems all the parent report stuff is only available once you're actually a paid member. The "lessons" that she completed during the assessment are showing up in her history, with her bronze or silver medals for them or whatever.
The free trial apparently includes the first 5 lessons. So she started doing those after the assessment... and they were the same bloody lessons as during the assessment! She had only done 3, so there are 2 she hadn't yet done. But the other 3 were the same. Even though she had completed them with 90 or 100% in the assessment. So... what was the point of assessing her level, if it just then does the same thing again? And we had to endure that darn turtle 15 more times!!! (10 for the practice, 5 for the test... ugh).
If it's just that the trial gives the first 5 lessons for that grade regardless of assessed levels, then what's the point? Why do the assessment at all? It doesn't show off their automated leveling system or how it supposedly adapts to the student or whatever.
Then there are the typos... "Which is the narrrower bus". Or the aural sentence doesn't match the written one (same meaning but different wording, which can be confusing). Or there was one question on the assessment were the written sentence (and the expected answer) was to write the missing numbers from one to ten, but the aural sentence said one to eleven.
I also don't see how the 'lessons' are 'lessons'. They're just 10 practices, with no instruction or explanation. There's a sample one first to show you what to do, but if you don't understand that, then there's no additional help. And many of them, it's not clear what the point of it is. Matching chairs to animals... are they supposed to be practicing estimating? Counting all chairs and all animals? Comparing rows? In other words, are they supposed to be practicing particular strategies or are the strategies irrelevant? One exercise (counting soldiers) seemed to specifically be about "counting on" in order to add, but I wouldn't call "counting on" a "mental strategy" (which they were calling it), it's the default strategy for most kids and "mental strategies" are things you do in order NOT to count on.
Anyway, so far I'm underwhelmed, not convinced that the trial is showing the best features of the site, and uncertain that the math instruction is actually all that great. So... could those who love it, give me a bit more detail about what's so great about it? Other than "my kid loves it", I mean. :) Of course they'll love anything with cartoons and animations and decorating rooms and stuff. My DD loved it so far too. I just have to be convinced of the QUALITY of the program itself before shelling out $$ because there are free 'fun things' like that all over the place.
Edited by midnightwriter - 6/2/11 at 8:07am