Treehouse Review Week
FactsFirst sign-in page
"The factsfirst™ online math program builds math confidence and helps children develop instant recall of basic facts in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Children are engaged in performance-based learning through interactive, real-world scenarios that make math facts meaningful and fun....In just minutes a day, factsfirst enables children to build computational fluency to build a strong math foundation and to focus on higher-order problem solving skills."
What's this about? This has been one of Crayons' favourite math websites so far. It is distributed by Saxon Math, but was created by Skills Tutor. It's geared for younger children, and teaches only basic number facts (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division). The cuteness and girl-friendly factors are high here: kids get a customizable avatar (you pick the clothes, you pick the hair etc.) who shows up in many of the lesson scenarios.
Ease of beginning: There are no pre-tests or required assessments; nothing to download here. You just sign in, create your avatar, and start the first lesson.
How it works: Students aren't expected to master many facts at once; when we started with addition, I was somewhat surprised that only two facts were taught in each story-type lesson. After each lesson, the student gets several minutes of drill (which, depending on your child's stamina and ability with the number pad, may be either a bit tedious or a bit frustrating), and then five minutes of "arcade time," which can also be used to work on the avatar. A warning: those five minutes go fast, and you can't freeze things while you look up game instructions or deal with other distractions. Some kids, especially at the beginning, might not be too happy if they feel they're getting "cheated" out of their five minutes of play.
After a few sessions with addition facts, I had Crayons switch to multiplication, which seemed more suitable for her grade level. You can decide which operation to work on each time you log in, and the computer keeps track of which facts you have completely mastered and which ones you still need some work on.
What does this cost? US$49.99 for a one-year household subscription (up to four children).
Final take: At first I was concerned that the fun/play image of the site outweighed the math learning; but considering the focus on mastery (including the fact matrix), and the proportion of drill time to game time, I'm reassured about that. In fact, as I said above, some children might even find the amount of drill required to earn arcade time to be too frustrating. However, Crayons says she really does like this program, and, if she had the choice, would like to continue with it.
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Dewey's Disclaimer: The trial membership for this product was received free for purposes of review. No other payment was made. The opinions expressed in this review are our own.