Archives For Math

BigIQKids.com Review

Heather —  September 15, 2011
Loads of FREE Lessons, games for kids

Loads of FREE Lessons, games for kids

You know, Kids seem to respect being asked to earn things. If you just give them things…well, they will take them, usually. But, they are proud when they have earned something.

Somehow, BigIQKids.com has tapped into finding a way to get kids to want to earn computer games through doing online lessons.

Who knew? You don’t have to hide learning IN games (although many do) you just have to make kids earn things. Have the creators met my Dad?

So, exactly what is BigIQKids game page for kids?

Well, children in grades k-12 can complete interactive lessons designed for their ability level in spelling, math, vocabulary, U.S. states and spelling programs. There is even a new SAT study portion and one of my daughter’s favorites is a section where you can hold Spelling competitions with family and friends and Math.

When I first went to the site, I was not so into the funny artwork. The graphics are big and bold and the site has electronic “tutors” who talk in computerized voices. It is different, but actually pretty cool. This site must have tons of programming and such. It loads super fast and all the lessons are very interactive. The tutors help the students by giving very clear direction on what needs to be done. Children cannot move forward in each lesson until each desired skill is learned. But, they can earn coins to play games in several subjects if they spend a bit of time.

You can use the content on the site in, say, spelling and vocabulary and math. You just choose age/grade levels…or you can import specific things you want your student to learn– like your own vocabulary list.

I like that the program is set up to email tons of information to parents. I have my settings set to get information on what Em does and I got all kinds of emails. For example:

bigiqkids email2

BigIQKids even tells me what to do next:)

Overall, I think this is a worthwhile site that really seems to appeal to children. Many portions of the site are available to use for free! You can also purchase a premium membership.

See what my crewmates have to say about Big IQ Kids.

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I received a trial subscription to Big IQ Kids through the TOS Crew for review purposes. I have given my honest opinion.

School? Oh not yet!

Heather —  July 12, 2011
There goes my baby!

There goes my baby!

I am enjoying Summer. No curriculum notes. No organizing. Just hiking, feeding, a bit of my youngest making me let her cut her hair. Why do they all grow up just when I’m getting the hang of being Mom? {sob}

Anyway, while I’m trying NOT to do any real work, I have seen tons of little items around the net I would love to share. They are all random ~ health topics, education, blogging stuff for Mamas, just fun.

Linked only by the fact that I think they are great tools to check out! (no affiliates here today, haha) So, grab a cup of coffee and see what you think!

1. Healthy Child, Healthy World

I adore this site and all their fantastic information. Don’t be overwhelmed by how much info is on there, just dive in and take a tip or two… and grab a free, new APP to help you chose wisely for your family:

Download @Healthy_Child’s FREE app 2 get quick tips 4 safer products & healthy living! http://healthychild.org/live-healthy/pocket_guides/

2. The Team Umizoomi Fan Club

I got an email about this this morning and my 6 year old is super excited. What is Umizoomi Fan club? Based on a Nick Jr show, this online club offers games, printable activity packs and coloring books, a fan club newsletter and monthly special stuff just for members. A great way for your kids to be learning without even “working”  Free, easy to sign up. Perfect.

3. “The 40 Coolest Apps for Homeschoolers”

I just got a link to this new post and I agree that they have found all kinds of cool educational Apps! Many, I recognize, as I have been able to use the heck out of some of them:) A few were new to me, so go peek and find something to surprise your kids this morning! I’m partial to “This Day in History for iPad” while my kids may like that “Star Walk for iPad” I haven’t seen those! Some Free.

4. Math Blaster

I get to giveaway a 3 month subscription to this one next week! This is a Math offshoot from Knowledge Adventures (You may be familiar with Jumpstart, which is fun, too) Math Blaster is a browser based virtual world at www.MathBlaster.com for kids 6-12.

My daughter is just loving playing with her Blaster avatar; she’s a cadet at Blaster Academy. Let your kids check out arcade style math challenges, race through high speed missions…voyage to strange new worlds and enjoy wacky alien races…all while practicing their math skills! Free trial period.  But, Shhh, don’t tell them they are working. Ruins it everytime.

5. The Lunch Love Community Documentary Project

If your kids will be going back to school this Fall, be watching what they are eating! Check these out:

**The Parent Factor** http://www.lunchlovecommunity.org/the-parent-factor.html ~ Against all odds, a group of visionary parents came together in the 1990s to organize and change the way Berkeley children would eat in school.

**But is it Replicable?** http://lunchlovecommunity.org/but-is-it-replicable.html
Visitors from West Sacramento tour the Central Kitchen and Dining Commons wonder what can make a program like Berkeley’s work for them.

**If They Cook It, They Will Eat It** http://www.lunchlovecommunity.org/if-they-cook-it-they-will-eat-it.html
Elementary school cooking teachers Kathy Russell and Brenna Ritch awaken children to the world through the food they cook and eat with one another.

NOW for the Mamas:)

1. Right now, I am finishing up a book called “From the Mouth of Babes,” Stories about life, children, faith, and this world we live in. This is a wonderful book of stories and devotionals written by a good blogger friend of mine, Kimberly. I am enjoying this tremendously.

The short stories are making me think. Each one is helping me to see the little daily activities we do with our children — for what they are — each little thing becomes our way of ministering to and loving our babies. Get yourself a copy!

You can also visit Kimberly on her blog, Until The Day Dawn. She just moved, so go support this busy Mama!

2. Voice Boks

Are you a blogger Mama? If so, go see this new very supportive online blogger community. Friend me when you get there! I have joined several fun groups and even started one of my own🙂 This is a great way to increase followers and find new blogs. Now, to find the time to play….

3. Are you a blogger who is sitting too much? Join this new meme and lose a bit of weight:) Thanks, April!

4. Are you a Mama who likes her wine too much? (That would be more than you really want too:) Ask me about The Vitamin Cure.

Ok. I think I’m done. Whew. To get more of my random, oldest child thoughts, join me over on facebook. Have a great day!!


I love it when our homeschooling is moving ahead with everyone pretty confident about their coursework and content with their schedules.

But, the reality of teaching several kids at different stages often translates into learning curves for all of us as we go through the year.

While most of our curriculum is working this year, I noticed a few things that needed tweaking. Two things stood out to me:

  1. Nick needed more English—especially Grammar practice
  2. Emma was bored with her Math

As I did not want to change up my major curriculum choices, I was not quite sure what to do. Luckily for me, I happened to get a chance to review some homeschool curriculum from Timberdoodle and The Critical Thinking Press.

I was inspired by the bright colors and entertaining artwork of The Critical Thinking Co. books. I liked the theme of challenging kids to think–developing critical thinking habits is an integral part of all their products.

And, I liked the idea of supplementing our current schedule with some items that would appeal to the kids and filled an important need in our curriculum.

As I was able to choose some books to fit the children, I chose Math Reasoning Level A (kindergarten) for Emma, and Editor In Chief C2, for Nick.

The book for Emma was an instant hit and totally solved our “boredom with math problem”. She loves this workbook. I was also thrilled with the colorful, sturdy pages that introduce and explain new math topics very well.

Bright graphics and positive reinforcement really motivate

Bright graphics and success really motivate!

The 250 pages reinforce many beginning math concepts without becoming dreary, as the authors introduce a concept, work on it for a few pages and then move to something else…and come back around.

For the first time ever, Em liked doing the number lines

For the first time ever, Em liked the number lines

This method of spiraling through many concepts gave Emma lots of practice while never leaving her frustrated and mathematical reasoningbored—the authors seemed to know exactly when to take a break and when to keep going! I began allowing Em to do as many math pages as she wanted each day—some days she will do at least ten without any motivation from me.

As the title suggests, the book teaches reasoning and problem solving skills, with topics including: addition, bar graph, calendar, capacity, coins, count, fractions, language, length, likelihood, match, number line, odd/even, order, pattern, real world problems, shapes, subtraction, time, weight, and whole numbers.

There is an answer guide included in the back of the book and this level can be used as a core math or a supplemental. We began using this as supplemental, but I soon felt that this book could easily be Emma’s complete curriculum for this level.

Look at some sample pages from the book.

We did not fare as well for Nick’s experience. But, it was not because the book wasn’t creative and just plain challenging. Our problem was that it was too challenging!

editor in chiefYes, I made an error in judgment on what level to get for him. While this level is recommended for grade levels 9th-12th, it is a serious grammar study—fun, yet the exercises cover some complicated concepts. Attempting to work through this book really forced us to decide to regroup and focus on grammar at an earlier stage–because Nick actually wanted to do this book, as it was entertaining, it showed me that he was not just lacking in motivation.

We liked the idea of the book, Editor In Chief. In these books, your child basically acts as if they are an editor and as they search for grammatical errors, they are truly analyzing the materials and thinking about correct grammar, punctuation, spelling, capitalization and more.

The 130 page book includes an editing checklist, 33 lessons, answers, even a guide to grammar, usage and punctuation.

They do have five other levels for this book. See which Editor In Chief Book might be age-appropriate for your kids, here. We will be getting another one, so we can have a bit of fun, too.

See a sample page.

Are you looking to fill a void in your curriculum? Looking for Math curriculum? Language Arts? Check out Timberdoodle for tons of educational items, including complete curriculum kits. I so enjoy their catalog!

Click to get their free catalog!

Click to get your free catalog!

You can even get fun updates on the Timberdoodle Facebook page.

As a member of Timberdoodle’s Blogger Review Team, I received a free copy of these books in exchange for a frank and unbiased review.

Virtual Nerd Review

Heather —  January 12, 2011

When I first logged onto Virtual Nerd and took at peek at the online math and science tutoring site, my first thought was, “Wow, what will they think of next?”

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I was pretty impressed. And, I’m not a newbie to what’s available online for kids.

As a homeschool educator and mom, I try hard to keep an eye out for new technologies and experiences that are available to assist my munchkins students. I mean, I have Brainpop and algebra apps loaded on my iPhone for even my five year old…seems like we have internet enabled everything and subscribe to all kinds of stuff!

And, I have taught my kids that one type of intelligence is that, while you may not know the answer to something, you know how to find the answer. But, these days, you really can waste a bunch of time searching though data to get what you need.

So, anyway, imagine I am holding my head trying to explain quadratic equations to my high schooler. Yes, this type of thing happens around here. Luckily, I have a sophomore who is a genius at math, so we often end up going to him for answers.

And when he explains something, it makes sense. And when it doesn’t, I can just say, “well, wait–what do you MEAN by xyz”? And then, he will back up and lead us through until we get it. I had a high school friend like that from Germany–Lucy actually taught me Algebra, as I never did understand the teacher. Have you ever had someone who could explain things like that?

Well, what led me to recall all this is the fact that Virtual Nerd works in this fashion–almost like you have a live helper or tutor. It is really a new unusual technology–rather than just watching a video about a particular math or science topic, you can find your topic and then, as you watch this video, you can click through a “smart” database for additional help and/or more detail–within almost any portion of your original question. Virtual Nerd calls this “drilling down.”

Some of the main perks of the Virtual Nerd system:

  • Dynamic Whiteboard™-This e-learning board can anticipate student questions and offer pre-requisite tutorials
  • Multimedia video presentations- 1,000+
  • FAQs, terms & definitions
  • Personalized interaction & control-you can access 24/7
  • Textbook search capabilities

Here’s the Official Word:

Virtual Nerd offers online tutoring in math and science to students grades 7-12.  Our service is both affordable and convenient, providing help whenever and as much as needed.  Using our patent pending Dynamic Whiteboard, each student has a very interactive and personalized learning experience.  While watching our pre-recorded videos, they can drill-down for more information and access FAQs, terms and definition to assist in their learning process.

Virtual Nerd currently offers hundreds of tutorials in Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1, Algebra 2, and Intro Physics.  More Physics, as well as Chemistry, Pre-Calculus and Calculus  are on the way.

Go take a look at how this works on Virtual Nerd website. You can also follow Virtual Nerd on Facebook and Twitter. I am enjoying reading their blog. (Haha, I know, what a nerd…I mean geek!)

Virtual Nerd offers several payment options, including a two hour free trial, a few one-time “help me” deals and larger plans such as $49 monthly, $129 for three months. To be honest, as a homeschool mom, that monthly price is high for a supplemental curriculum. I mean, we give up stuff to homeschool. BUT, that being said, I love this site! I think the value is here–especially if you have a struggling high school student–this site could help them say “I am good at Math” and that is worth trying to afford. I had fun on the site, myself–it was neat to relearn some of the things I had forgotten and I liked the teachers and how the whiteboard worked.

Take a look at how the creators explain the site in a recent interview with CNN:

See what my crewmates have to say about Virtual Nerd

I received a six week subscription to VirtualNerd through the TOS Crew for review purposes. I have given my honest opinion.

This is an interesting review for me as I am writing it. The main reason? Well, because this review has reminded me that:

  1. Not to always go with my first opinion
  2. That I should verbalize and/or email my thoughts and feelings sometimes, because sometimes, things can be changed to suit my purposes!

So, let me explain myself a bit. I received Math Facts Now, which is a computer math program which reinforces math facts though simple drills. The program is no-frills. By that I mean, no avatars and worlds to explore…that type of thing. Just straight math practice.

I needed to use this program with my youngest, and when the two of us first sat down and uploaded the program, I was not ecstatic. I am really not a no-frills girl…and neither is she. But, I know there is value in some types of memorization and repetition, so we gave it a go. I quickly found that some of the programming details, which would be helpful in pressuring…lets say leading…an older child to perform were just too difficult for my little one. Now, when I refer to programming details, I mean some of the portions of the game that you can control to suit what your child needs practice in. Some of the presets were just too advanced for her. Bearing in mind that she is only 5 ½, you can probably imagine how our first session went.

I messed around with the program a bit, but then decided it could be useful for ages, probably about 8 and up, and did not ask my daughter to try it anymore.

Well, some of my intelligent TOS reviewer friends had similar experiences and contacted the creator. He immediately responded by creating a few additional options that made it easier to use this program with younger students.

So…we went back in, and the first time, my daughter played until I made her stop to go to bed! I was surprised and pleased. A simple Math facts practice that she enjoys doing. And yes, there are no fancy avatars and award sheets, but I can set the game for as few as 10 questions, choose which facts she will go over–say addition of just 1 and 2 to numbers up to 12—and then I can include a reward that we have chosen—like a piece of bubble gum—and then, if she gets all the problems correct, she gets a pop up message that she gets the gum.

math facts now

Now, if she does not get the question correct, she needs to retype the entire equation 2x. At first, I thought this was too hard for her, but after doing well a few times, she realized that having to type the equation was not a horrible punishment, and that after doing that, she often got the question right easily in the future. Haha. Voila! The power of practice.

This program is inexpensive, simple and very usable as an extra in your homeschool–or even to help with homework for public schoolers. Make your beginning lessons simple and choose doable rewards and this is a winner.

You can get an instant download for $15.95 or purchase the CD for $15.95 plus a small shipping fee.

System Requirements: Runs on Windows 2000, ME, XP, Vista and Windows 7. 4.5 Mb of free hard drive space required.

Go check out the Math Facts Now website for more info. Also you can get a free trial of Math Facts Now.

See what my crewmates have to say about Math Facts Now

I received materials from Math Facts Now through the TOS Crew for review purposes. I have given my honest opinion.

I wish all our computer interactions were this sweet!

I wish all our computer interactions were this sweet!

Seriously. I REALLY wish that.

But, this is the real world, right? So…I know that using the world wide web brings alot of things into our home. Some of these things are fantastic–I can research and teach about so many amazing things. My kids can take all sorts of online classes…I honestly cannot imagine living without internet…

But, on the other hand, I know from personal experience that the internet can be a waste of time. And, at worst, it can be a dangerous place. And, as parents, whether we like it or not, we need to be prepared to protect our children.

Yes, I added in that “whether we like it or not” because I have teenagers.

Hey!? You are supposed to be doing online Algebra!

Anyway, I was curious when I got a review for Lanschool computer classroom (or homeschool) management software.

The last time I attempted to protect our internet/computer setup, I ended up using a trial that seemed to effectively block everything I actually needed to USE.

It was super annoying. I had to write down all the sites I wanted to block, then go through and activate it…then “unblock” it long enough to send an email…then when I tried to watch a show online, it blocked random stuff for no reason. Also, it would block sites the kids needed for school. The whole experience was basically an epic fail.

But, I get really tired of hovering around teenagers, asking them what they are doing! Honestly, it would be easier to just get rid of computers. But, I agree that these days, they really need them, but they need to be smart about where they are going. That we all need to have accountability….

See where I’m going?

Ok. So, Lanschool has provided a way for us to demand accountability without having to block sites and/or the whole computer.

So, how does Lanschool do it?

The software works with our networked computers. We needed to choose one computer as the Teacher computer. From that computer, we can monitor all the other computers, and “see” a little thumbnail.

So, using Lanschool, the idea is that the kids are accountable to us. Nothing is blocked, but we can see what they are doing–and we are hoping the are making good choices. If not, it is very obvious–and something we can deal with.

Actually, if you want to just go ahead and block sites, Lanschool can do that, also. Sometimes, that is just a whole lot easier!

So far, I have used Lanschool mainly for asking the kids to be more accountable. But, the software is designed for much more. Over time, I hope to use it for many more things.

You can take a guided tour of Lanschool software.

Lanschool can also be used for all of the following teaching scenarios:

  • Show a teacher screen to all your students
  • Co-browse the internet
  • Blank out student screens
  • Send messages back and forth (we love this feature)
  • Have remote control over students screens
  • Limit applications and/or printing
  • Have screen snapshots…a history

Lanschool was not difficult to set up within our home wireless network. It is available for home use for $99 for a perpetual license. This includes 3 years of customer support.

Curious? Check out Lanschool’s Trial version free for 30 days.

I really recommend this software, not just for homeschooling families, but for all families who are active on the computer. I mean, my kids are good kids, but they are still kids. Honestly, sometimes I just do not even want to know what my kids are up to. But, that is part of the job, right?

See what my crewmates have to say about Lanschool Technologies.

I received Lanschool software for review purposes. I have given my honest opinion.

Park Math is another ingenious little App from the same people who created Fish School, an App I reviewed a few months ago. This App makes math fun! I should have known that App designers who are named Duck Duck Moose have good sense when it comes to fun games.

With Park Math, the child progress from simple counting to more advanced number concepts. This app would be appropriate for both Preschool and Kindergarten ages, say 2-6. As children play with Blue Bear and his friends on the playground, Park Math teaches counting, addition, subtraction, sorting and more.

So far, my daughter is enjoying this app and continues to ask to play with it. Kids know what they really like–and those are the things she asks for over and over:) She seems to get a kick out of the sorting and she likes the music, which includes well done instrumental music with nursery rhymes like This Old Man, Skip to My Lou, Five Little Ducks, The Muffin Man, and Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush.

(I later learned that this music was done with cello and guitar–thank you Duck, Duck–often I have to ask my kids to turn down the volume so my ears do not hurt…but this app is lovely–I even like little bears voice!)

As my daughter is my youngest and I think she is smart, I find I tend to push her and get items that are a bit ahead of her true readiness level. Several of the other Math apps I have downloaded for her are really just a bit too difficult for her–and instead of helping her enjoy Math, I am afraid I am making it hard and unpleasant. So, I was really glad to see her just have fun with this one–and she is still learning important concepts.

The Park Math really is making hard concepts accessible to young kids–sorting and counting are easy and fun–not boring and repetitious..and I love it that she can control the game–she decides if she wants to do subtraction or counting, for example.

The overall game includes 7 educational games that teach a math concept and kids can easily choose which they want to play by choosing kites:

  • SWING: NUMBERS – Count up to 50 as a rabbit swings.
  • SLIDE: ADDITION — Help ducks climb to the top of a slide and learn how to add.
  • SEESAW: GREATER THAN/LESS THAN — Balance a seesaw by adding and subtracting mice.
  • APPLE TREE: SUBTRACTION — Learn how to subtract as apples fall from a tree.
  • SANDBOX: PATTERNS — Complete the pattern in a sandbox with the correct toy.
  • BENCH: SORTING — Order the dogs from small to large.  Order numbers in sequence.
  • PICNIC: COUNTING — Feed a hippo the correct number of food items.

The Official Word: “Park Math includes 2 levels for Preschool and Kindergarten.  Level 1 includes counting up to 20 and addition/subtraction with numbers up to 5.  Level 2 includes counting up to 50 and addition/subtraction with numbers up to 10.  The iPad version, Park Math HD, will be released shortly, and will include a third level for First Grade with counting up to 100 and addition/subtraction with numbers up to 20.” Wish I had an IPad!!

Anyway, Park Math – by Duck Duck Moose is available on iTunes for $1.99.

My opinion? Get it. A Definite Winner!!

Check out  Duck Duck Moose

Math Tutor DVD Review

Heather —  September 8, 2010

Math Tutor

Review & Summary: 4 This company specializes in Math Curriculum, packaged in DVD and online formats for all ages, from beginning Math to Physics. We received two specific DVDs, Pre-Algebra Tutor Volume 1 and a TI83 / TI84 Calculator Tutor.

Overall, I felt the curriculum was solid…the presentation for the older ages is very much like taking Math in a class.

Now, while Math Tutor does have a range of math products that includes colorful and fun videos for younger children,when you look at  the material for the older students, you are getting serious, lecture style instruction. The instructor is Jason Gibson who has several math related degrees.  As he lectures, he uses the whiteboard and is quite clear and very specific. You can see a sample from the Pre-Algebra video here:

I am not a math lover, myself. I will basically do anything to avoid Algebra. But, I do understand Jason…so that is a start. I have one child whose eyes just glazed over when I put it in…and another who excels in Math said he could use this easily and move forward quickly. So, for the cost, I think this could be very useful. I intend to use the DVD as a help–to do review or get extra help when my Algebra student is stuck.

item63Now, the graphing calculator DVD is supposed to “unlock the power” of your graphing calculator. And, it does! With 3 DVDs you can see all kinds of functions. I am ashamed to admit this, but it helps you to put it in perspective. The main thing I have done with a graphing calculator lately is to type in numbers and turn it upside down to see if I found a new word. With this tutorial, I can show off some new skills. I did not watch all 8 hours, but I think it is cool that I could.

My three teenagers felt that this DVD was really worthwhile–all of them are using/or will be using the TI calculators through High School. As in most of the Math Tutor materials, you learn by watching your teacher DO. For this one, it is neat to see a close up of the calculator itself as the teacher works example problems on the calculator. You can see a clip of this in action on the math tutor page. (Drag down a bit).

I think this curriculum is worth taking some time to look at. While I feel less sure about my opinions when it comes to upper level math, I think this curriculum does have some excellent courses and is very reasonably fantastically priced. If you are looking for a long term plan or just some help for Math, definitely stop in at the Math Tutor DVD site. They have plenty of samples and videos and worksheets to peruse to see if the style works for your family. They also offer an online plan for $19.99 per month.

The Math Tutor DVDs reviewed today are currently on sale for $26.99 each.

Find tons of FREE sample lessons, online calculators and math references and articles–even a podcast at Math Tutor.

To see what my TOS crewmates have to say, click here

The 2 Math Tutor DVDs were provided to me for the purpose of my review. I have expressed my unbiased opinion on this product.