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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Trigger Memory Systems Review

Trigger Memory Systems is a partnership of three homeschooling moms with thirteen children between them. They began their product line with Times Tales which was wildly popular not only with their own children, but also with several school districts, charter schools, and now, via the internet, with homeschoolers everywhere. They also created a series of "Clean n' Flip" charts designed to help simplify cleaning for children. The TOS Crew was asked to review both of these products, and since Times Tales was their first product, I'll start there!

Times Tales is a book that uses short mnemonic stories to help children memorize their upper times tables. Each number is assigned a "character" and the characters are combined in simple stories to help the children learn their multiplication without even knowing that's what they are doing. For example, in the one shown above on the Times Tales cover, "The First Grade Class (that's 6, since most first graders are 6 years old) went to the Treehouse (that's 9, as you can see in the drawing) to feed 5 pounds of bananas to 4 monkeys (54). Children learn the stories and then are introduced to how the stories relate to multiplication.
The book is plastic wire bound so it can be flipped through like a flip chart, which lets you lay it flat and easily work with your student(s). It comes with detailed instructions on how to use it, and bonus flash cards to use to quiz your students after they master the story and understand it as a math fact. The characters are consistant-so 6 is always "the First Grade Class" which helps students remember, and the numbers are bold outlined within the characters to visually reinforce each fact. Using stories and illustrations moves the understanding of these math facts to a different part of the brain entirely, helping even some of the most challenged learners "get it".
We had not covered multiplication AT ALL when we started this, and at first, my older kids thought the whole Times Tales thing was "boring", but once I explained the concept of multiplication and showed my oldest how these stories meant that he now KNEW some of this, his whole face LIT UP, and he was soooo excited.
If there is a drawback, it would be that this does not feature the complete times tables, just the upper level ones that are harder to learn. So I would NOT use them with a child unless you have already taught the lower levels , or they will have quite a spotty knowledge base to work with. My kids found it boring until they realized the value of how easy the stories made it to learn the facts- but they did not understand that value innately because we had never done multiplication before.
At $29.95, it would be worth it if you child struggles to remember their times tables since that is knowledge they will need for the rest of their lives. You can order Times Tales HERE.

Trigger Memory System's Clean n' Flip books are the ones I was most excited to review since I had looked at them at the homeschool conference over the past few years and contemplated buying them. They are an easy way of breaking down large chores into smaller tasks that even young children can handle thanks to the illustrations that help even non-readers follow along. Currently, there are books for Zone Cleaning (which covers the Kitchen, Bathroom, and Living Room and comes with a dry erase marker), Laundry, and Bedroom. Like the Times Tales, they are plastic wire bound at the top so they easily flip from task to task.
I love this idea. It's very similar to the "FLY Lady" in terms of zones and breaking things into little steps for success. If I am honest, the reason I did not buy them before is I kept thinking, "I could just make my own." And I could. But I'm here to tell you that in the few years I've been looking at them, I never HAVE made my own...and my house shows it. I saw a sign at a craft festival years ago that said, "Yes, you could make this...but WILL you?" That's the crux of my problem. I have the best of intentions, but lack follow through. If that's your problem too, I'd advise you to check out these Clean n' Flip charts . (You can find them HERE.)
My kids enjoyed the easy step by step process, and I enjoyed having something to guide our cleaning training. I only have two "cons". First would be that the Laundry and Bedroom books are not laminated and dry erase friendly, but because the Zone Cleaning one is, your children might try to write in them and ruin them (it happened to some of the other reviewers). Second is the fact that with the three rooms combined in the one Zone Cleaning book, it is almost impossible to use the same book and have multiple children clean those areas simultaneously (like one cleaning the bathroom while another is cleaning the living room). For this reason, I may have mine re-bound into 3 separate books.
I think the bottom line for me is that Trigger Memory System has some great products, and if you have children who struggle with either math times tables OR cleaning OR both, I would definitely recommend that you check them out. The Times Tales book is $29.95, Zone Cleaning is $17.95, Bedroom is $7.95, and Laundry is $7.95 BUT sets of multiple books are also available for discounted prices, so if more than one book appeals to you, I would definitely look into that on their website.
To see what other members of the TOS Crew had to say, go HERE.
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