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Sunday, May 20, 2012

CapJaxMathFax Review

As a parent, I have never, not ever, been a fan of flash cards. As a child with a seemingly photographic memory, I loved them. I knew all the answers, and I felt smart when I got each one quickly right. But then the first child God blessed me with was born on the autism spectrum with the inability to memorize anything at an "typical" age. So using flash cards for him would have had the exact opposite effect on him than they had on me. Consequently, we never used them. And then, when his siblings came along, we still didn't use them, because it seemed like a cruel way to underscore the developmental differences between them and their older brother. But the reality is that some learning like math or spelling is based on memorization, and if you can't retain basic information, you can't build on that for higher level thinking. And, while things "click" a little later for him than for others, my eldest can do it...if he tries. Right now, we are at one of those pivotal places in math for him. He HAS to know his facts forward and backward to be able to move on. But he hates to drill, and he's a little stubborn about it. So what's a mom to do?
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Enter CapJaxMathFax. Designed by Jack Fretwell who has a degree in Educational Technology, CapJaxMathFax is a simple but effective way of allowing your student to practice basic math skills in all four orders of operation (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) from beginning level to mastery. Students progress at their own pace and the program automatically determines objectives for each child to practice, starting out very simply to build confidence. Parents or teachers can monitor progress through a variety of reports, but the program does all the work of generating the questions and providing all the feedback, so the student works completely independently. And it works with any math curriculum.

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Initially, students can "play for practice" and just drill basic math facts.  The goal is to answer them correctly within a specified window of time (the default is 3 seconds, but it can be changed).  You can also practice keyboarding skills so that data entry is not the reason for not succeeding within the time allotted.  If a student takes longer than the 3 seconds, that is totally fine, but they will be rewarded not with "SUPER" as you see above, but with "RIGHT".  Once they are comfortably scoring "SUPER" most of the time, they are ready to begin "play for rating".  When playing for rating, the problems get progressively harder.  Formats are changed up a bit (one problem might read 9 x 6 = in this linear way, while the next is presented horizontally as above).  A T-score of 1000 in each of the 4 operations is the goal.

Positive reinforcement is given as students improve on their own performance:

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Students can earn merit badges for accomplishments:
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The pros:  Remember that child I described at the beginning of this post?  He began his first practice by doing 400 math problems!  Not 400 points worth.  400 problems!  And he routinely asks if he can do CapJaxMathFax instead of doing more of his other math work.  That right there is miraculous.  And I've seen him apply that learning while figuring out problems in his regular math curriculum.  My 7 year old struggling math student has used it too.  She isn't fast, so we just play for practice, but it is developing keyboarding skills and math fact memory in her too.  The program is simple and doesn't get any flashier than the screen shots you see above, which is good for students who have problems with visual clutter.  And the biggest pro is I'm not involved.  I know that may sound "bad", but if you have a child who needs drill work but doesn't want to do it, you know that the mom becomes the "bad guy".  This way, the computer is the "bad guy"...except that it's not because my son will actually willingly DO this.

The cons:  In a generation of children who are entertained from birth with flashy colors and sounds and spectacular animations, this program can seem a little plain.  But it does what it sets out to do, and it's still way more interactive than flash cards.

The bottom line:  CapJaxMathFax is $29.95 for up to 10 users.  You can download it to your computer and start right away.  It only takes a few minutes a day.  In fact, you decide how long or how much practice your child does.  The program does not "cut off", so drills can be as long or short as what works for you.  Based on my experience, I'm glad to have this resource available, and I'd recommend it.  It's definitely made a difference even for ME to know my facts instantaneously without a second thought. 

You can read more about CapJaxMathFax or purchase it HERE.  To see what other members of the TOS Crew had to say, go HERE.

Legal Disclaimer:  As  a member of the TOS Crew, I was given access to CapJaxMathFax until the end of the year for the purpose of being able to provide my honest review.  That is the only compensation I received and all opinions expressed are my own.
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