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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Professor B Math Review


I think anyone who has been homeschooling for any length of time can relate to the idea of a curriculum or product they really, really wanted to love...but didn't.  A lot of times, our desire to love it comes directly from the fact that it is the PERFECT product for someone else we know, and consequently, we think it will be the perfect product for us.  Until we try it.  And sadly, that's where I find myself with this review.  But before you stop reading right here and now, remember YOU might be the person this would be perfect for- I know it was for several Crew Mates- so please, allow me to introduce you to Professor B math. 


Professor B math is an online elementary math curriculum.  It is available in 3 levels, and claims to teach three years of math in one year.  Below is a chart that explains what is covered in each level:

LEVEL I Pre-k though 2nd graders and remediation of older learners. Introduction to Addition/Subtraction Facts - Counting to One Hundred - Lower Addition and Subtraction - Higher Addition and Subtraction - Place Value Fractional Parts & Order - Time - Money
LEVEL II 3rd grade through 5th grade and remediation of older learners. Multiplication/Division Facts and Problem Solving - Introduction to Fractions - Fractional Equivalence - Addition and Subtraction Fractions
LEVEL III 6th through 8th grades and remediation of older learners. Multiplication/Division of Fractions - Decimals - Percents

Technically, I have learners in all 3 levels, but my eldest daughter still struggles greatly with math, and so I used only levels I and II.  Once you log in to Professor B (and open the correct level if you are using more than one) you get a welcome sequence that tells you a little more about the program.  After that is a table of contents (which you can, and will want to, skip to).  From the table of contents, you chose your lesson.  if you were starting with a Pre K/K student, you would start at the beginning.  For older learners, there is a free placement test to find out where to start.  Each lesson is really a series of power point slides.  They are very simple and uncluttered visually.  You advance to the next slide by clicking on the arrow or anywhere on the screen.  The bee in the graphic below is the "teacher" and has speech bubbles that show what you, the "master teacher" are supposed to say.  Some slides just present information, others ask questions for the student to answer verbally.  No answers are "input" into the program- it's just like a virtual textbook.  And there is no sound component, just the text.  Lessons are divided by topic, not by grade.  Each lesson features a lot of review, and some lessons do incorporate worksheets that you print to go with them.

The pros:  Because it is not based on grade level, but on subjects with a group of grades, students who need remediation aren't as likely to feel they are "behind" or working below grade level.  Parents who feel unsure of their abilities to teach math may enjoy this program since it literally tells you what to say and do (see the slides below.)  Many skills are explained in a different way than the "traditional" approach, and based on testimonials on their website, that has helped many students succeed where before they had struggled with math. 

The cons: This just didn't work well for us. I began using this with my youngest child, who HATES the idea of all formal learning.  I soon found that I just didn't like the way the information was presented, and she didn't either.  Below, you can see a slide from the lesson on Representing Numbers with Cubes, Rods, and Flats.  The idea they are trying to express is that a rod is made up of 10 cubes, but if you look at the bottom "rod" you can see that the graphics just don't quite work right.  The lines delineating the ten cubes in a rod don't all show up, and that was consistent on every slide that represented rods.  So visually, you can't at all see 10 cubes in a rod, at least not down the side.
 I had the same problems with graphics on the 10 rods make a flat.  Look carefully at the top of the 10 rods, and you can see that you lose the lines delineating the back 3-4 rods.  I also had problems with slides in level 2 having graphics that were supposed to flash, but didn't. 

And the lesson in level 1 on place value STARTS with the question below:

What place is that?  Ummm.  Hundred-trillions.  I'm thinking not many Pre-K students, or K, or 1st grade students know that.  In fact, probably many adults don't know that.  And while I think it's great that they are teaching that, I'm not sure starting with that question establishes any sort of expectation of success.
As for my older kids who tried it out, my youngest son is compliant, and will do anything, but he didn't love it.  My eldest daughter, who actually needs it the most, liked it the least.  I think it's hard to jump in at an older age, even if they need it, since, as I mentioned, many of the concepts are presented in a completely different way than normal, and older children would likely have to "relearn" it the new way.  This could be advantageous if you child's problem lies in not understanding the way your current math program presents the material, but my daughter found it to be frustrating.  One of my other cons would be that I really think it should have sound, even if I understand why it doesn't (they want to ensure that the teacher doesn't leave the child to do the learning independently and figure if you must read it to them, you can't walk away).  It just seems like the bee should really talk.  And since many times the bee says in a text box exactly what is printed on the screen in another box, it can be redundant.  Also, not all elementary math subjects are covered.  I particularly noticed a lack of any sort of geometry.  And finally,  there is no way to keep track of where you are in the progression of lessons.  Each time you log in, you are brought to the welcome and the table of contents, so if you stopped in the middle of a lesson, you'd better just remember where you were.  Or if you have multiple students doing it, you will need to record where each one is yourself, because the program doesn't. 
The bottom line:  I wanted this to be "the thing" that worked for my math resistant daughters.  But it just wasn't.  But I know that several of my Crew Mates loved it and it was exactly "the thing" for their children.  For that reason alone, I am really tempted to make my eldest continue with it just to see if it can help her with some of her deficits.  We'll see...

To check out Professor B's online courses, or their print materials, go HERE.  Currently, pricing is $20 a month for one level, and $15 for a second, and $10 for a third.  They estimate that it takes 10 months to do a level.  They are also offering new pricing as explained here: "We also have a new price change on our yearly subscription. Our program can now be purchase for $100 for 3 years access to each level. Our IT department is working on changing the site. However, if the customers call 678-765-6655 we will be able take their order and honor the new price."

To see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew had to say, go to the Crew blog.

Legal Disclaimer:  As a member of the Crew, I received a year's access to Professor B for 3 children in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

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