## Gearing up for Pre-Algebra, Dusting off Math Facts, a TOS Review

(This is a Review for UberSmart Software’s UberSmart Math Facts, but also our tale of how we used their product this summer to help our son move onto the next phase of math.)

This is the second time that we’ve journeyed away from the simple basics of mathematics into the world of pure Algebra. Sure they have sampled algebraic questions since Kindergarten – two known numbers to solve for the unknown, but this is the big jump of no more practicing 3 digit long division or 3 numbers times 4 numbers ad nauseam.

One housekeeping step I wanted to work on before fall was to master the multiplication math facts. It was on the back burner of my mind as something that needed to be practiced, but I didn’t put a lot of thought into the how. Especially with a soon to be 8th grader and products that feel childish. The evidence shown in his notebook and the callouses on his fingers gave proof that for many multiplication sets, he was not ready to instantly recall that 8*4=32.  He would write down the set on his paper, 8,16,24, 32, etc. He could spout out the series, but not pull one out individually – 32. What to do?

Enter into the scene – UberSmart Software and their product UberSmart Math Facts. I read the description, browsed the website, and pondered. It is intended for grades K-6, we are entering 8th and 11th.   I looked at their website – the top line caught my eye:  A Proven Way to Master Math Facts. Oh Really?  Maybe I could prove them wrong. ha.

The second title that caught my eye was the biggie:

#### Know exactly where your child stands and what they have left to learn.

This was the key for our situation. I didn’t know how to help Jon without boredom, because I didn’t know where the gaps were. I didn’t know which sets needed to be practiced.

The third statement intrigued me:

#### It challenges students to excel.

A small little word – but it was what I wanted “It”. It will challenge them to excel, not me, the nagging mom. How in the world would another downloadable math software program challenge my student to excel? I think when I wrote my request – these three things were the mystery to me. How could one software program be a proven way, be able to tell me what my child needed to learn, and then the software, itself, challenge young 13 year old Jon to excel. What do I have to loose? – Let’s try it!!!

We downloaded the software onto our family computer in the dining room. (This is not an online program, and it for Windows 7, 8, XP and Vista only – No Mac Available) My first impression – ya. Not that astounded. It is a very simple screen, with simple buttons. In the world of software graphic design, it doesn’t get high praise from our family. But I wasn’t here to be entertained by graphics, stories, music or gimmicks, I wanted what they promised, Results.

Once you set up your students – super easy steps – there is a simple box that shows your choices. Learn, Practice, Test, Compete, Report and Maintain.

We looked at the Learn and Practice tabs, and then started on the first set of Multiples and chose Test. Jon would ‘Test’ each number and see where he stood. If the test did not go well, he’d back up and do a practice set, and then do the Test.

After they Master the set – it gives them a screen, a Certificate of Mastery. I underestimated how much that would mean to my 13 year old. For a while, this is what we did every 2-3 days. ho humm. And Then . . . .

One day I went out of town and while I was gone Jon turned on the program to practice. But he did something different and found the Assessment. He spent 2 TWO 2 hours, without anyone home, working through it.

It started from the very basics of number identification and using the keypad, to using dot cards, to flash cards for Add/Subtract/Multiply and divide. He left the report on the computer for when I got home as he wasn’t sure what it meant. I couldn’t believe he’d sit there that long without a parent home.  What it showed, was that he had mastered everything except 5’s 8’s and 9’s. It also showed it took him 4 seconds to complete each answer. I asked him about it, and he said he didn’t know it was a timed test so he’d get up to check FB, or use the restroom or – whatever 13 yr. old boys do when their parent’s aren’t home. (By the way – Addition/Subtraction goes up through the 9s and Multiplication/Division has the option to set it to go up to 9’s – 20’s. (9’s, 10’s, 11’s. all the way through the 20’s)

I was quite sure he knew the 5’s so that was simple, and he moved on to 8’s, and he did know his 9’s. So we found out that the 8’s were the only real gap for instant recall and we’ve worked on that.

Another cool part of the program is the Reports section. On the left hand side of the screen you can choose which report – Several to break down what the child has actually done. The Assessment Report is found there, so if Jon would have closed the screen it would have been easily found. The Mastery Chart is my favorite and I think would be encouraging to kids – as you move your way up, it shows what sets are left to learn.

One Tip: In the Maintain tab, there is a box at the end of the line per student that says Full Screen. For some reason this was checked for Jon but not for Nate. Jon didn’t know he could use key strokes to minimize it or switch programs, so once he was logged on, he was sort of stuck. He knows now. But for younger students, this might be a plus to distraction.

So, at summers end, and with the Pre Algebra and Algebra 2 books all shiny on the table, this program did what I was wanting, and what they promised.

A proven way to master math facts, let me know exactly what my child had left to learn, and the program itself, would challenge him to excel.

If you take time at the UberSmart Software site, you’ll find their FAQ, Case Studies, Pricing, Downloads, and Education Resources. This is not a cute app to let your child play with. This is a program with the intention of math mastery. Since we are on the 13 and 16 year old side, I won’t say how it works for younger children, but my crew mates reviewed this and you’ll see what other families did with this program. It has much more depth than my first impression.

You may purchase the program direct from their site for \$24.95. This gives you a Family License, to use on all of the computers in your home with free upgrades and support. We were given the range of being able to use it with 8 children. There is also an option for schools to use with different ranges of kids starting at 10 kids for \$49.95.  I see that there is a discount for the Texas Homeschool Coalition – so check that out if you are from TayHaus.