Saturday, January 29, 2011

Review: TenMarks

Founded by entrepreneurial parents searching for a better way to help students achieve their potential in math,TenMarks is an online subscription service covering math content for grades 3-10.

TenMarks approaches math learning with three simple principles:
  1. Personalized Learning Makes All the Difference.
  2. On-Demand Instruction Provides Help When You Need it.
  3. Practice Builds Confidence and Improves Achievement.
When signing up for the program, both the parent and the student receive separate login information.  Each week, the student is assigned a certain number of worksheets to complete.  The default is 4 weekly worksheets, but a parent can adjust the assigned number in the range of 3-7  The worksheets are done completely online (e.g. they are not printed out) with multiple choice answers.  From their account parents can view report cards, customize curriculum, and set up rewards for each student.

While this might all sound a bit ho-hum, TenMarks has a list of features that makes this program more appealing than it initially sounds.

The information is organized, both visually and for teaching concepts.  Each grade has a list of albums to complete.  One album, consisting of tracks, covers an entire concept.  Each track covers one single concept, with worksheets assigned for each track.  Furthermore, parents have the option of removing or rearranging albums.

While the material sequence is very organized, it is also visually organized for the user. When a student signs on, the progress they've made is very clear.  The page shows the album they've just completed, the current worksheets, and what is ahead.  Also, there is a visual display with outline figures that are colored by the percent of work completed.

Students have the option to practice concepts and are also assigned tests.  In the practice section, students can select worksheets from any album from any grade. Whether they need some review, or would like a challenge, the practice section is the place to go.  Also, timed tests are available for every album.  If a student does not score well, the tests can be taken again.

One of the best features of this program is the hints and videos available for each question.  I know that often times my children will call me over for help with their regular math work and all they really need is a little hint.  TenMarks has 3 hints available for each question and 1 video.  The program keeps track of hints and videos used.  Overuse will reduce the level of concept strength, which is also tracked for each concept.  Worksheets that have low concept strength are reassigned to the student.

It isn't just all work and no play either.  Students can earn unlock games as they complete worksheets.  Parents can also set personalized goals for motivation. 

Now, there are a few issues I did have with the program.  One of the greatest irritations was that sometimes the videos did not match up to the question.  For example, my son was working on a problem that required him to determine if a number was divisible by 4.  Not knowing how to approach the problem, he clicked the video.  While the video did talk about determining divisibility by other numbers, it did not show the student divisibility by 4. He was still stuck. Also, one of the videos used symbols for division that weren't the norm.  It had potential to be very confusing for some.  While I loved that the videos were available, they sometimes were not as helpful as they could be.

Another issue is that there were no limits on the games once they were unlocked.  Unlocking the games was very motivating, but the games themselves were very tempting.  My kids were great about not playing the games until after they finished a certain number of worksheets, but the problem cane with losing track of time.  Many of the games weren't related to any math concepts and were mindless (though apparently fun!).

Lastly, while the multiple choice had appeal for my pencil-phobic son, I also had to keep an eye on how he was approaching his answers.  Sometimes he would just make a guess, and he's very good at intuitively coming up with the correct answer without even really knowing how to work a problem.  As with any online program, a parent still needs to keep tabs on the student to make sure they are using the program as fully intended.

Overall, I really felt that TenMarks achieved the three simple principles upon which the program is based.  The learning is personalized, help is available on demand, and the program offers (and forces through reassignment of concepts) plenty of practice.  I felt the visual layout of progress was very encouraging to the student and I liked the control features given to the parent to customize the curriculum.  The minor irritations experienced did not outweigh the variety of positive features offered.

Strangely enough, though they have done numerous online math programs, both of my kids didn’t mind doing the worksheets on TenMarks.  In fact, my daughter would often do TenMarks before her other work, rather than putting it off as she typically does with math work.  The structure of TenMarks, in combination to the progress tracking and reward systems, seemed to appeal to my two indifferent math students. With math not making the top of the list as a favorite subject, it wasn't something that brought on lots of excitement. However, TenMarks was a program they willingly used without much complaint.  In our house, that is quite significant.

While I would not use TenMarks as a stand-alone program, it is definitely one to consider for supplement and practice. TenMarks is available at a very reasonable $10 a month, $49 for 6 months or $89 for 12 months. You can try the entire system by signing up for a free trial.  Visit the TenMarks website to subscribe or learn more.

Read what other reviewers had to say about TenMarks by visiting the official TOS Homeschool Crew blog.

Disclaimer: This review was provided as a result in my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Crew. I was provided the product free of charge in exchange for my honest review. I have received no other compensation.

I strive to give a balanced overview of each product, detailing my opinion of both pros and cons and how the product worked for my family. What works for one family may not work for another. I encourage you to read reviews of other Crew members and research sufficiently to determine if any product will be a benefit to your homeschool.

1 comment:

Diane Allen said...

Excellent post -- Even when I've used the product, I always learn something or see something from a different perspective in your pieces.