We’re reviewing a 12-month subscription to online math curriculum Math-Whizz , by Whizz Education. It’s not necessarily a homeschool-only product, but you can use it as a homeschool math curriculum online.
I had to enable Adobe Flash for this program, then go through the placement test, and then the kids had to use it for at least 30 minutes a week.
If you want to pick the best online math curriculum, you’ve got a lot of choices, but there are certain things that make Math-Whizz distinct from other programs we’ve tried, and which might make it work for you:
Math-Whizz has a very long online math placement test compared to others we’ve tried. It took my 6-year-old about 15-20 minutes to get through it because she is at the younger end of the age range, and because she is not yet reading well and many of the questions required her to read (more on that later). It took my 8-year-old almost an hour to finish her placement test. The website’s estimate states 20-45 minutes.
You don’t need to have your child complete the entire placement test in one sitting. You’re able to save partway through as many times as you need. This is a life-saver because a lot of kids aren’t going to do their best work if they’re trying to get through a 40-minute test.
As with any online placement test we’ve tried, I think that if you want to get a more accurate result you should sit with your child during the entire placement test. First, I’ll go over the results for my 6-year-old, and then for my 8-year-old.
With my 6-year-old, I was able to see that she would score far below her actual math ability, and I was able to see WHY her score would not be accurate. As I predicted, she scored a bit younger than her actual age. Why? I’ll get into that below. With my 8-year-old, I was able to see that she would score above her actual math ability, and again I knew WHY, because I sat with my kids and watched them answer. Sometimes I clarified the meaning of a question, and I had to read some questions to my 6-year-old if it seemed like the question wanted to test math ability and not reading.
Some of the questions seem pretty clearly designed to test if a child can read a math-related word, which seems reasonable. There are questions like this one that test whether the child can read the numbers spelled out, and similar ones for the days of the week.
There were some questions that were just puzzling for us, like this one and the questions which followed it:
I immediately thought that I could use any of those things to measure the fish. I kept my mouth shut and my 6-year-old said, “It could be any of those things. This isn’t fair.” She was right. The next questions used the same picture but asked what you could use to weigh it and something else with it that I can’t remember at the moment (I think it was how tall it was). What I do remember is that you could use any of those things. I’m pretty sure my 6-year-old got all these types of questions “wrong,” but I think these particular questions do not test what they were designed to test. They’re symptomatic of the rigidness of the style of institutional school that we have rejected. To be fair, I’m pretty sure my 6-year-old is an amazingly creative problem-solver. So. YMMV. I don’t want to train her creativity out of her by forcing her to only see one correct answer in situations like these.
Between her creative answers and the amount of reading required, my 6-year old ended up scoring lower than she actually is. When she went to do her lessons, they were repeating a lot of stuff that she already knows very well, and she complained loudly that it was “baby math.”
We’ve had the placement-problem with other online tests, but one feature that made Math-Whizz stand out was the ability for me to get into the parent console area and try to adjust the level, basically by skipping through to the next lessons. However, that wasn’t a complete solution because there are some exercises that can’t be skipped:
Kids can also “jump ahead” if they do well enough in their exercises.
In contrast to my 6-year-old, my 8-year-old came out a couple of years ahead of her actual age. Because of the design of the questions and the fact that we use a mastery program, she was able to answer some questions that I KNOW we have never covered. We have never covered decimals or fractions but she answered those questions correctly. She’s a great reader so she was able to figure out some questions that I think most kids wouldn’t.
Here are her placement results, and I think you can see how it shows that we have used a mastery method for math and that she has gone through addition! She’s also gone through subtraction and is just as good with that, so I don’t know why her subtraction levels are lower than her addition. Note that she is not actually below her age for anything, and that somehow even though I have not taught her most of these concepts she somehow scored ahead of her age. I know that she doesn’t know these things and that she couldn’t do a lot of these if they were not on a computer with the decimals already lined up, etc. So, again, I sit with my kids when they do online assessments just to observe and see exactly what they’re doing. Tests only test what they test. I haven’t found any that can substitute for the daily one-on-one continuous evaluation I can do in homeschool.
If you can help your kids get to the parts of the program that are aimed at where they need help, this could serve like an online math tutor program for them.
As I mentioned, the main math program that I have used for years is a mastery program, not spiral. It covers math topics in a different order than public school. My kids master addition, then subtraction, then multiplication, then division. There’s review in there but it’s a mastery program and we go as fast or as slowly as they need. It evens out around the time they get to pre-Algebra, so they cover everything, but just in a different order. My oldest has already gone through that far (he’s 11) and it’s worked well. BUT. I don’t plan on ever putting them in public school but I’d like to be reassured that my younger kids are at least familiar with various concepts. Just in case.
There is enough here that if you use the teacher’s guide and plan everything out you can use it as a full curriculum if it fits your child. For us it would be strictly a supplement, and mostly just if my kids needed to practice for standardized tests in elementary schol.
Math-Whizz does have some cartoons and colors. It doesn’t have a lot compared to some others. Personally, I like plain math sheets that don’t have a lot of distraction. This is a YMMV thing. There are some fun things here but most of it is static and doesn’t detract from the question.
Many of the questions, even for the younger kids, have a lot of reading involved compared to other programs we’ve tried. Some things are read aloud to the child by the program, but some are not. This could be fine to use to add to a program you’re using that doesn’t have much reading.