Whilst you don’t want to believe that all kids with Aspergers are geniuses at Maths mine isn’t going to be one to break the rule. He started by being in higher Maths sets with the older year groups in juniors, was one of 2 children to be picked to represent his grammar school in the Maths challenge for two years running, and again was selected to attend Saturday workshops to hear very influential mathematicians talk about how they use maths in their jobs. So you can imagine, a teen giving up their Saturday morning must like Maths yes? He went on to do GCSE Maths a year early (A*), did Additional Maths last year (A), and is now doing Maths and Further Maths at A-level (of which some people have dropped out of already).
With such a big brother it was always going to be quiet likely that the others would follow in his footsteps. Next down I have a son about to take the eleven plus (grammar school entry test), which is verbal reasoning, but does have an element of Maths about it. My year one (aged 5) lad is just very bright, I think, and likes to be stimulated. He is always reading everything he sees and trying to do Maths. His dad started teaching him basic algebra before the summer holidays, and I’ve introduced him to decimals.
So I was delighted that the boys were invited to review Mathletics. A live online learning programme that helps children to enjoy maths, covering key stages 1-5. As well of each of the boys having their own accounts to log in to. The children do have to log in to access their accounts – I’m pretty relaxed in letting my boys go on by themselves. They know about internet safety and what they should and shouldn’t do, and would never go on without asking me first. So having random letters and password was a bit difficult them just getting on with it themselves. We had them written down on paper in the end and guess this helped them to look after their secure details. It was easy to navigate and they didn’t get stuck and need help.
The boys have really enjoyed using the Mathletics programme, and my year 6 said that they also use it at school. It is good that they can track their progress and compare it live with people their own age. I think that my boys got easily bored with this programme and did not progress as much as they should. It seems that you have to work your way through the easy levels rather than selecting the right one for their ability. Through the parental controls you have the opportunity to set them tasks to do. I think the level of Maths it goes up to must be very good/high as in my oldest son’s feedback he never reported otherwise. I also received a weekly e-mail for each of the boys telling me how much time they had spent on the programme, how many points they had earned on the curriculum activities and the live Mathletics, what awards they had won, and how many gold bars he’d received (which are given every time a student achieves 85% or above).
But then once in their own accounts they were tailored based on age.
To make the learning fun it starts with a face maker (about like making a Mii). This also helps the younger one gets used to the technology because he has to use the mousepad, and highllight, and click etc, to design what he wants.
These are points made by my 16 year old son:
- Points are earned on the tasks and they can be spent on the user interface, a customisable interface avatar, theme or coloured background. This may appeal to younger people, or those who work more to get rewards. There was some awkward overlap with hair/glasses/hat – for example the glasses overlap with fringes on avatars hair.
- The animations may appeal to the younger children, but are off putting for those trying to do the A-level maths. They can be hidden, and therefore less distracting, but unfortunately this also hides the question number too. But as the question number cannot be seen, this may prevent the last few questions being rushed through (as it is not obvious how many are left to do).
- There is a hint button, which can also be hidden. The submit button only works when an option is selected, eliminating the possibility that a question will be marked wrong as it is accidentally left blank, when clicking to move on to the next question. There is activity progress – for when you have finished the task it shows you where you went wrong.
- There was no space for working out – fine for younger users, but quiet tricky for those doing A-level maths. My son found he needed to use paper and this, he felt, kind of defeated the object of doing it on the computer.
We received free access to the Mathletics programme for this review. No other compensation has been given. All thoughts and opinions are my own.