Monday, August 19, 2019

REVIEW: Family Membership by CTCMath

I felt my 11-year old son, Holden, had some gaps in his basic math understanding, so I wanted to spend this school year filling in holes and ensuring mastery before moving on to Pre-Algebra.  That’s what made this review of the Family Membership by CTCMath a perfect choice for us!


CTCMath offers an online math program through a Family Membership for Product Imagechildren in grades K-12.  This 12-month membership includes up to 5 children

Right now, it’s half price for homeschoolers at $148.50 per year.  I’ve even seen some special promotions where you can get an extra 6 months free, making it an 18-month subscription for that price, so watch for that!  Once you’ve signed up, you get access to ALL GRADE LEVELS, so your children can work right where they need to be and can be moved around as needed. 

The program includes diagnostic tests that help with placement, and there is also a new Question Bank Wizard that allows you to customize worksheets for your student so they can work on specific topics and also get some pencil-and-paper practice in addition to the online problems.

There are some helpful how-to videos that explain how the program works, features for parents and students, and special features.  You can also sign up for a free trial and see if it’s right for you!


Holden has been working in another math curriculum for the last three years that is a computer-based software.  He has enjoyed it, but he sped ahead rather quickly, finding himself starting Pre-Algebra in 6th grade this year.  Shortly after we began, it dawned on me that there were some definite gaps in his foundational math understanding, and he wasn’t as strong in key topics as he should be before getting into the abstract thinking required for algebraic concepts.  My other two children hit a similar barrier when arriving at this point at an early age, and I want to avoid having him struggle when Algebra I comes along like they did.  We have plenty of time to cover that before he starts high school, so I decided to stop right there and spend a year or even two firming up those gaps and ensuring his mastery of foundational concepts.  This is where CTCMath comes in.

A student can work their way through the program doing every lesson at the desired grade level, work on targeted topics that you choose, or jump around as they choose.  The program keeps track of their grades and progress, and both you and they can log in at any time to see that information.  As the parent, I can also opt to have emails sent to me automatically that show me his grades in a task report after each lesson he completes.

Task Progress Report

I can also opt to receive a weekly report that summarizes what he’s completed that week and his average score on those tasks.   

Weekly Report

And at any time, either of us can log in and see exactly how he is progressing.  I really like that it color codes his scores to quickly alert me to how he’s doing:  blue tells me he has achieved the mastery standard I set for him (I chose 85% or greater), green tells me he mostly knows the topic, yellow tells me he knows some things but really needs more practice, and red tells me that he knows very little and needs to repeat the lesson.

Lesson Progress Results

By clicking on the report link after each assignment grade, I can see the graded lesson.  It shows me the actual problems that he had, how he answered them, and a correction if he got it wrong.  He can see this, too, so he can study what he did wrong and figure out how to do better next time.  I can choose to have him repeat the lesson, in which case it will generate new problems and then average his overall score on that lesson across as many times as he completes it.  I chose to have him keep repeating lessons until he had at least a green indicator.  Sometimes, he did them multiple times before he did well enough.  The report I would receive from that would tell me how many attempts he made to pass it, what his highest score was, and the average score over all of his attempts.  This is very helpful information!  And we can view his lesson scores, diagnostic test scores, and question bank scores separately.

Since Holden had completed through 7th grade math in the other curriculum last year but he has just started 6th grade, I decided to start by having him begin with the first diagnostic test for 6th grade as a starting point.  Then I took the results of that test and determined which topics in that section needed additional work.  Then I would log in to the program as the parent and assign just those tasks to him giving him one each day until those topics were exhausted, and then I’d schedule him to re-take the diagnostic test again to see if he’d made any progress in his understanding of those missed topics.  If he didn’t improve or showed a lack of mastery in any one topic, then I re-assigned those topics to him again and would have him to do diagnostic test an additional time until he got a satisfactory score in all topics.  If I felt he passed but could use more practice before moving on, then I would assign a Question Bank Wizard for him to complete to demonstrate to me that he really did understand it.  The Question Bank Wizard is a custom practice tool that allows me to choose the topics I want to generate on a printable worksheet for him to complete.  I could choose how many questions I wanted on the worksheet and what topics I wanted it to cover and to what extent.  I could also choose the difficulty level for those topics.  Once he completed the worksheet with pencil and paper, he could log in to the program and enter his answers.  Then it would grade it for him and record his score.  This is a new feature at CTCMath, so if you’ve used the program in the past, you’ll want to check out this great tool! 

Question Bank Wizard - Paper  Question Bank Wizard

So with our approach to the program of pre-testing, practicing targeted lessons only, and post-testing, we’ve been able to review materials he should already know and brush up on areas where he needed to solidify his skills.  We aren’t wasting time on covering material he already understands, as we would if we were simply repeating a whole grade level.  So while I thought at the beginning of the year that we might have to spend two years covering 6th and 7th grade math again, I feel like this targeted approach with CTCMath will allow us to speed through, just filling in gaps and not wasting time unnecessarily.  I have hope that we can complete our recovery of 6th and 7th grade topics this school year and perhaps be ready to tackle pre-algebra next year! 

Not only is the program easy to tailor and use the way you choose, but it has other benefits for the student, as well.  My son would sometimes get really frustrated and found himself dreading his math lesson.  The other program used video instruction, just as CTCMath does, but Holden told me that he has learned some new ways to do certain types of problems from this program, and he finds them easier to understand and truly comprehend.  He was really struggling with the rules for fractions before, but now he is doing much better, and I can see that his level of confidence has grown tremendously.  He no longer puts off doing his math assignment for the day and often tackles it early on instead.  I can see a real adjustment in his attitude.  And he loves that it gives him sufficient practice without being overkill of so many problems that he feels like math will never end!  Because he’s not so frustrated, he is finishing school for they day at a better time instead of having it drag out because he’s stuck on math.  That’s a bonus!

The only change I’d like to see with the program is the way you view detailed results from your student’s work.  As it stands, I have to log in as my student in order to see all the detailed scoring information that I want to see.  I don’t get that kind of information from the parent dashboard, and I find that odd.  In all my years of homeschooling, parents access scoring summaries using the parent’s login, so it seems backwards to me.  But that has no affect on the use of the program whatsoever, so it’s definitely not a deal breaker for me.  I just have to save his login info along with my own on my computer so I can switch views between the two as needed…as him to see results and as myself to assign tasks and due dates.

There are three additional activities on the bottom of the home page that provide some learning games the students can play at any time. 

The Speed Skills game allows the student to pick a level of difficulty and a function (such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, division) and try to answer as many questions correctly in the given time frame as possible in order to beat their own high score.

Speed TestSpeed Test Results

The Times Table – Shoot ‘em Up game allows the student to select a times table they’d like to practice, and then it opens up a space-themed game where they are given times table questions and have to shoot the falling obstacles that contain the correct answers before they reach the bottom of the screen and crush their ship.  As spaces open up, an alien craft flies across the top, and if they successfully shoot it, they get bonus points.  With each new screen, the falling obstacles speed up, and they can move up to harder and harder levels of play.  This one is fun!  Holden was laughing at me because he would catch me playing it early in the morning before school, just to see how far I could get.  I have to admit that it’s kind of addicting.

Times Tables Game

The Swap the Pieces puzzle game presents a very difficult challenge.  Personally, I honestly never did figure this one out!  You have to move the arrows around, following the rules provided to get the pieces to the opposite side, and you only get so many moves.  It was hard!  I don’t know if I was missing something obvious or if it really was just so challenging that I gave up before figuring it out.  Something tells me I was just having a momentary lapse of brain function!

Swap the Pieces Puzzle

In any case, the games offer a nice option for kids who want a break from the regular lessons, or you can use it as a reward for completing a task successfully…however you choose.

I noticed on the parent dashboard that the program also gives children awards and certificates.  They are earned for completing all of the lessons within a section, but Holden didn’t earn any since we aren’t using an every-lesson approach.  It’s probably great motivation for kids who are, though.

Overall, we BOTH love the program.  The bottom line is that it’s working well for us, and it suits our needs perfectly.  Who knows…maybe we’ll never go back to our old program when we move on!  After all, why change something that’s working? 

I would encourage you to give this program a try.  Its flexible options and ease of use make it a smart choice for parents who like to customize their curriculum and not take a one-size-fits-all approach.  As homeschool parents, we know each child learns differently and proceeds at a different pace, and this program allows you to make the math program fit the child instead of forcing the child to fit the math program.  After 17 years of homeschool, we all know that doesn’t work and only results in tears and frustration.  So sign up for the free trial, and I feel confident you’ll put an end to the math blues in your home.

As a side note, I should mention that the instructor’s accent is Australian.  However, it’s not so strong that there’s any difficulty with understanding whatsoever, and although my son has ADHD and can be distracted by such things, it did not bother him at all.  In fact, we found it rather soothing!

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