Math is something that we tend to struggle with at our house. I’m always looking for resources that will make math simple to understand and help the children increase their math knowledge. Even though I have always been good at math, I don’t always know how to break it down into a level that the children understand, especially when we start getting into higher math levels. So, when I received the opportunity to do a review for UnLock Math, I knew that it was an opportunity that I had to take.
What We Received
We received a full year’s access to UnLock Pre-Algebra for Firecracker. This is a math program that is written for middle school children around the seventh or eighth grade range, but I found myself interested in this program anyway because the first five units actually take the foundational ideas and concepts that your children should have learned in basic math and go through them to build a firm foundation for the algebra that is to come. Because of our relaxed, sometimes child-led, homeschooling atmosphere, we often go long periods of time without doing math, so I wanted to see what gaps Firecracker might have (as a rising fifth) grader, so that we could address those gaps as he reaches an age to begin to understand higher level math.
UnLock Pre-Algebra is divided into sixteen units. Parents have a pacing guide as well so that they can keep their children on track to finish this course in one year. These fourteen units are:
- Whole Numbers
- Variables and Expressions
- Rational Numbers
- The Coordinate Plane
- 2D Geometry
- 3D Geometry
- Analyzing Data
- Probability and Stats
Students are also given a midterm exam after the coordinate plane unit and a final exam at the end of the course material.
Each lesson within a unit is broken up into six predictable parts:
- Warm Up: Here the student “warms up” or gets into math mode by doing some practice computation. Most of the warm ups that we’ve encountered so far include easy “mental math” arithmetic based problems. This section is just to get you thinking mathematically.
- Lesson Video: This is where the instructor, Alesia, gives a small lecture, usually lasting less than ten minutes, on a math concept that your student is going to be working on in this lesson.
- Practice Problems: These are all problems related directly to the lesson that your child has just learned in the video that they watched.
- Stay Sharp: These are problems from previous lessons to keep the previous material fresh in your child’s mind.
- Challenge Yourself: Bonus problems to help your child apply lesson concepts to mathematical thinking!
- Reference notes: A pdf of all the concepts that Alesia explored in the lecture. These are great to print out and keep in a binder for when your child has a question or can’t remember a concept learned in a previous lesson. There are often example problems and solutions printed out to help your student remember what was taught.
How We Used This Course
We went through this course and used it as it was written. However, I often allowed Firecracker to do a half lesson at a time, where he would do the first three sections in the lesson the first day, and then he would come back and do the stay sharp, challenge yourself, and print out and read the reference notes on the second day. This doesn’t put you on a path to finish the course. However, he’s rising fifth grader, so I’m not really concerned about him completing pre-algebra at this point. I’m just concerned about him mastering the concepts that he’s presented.
Our Opinion on This Course
This is truly a lovely course. The instructor is interesting and engaging. Information is given in small lessons and the introduction of new concepts is at a pace that is completely manageable for your child. Firecracker felt capable and empowered to do his math as he went through the course. He has never been a kid who looked forward to math, and he didn’t complain about having to do math with this course. That’s a big deal to this Mama.
I loved the instruction for him. I loved the components of warm-ups, practice problems and stay sharp separated out in each lesson. Because the lessons were separated into pieces, it ended up being the type of program where Firecracker knew that each section would only take a few minutes here and there. That made for a much happier student. The menus are also user-friendly and easy to navigate. He didn’t need me to help him figure out what do to next, and I appreciated that.
I also appreciated the grading and weighting that the course does for the parent. Everything is perfectly weighted according to the program, and I can go and look at his grade books and progress reports. I can get a quick picture of how Firecracker is doing overall or I can look at it on a unit by unit basis.
For example, in the unit progress report that I share above, Firecracker has an excellent grade in everything except the Practice Problems for lesson 1.4. This is the lesson on writing with Roman numerals. Upon noticing that, I can open up the problems in the gradebook, and I can view his answers and the correct answers in the gradebook to see where Firecracker’s misunderstanding is occurring. As it happened, in this specific example, Firecracker and I made a Roman numeral chart so that Firecracker could have a reference to help him remember how to write larger Roman numerals.
This is just one example of how easy, user-friendly and detailed this math program is. As he works through the program, he’s closing some gaps that he had in math and enjoying himself along the way. I can see his confidence with math and his skills with math growing as he works through this program, making this program a winner at our house!