As more of our children approach school age, I’m realizing the importance of fostering as much independence as possible when it comes to homeschooling so that I’m available to help whomever needs it at the moment. Math has been one subject where that seems feasible, so we were excited to get a chance to review GPALOVEMATH
, an online math program from GPA LEARN
GPALOVEMATH offers a complete web-based math curriculum for grades K-5. Because the entire program is online, it can be accessed from both computers and tablets (though recent Kindle Fire updates have created incompatibility issues that are currently being addressed).
There are over 150 lessons for each grade, so at a pace of 4-5 lessons per week, a student can complete a grade in about 10 months. Each grade level has a particular “Learning Coach” who helps guide students through their lessons. Both my boys have been going through the 1st grade course, so their Learning Coach is Pi the Penguin.
Each lesson consists of three parts: Instruction
, and Quiz
. In the Instruction
section, the Learning Coach guides the student through the content of the lesson. The student clicks through slides while listening to their Coach read aloud the words at the bottom of each one.
The Practice section gives the student a chance to work through problems without being scored. They have three “life lines” available if they need help, and once they give an answer they are told whether or not it is correct.
The final section is the Quiz, which consists of 10 questions. Students enter their answers but don’t know whether or not they were correct until after the entire quiz has been completed. They are awarded badges and earn points based on how many correct answers they gave. It’s not necessary to complete the Instruction and Practice sections first, so if the student feels like they can answer the questions without going through those, they are free to jump straight to the quiz.
In addition to the lessons, GPALOVEMATH offers an “Engage” section, a private social network that allows the child to interact with parents and preapproved friends online. I don’t feel our children are ready to use the computer in this way, so we didn’t utilize this feature at all.
My boys’ favorite feature was the “Motivate” section. When we first created their accounts, I was able to set up a list of rewards which would be awarded after a set number of lessons. (The more rewards I selected, the more often they were given.) The rewards included things like extra screen time, baking cookies with Mom, getting to choose what’s for dinner, having a parent complete one of their chores… you get the picture. In addition to these automatic rewards, students can use the points they earn after completing lessons to “purchase” rewards (which then wait for approval from the parent). In addition to things around the house, there are even opportunities to use their points toward gift cards (available in limited quantities, but with new ones available every so often). Talk about motivation!
Our Experience with GPALOVEMATH
When I first created our accounts, I was worried that the program was going to be overwhelming. It took a while to set up the rewards list (there were SO many things to choose from, and I was nervous about choosing the preselected option without knowing exactly what was included), and then I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out the Engage part of the website and whether or not it was necessary and/or desirable for our family.
Once we finally settled into the lessons, however, things flowed smoothly and the boys were both able to work pretty independently. The only time my involvement was required was when they had selected a reward and needed it approved. Other than that, they pretty much just worked through their lessons on their own while I watched on the TV hooked up to our laptop to make sure they were understanding.
Ian realized right away that the first grade lessons were pretty easy for him, and he skipped right to the quiz on almost every lesson. At the time I couldn’t find an easy way to change his grade level, so I just left him in first and figured he’d solidify his foundational skills. (When we initially began the program, each grade level was purchased separately. However it has now been updated so that each user has access to ALL the grade levels, which has made it much simpler to adjust. This was a GREAT change that makes the program so much more user-friendly.)
Even without going through the Instruction and Practice sections, both boys usually found the questions fairly self-explanatory. Occasionally we ran into problems where even I couldn’t figure out what the questions was really asking for. (Elijah called me over when he was confused by a question that read, “Select the set that matches.” “Matches WHAT?” he asked. I couldn’t figure out either, and my guess ended up being the only wrong answer he got on that quiz. We also ran across one problem that marked a correct answer as incorrect. I emailed customer service with screenshots, and they emailed me the next day to let me know they had fixed the problem.
Aside from those minor glitches, the only real frustration we had was the appearance of the Learn screen. Each grade level has 3 “paths,” which allows the student some flexibility in choosing what lesson they want to work on. Once they complete a lesson, a new one unlocks. Ian had been working for a couple weeks and his screen never seemed to change from what it had looked like after the first few lessons. I couldn’t figure out why it always looked like this, even when I knew he had completed several lessons:
Eventually I realized that there were arrows on the left side of each “path,” and once we clicked on those we could reveal all the lessons he had completed.
I wish this view were available automatically, because it was discouraging for him to open up the Learn section each time and never see any apparent progress.
Overall, we’ve been pleased with GPALOVEMATH. The boys loved earning rewards, and I appreciate both the thoroughness of the program and the independence it allows. We plan to continue using it as our primary math curriculum at least until the end of this school year.