Tuesday, March 17, 2015

TOS Review: GPALOVEMATH developed by GPA LEARN

Critical Thinking Company Review

The company GPA LEARN developed a product called GPALOVEMATH that we recently had the privilege and honor to review. We received an online subscription and access to SIX grade levels for a FULL YEAR. My daughter truly enjoys this program and I must say that I am more than impressed with it. My favorite subject to teach is Math, but I always use an online educational program to supplement the core curriculum.  

Product Description
GPALOVEMATH is an online, web-based mathematics program geared towards children in grades K-5. It offers over 150 lessons per grade level in addition to at least 10,000 practice problems for each grade level. We started using it after signing up for a free trial. We primarily used and focused our attention on the Third Grade Scope and Sequence lead by the learning coach, Abacus. Each grade level has a specific animated learning coach that gives instruction on a concept with sample problems. My daughter really likes Abacus, because he motivates and encourages her to complete the lessons. 

On the Learn Page, you will notice three paths on the lesson map that your child can follow: Green, Purple, and Blue. Lessons are unlocked as a child completes required lessons in a recommended order. Lessons must be unlocked in order to complete them. The locked lessons are shaded gray. Although, you do have the option of choosing specific skills or concepts to work on for each grade instead of following the suggested order.

Three standards are addressed in the LEARN section:
  1. Operations and Algebraic Thinking
  2. Numbers, Base Ten, and Fractions
  3. Geometry, Measurement, and Data  
The program took Alyssa through a sequence of "game-like" structured lessons: Instruction, Practice, and Quiz. She could hop between any of the three sections within one lesson. She could advance or review material as needed. She worked at her OWN, individualized pace which is an important aspect of the program. She even liked that she could retake a quiz or relearn the material since mastery was her ultimate goal.

The online learning math program is organized into three MAIN components:
  • Instruction
Each grade level has a specific learning coach that teaches your child a particular concept or set of skills     covering sample problems using a thorough, step-by-step direct instruction format. The program teaches using a slide format similar to a powerpoint. There are red and green arrows which gave Alyssa control over the pace of her lesson. The orientation lesson explains that the child's responsibility is tolisten carefully, say the problem, and solve problems mentally. However, we always kept a pencil and scrap paper nearby. Colorful graphics were used to depict terminology, manipulatives, and examples. The bulleted "Process Reviews" were greatly appreciated and served as a way to summarize the lesson. 

My daughter was rewarded with a dance break upon completion of the instructional lesson. She liked that she could change the strobe light colors. When he praised her with a strobe light dance, she would join in on the fun! 
  • Practice 
During the practice session, Alyssa was asked to solve problems. She submitted her answers with a yellow forward arrow found at the bottom right corner of the problem screen. A green checkmark replaced the arrow for correct answers and a red "try again" arrow was seen for incorrect answers. The learning coach guided her through the examples and positively praised her efforts.
  • Quiz
The quiz begins immediately after the practice session concludes. This part of the lesson is done independently without the online instructor's help. Alyssa had the opportunity to apply what she learned to problems. She had the option of moving forward and backwards if she wasn't ready for the quiz section. I loved that more challenging questions using the word, "NOT" were included. There isn't a back button. However, there is a "play again" button enabling the child to retry the entire quiz or sequence of lessons. Most of the quizzes contained 15 questions with 2-4 answer choices. A variety of question formats were used including but not limiting to true/false, yes/no, type in the numerical answer, choose an operation or "plan of attack" and so forth. I was pleasantly surprised by the variety and types of answer solutions.

The quiz was graded automatically and the results with points acquired were given as immediate feedback upon completion of the quiz. Data was sent to my e-mail address. Alyssa was also able to review missed problems. The original problem, incorrect answer, and the correct answer were shown. The screenshot below displays the possible scoring results. She's constantly telling me the number of points she's earned, the level she accomplished, and which badge was obtained.

My daughter, Alyssa (Age 7), used the GPALOVEMATH online learning program as a supplement to her core math curriculum. She utilized the program at least 4-5 times per week for a minimum of 15-40 minutes covering at least one lesson each day. There's a good chance that she'll complete the third grade curriculum in less than the estimated 10 months working at this pace. Occasionally, she would work through a second lesson just for fun.

We chose to follow the recommended scope and sequence order for the third grade curriculum. The third grade scope and sequence covers multiplication, division, fractions, geometry, time, and more. She was allowed to  choose any unlocked lesson from any color path. The skills addressed in this grade level were more relevant to her core curriculum. Just a few of the subtopics she covered were Combining Shapes, Angles: Acute, Obtuse, and Right, Symmetry, Quadrilaterals, Adding with Expanded Form, Parallel, Perpendicular, and Intersecting Lines, Time to the Minute, 2-Step Word Problems, Problem Solving with 3-Digit Numbers, and Multiplication on a Number Line. Most of these lessons served as a review for Alyssa.  

This program enabled her to learn and practice the skills providing for enrichment and reinforcement. The material is often presented differently from what I've taught her so it exposes her to new material and gives her the tools she needs to figure out problems in multiple ways for the future. This curriculum will not only review and maintain the skills that she's currently learning, but it also helped fill in gaps we didn't know existed and taught concepts we haven't yet covered which was a blessing.  

Supported platforms include Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac computers, Apple iPad, and Samsung Galaxy Tab 4. The following browsers are supported: Google Chrome, Internet Explorer 11, Mozilla Firefox, and Apple Safari 6 and 7. Chrome was used as our preferred browser on a MAC computer. The only thing we needed was our computer and an Internet connection. No software or downloads were necessary to stream this online math program. Your log-in information will be sent to you via e-mail. Thankfully, the lessons were portable on the iPad for those on-the-go errand days.

Features We Like
Reward System
I can't say enough about the built-in motivational reward system created for this program. Alyssa's favorite thing about the program was earning rewards. In the beginning, I was given the choice of either creating a customized reward system or using the auto build list. The customized reward list gave me the chance to manually choose available rewards for Alyssa based on her interests. This section contained over 100 options. My daughter told me which rewards she liked most and we added the reasonable and agreed upon ones to her list. I later reorganized the rewards so that there would still be an element of surprise. The auto reward list gave five popular rewards that you could use to motivate your child up to 15 times a year. 

Earned rewards showed up in Alyssa's backpack. Each reward tells the child how many more points are needed to purchase specific items. She can't wait to earn extra baking time together, craft time, more snuggle time, and later bedtimes. Alyssa's ultimate favorite "five star" rewards were the Marketplace prizes offering $10 or $25 e-gift cards to purchase with points earned. She bought three e-gift cards during the review period. I love the fact that I can reward her educational accomplishments. She also has a blast rating the rewards which helps me understand what motivates her best. I am now more involved in and supporting her online learning. She has a positive, happier attitude towards online math and her confidence level regarding "new" math problems has increased. The reward system definitely motivates Alyssa!
Gift Card Purchase

Engage Tab
We were able to communicate about what she was learning, how many points and which rewards she earned, and how she was doing through the program's messaging system. I loved reading her messages to me! She felt like she was a big girl with an "e-mail" account. I haven't seen anything like this in any other math program. I saw it as another avenue to pass on more positive praise and encouragement while building communication skills.

Online Math Manipulatives
The program used a variety of familiar online math manipulatives such as base ten blocks, counters, number lines, geoboards, pattern blocks, and clocks to explain concepts. For some exercises, Alyssa was able to click and drag manipulatives to the work space.

Prime Directive
The student's main objective for the lesson was clearly stated on-screen.

Vocabulary Addressed
Math vocabulary terms were illustrated and explained thoroughly. They were often shown in a chart or graphic organizer.

Parent Emails
The automated reports and e-mail notifications with immediate feedback were most helpful in keeping me updated on Alyssa's progress. Each time Alyssa finished a lesson, a progress report was sent summarizing her score indicating what she accomplished in a certain amount of time on a certain date. The program also noted any skipped or completed sections. It was based on real-time data. I had the ability to glance at her e-mailed report from the other room enabling me to see how she was doing without disturbing her lessons. Additionally, I received a weekly digest stating her progress for the week. You can only print the records from your e-mail.

Problems Read Aloud
One aspect that we thought would be great for younger children who are not yet reading was that if you clicked on the text, the problem would be read aloud.  

This feature shows you a summary of your child's progress including the total number of lessons completed and attempted, the number of completed lessons done over a two-week time period, a goal progress tracker, your engage activity, upcoming rewards, and other information. It also included the level (master or apprentice) and type of badge earned (rockstar, excellent, and nice job).

24/7 Access to ALL Grade Level Content
I appreciated having access to several grade levels which enabled me to differentiate her learning experience if one grade level wasn’t the best fit for her. I LOVED the fact that she could work on several grade levels at once with our subscription any time of the day.

Possible Vendor Suggestions
  • Amazon e-gift cards would make wonderful reward options!
  • Is there a way that paper and pencil problems could be solved in a work space on the screen using an online writing tool?
  • Explanations for "why" problems were incorrect would be helpful in the quiz section. I think it is important for students to understand "why" a problem was incorrect and not just that they got it wrong without necessarily having to redo all or parts of a lesson. 
  • The cost of this online program is too high for my budget. Including all grade levels in one subscription will increase the value of the program and help validate the cost. Could you offer different subscription plans? For example, parents can be offered the choice of purchasing the current subscription plan for all grade levels at $129 or they can purchase individual grade level subscriptions for a reduced price. Furthermore, could a discount be offered for additional children in larger families using the program? 
  • I was hoping there would be another dance break after the practice session before immediately starting the quiz.

There's a special introductory price of $129 per child for the online annual subscription (retail price of $149) when you use the promo code GPAINTRO15 at checkout. A payment plan of $12.99 per month was also offered. This is the price for ONE student having access to ALL grade levels (K-5th)!

What does that mean to you? 

It means you can differentiate learning. If a child is struggling with one particular math concept, then they can complete lessons from an earlier grade level as a review or for reteaching purposes. Children can also move ahead at their own pace by working on higher grade level concepts. This flexibility is outstanding! Alyssa was curious and wants to check out the lower grade levels too. 

NoteAll prices at the time of this review posting are subject to change.

Overall Thoughts and Opinions
My daughter rated this program as "the best" out of the ones we've tried and let me tell you . . .  we've tried many online math programs. Even though a subscription gives us access to ALL grade levels, unfortunately the price is still out of my budget. If I could afford this math program, then it would definitely without a doubt become her new web-based math supplemental program in the future. In my opinion, it's a comprehensive and complete curriculum that can be used as a stand alone product or as a supplement. If practice worksheets accompanied each lesson, then this would be a top-notched core math curriculum we'd have to consider.     

We will definitely continue using our subscription until the day it expires! This program actually served as a reward itself, because Alyssa wanted to complete her core math assignment neatly and quickly so that she could do her online work which follows. The program is fun, educational, interactive, and user-friendly. If we don't get to her core math assignment for the day, I feel pretty confident that math was covered when she completes one of GPA LEARN's lessons. I know that Alyssa is receiving an exceptional foundation in math using this solid web-based program.

Are you ready to sign-up for the free trial and check it out for yourself?

I highly recommend the yearly subscription to GPALOVEMATH created by GPA LEARN (Great Parents Academy) to ALL homeschool families if they can afford it. Furthermore, I would also recommend GPALOVEMATH for classroom settings in both public and private schools. It will be very beneficial to visual learning students struggling in math that enjoy computer-based, interactive online learning.

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