Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Dreambox, an adaptive math curriculum

As you are no doubt aware, math is a great love of mine. Another great love is adaptive curricula. I love the idea of using computer programs to help teach our children. Computer programs allow our children to receive many, many more positive reinforcements while learning than they can do with real live people.

I try to approximate this instant positive reinforcement by marking each math problem as it is done. My kids do a problem, then we check it. That way they get the immediate positive feedback on a job well done or they get immediate correction before they have the opportunity to make the same mistake over and over again. Now that my kids are older, this is easier for me to do, however, when they were just starting out with math/arithmetic, it was much, much harder for me to do as they were at such different levels.

I had the same problem when they were learning to read but managed to solve it by using an adaptive computer based curriculum called, Reading Horizons at Home. Using a computer based program allowed me to do two things. I could gainfully occupy one twin while I was doing intensive, one-on-one work with the other. The combination of mom taught phonics and the computer program worked a charm.

How I wish that Dreambox had been available when Ben and Shira were doing K-3rd grade math. Lydia has been raving about Dreambox for quite a while, so a few weeks ago I signed up for a free trial to see for myself what the big excitement was.

Oh, my goodness, this is a great program. It addresses one of the bugbears I have with so many math curricula for the wee ones. It addresses number sense. The children who use this program are not only learning how to count, but they are developing a really good sense of how the various numbers relate to each other. This makes math so much easier later on.

I was pleased to see that Dreambox teaches the children how to add mentally the same way I taught my children. My kids were adding double and triple digit numbers mentally long before they learned how to do it on paper. Place value can be a difficult concept to teach children and unless they understand place value, adding multiple digit numbers on paper can be tricky. It's much easier to teach children the mental tricks.

I like how everything in the program has a learning component (even the games) and how all learning has a fun component. Ben and Shira spent a good few hours working through Dreambox and pronounced it to be a good program. Ben, in particular would have benefited from this program as fine motor skills came to him later than to Shira. He spent far too many hours being frustrated by his difficulty in getting what was in his mind onto paper. In retrospect, this difficulty was a blessing because it forced me to do a lot of mental arithmetic with the kids and to devise systems that made it easier for him. However, it would have been so much easier for all of us if we'd had a computer based program of this calibre available to us.

I would also have appreciated being able to give intensive practice on Dreambox to one child while working with the other. You have no idea how many issues we had for a while as a result of my twins asynchronous math and reading development. I had to keep them well out of earshot of each other during instruction as the twin who struggled with a concept in comparison to the other would give up learning and think s/he was stupid. I am so glad those days are over.

I know this program is geared to the K-3 crowd, but I think it is also perfectly suited to gifted preschoolers. These youngsters are often hamstrung by their inability to put pen to paper effectively. Dreambox allows these gifted youngsters to feed their inquiring minds without being held back by their physical development.

I want to thank Dreambox for being a sponsor of this year's Book Arts Bash for without sponsors, our homeschooled novelists would not have a forum to showcase their work.

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