Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Teaching Textbooks

I recently bought Teaching Textbooks Math 6 from a fellow Canuck blogger. It's a program I've been curious about for awhile for a few reasons. The first is that I sometimes find it really hard to explain concepts, even simple ones, to Catherine in a way she understands. TT has a software component with lectures and worked problems so that seemed like it might be a good solution. Second, Catherine loves software programs. Third, TT keeps track of progress for the software portion making for easy record keeping when you're a lazy homeschool mom.

Last week I installed the program (which requires registering the product with TT, something that can only be done on two computers apparently before it will refuse to install again and you need to have further discussions with the TT people) and Catherine eagerly checked it out. Demos can be tried on the TT homepage but the basic routine is that the child chooses a lesson, listens to a lecture, tries some practice problems then goes on to complete an exercise on the computer consisting of about 20 questions. The results are logged into the printable "grade book" for later review. Nifty. There's also a full text/workbook but after the first few lessons Catherine didn't bother with it. She was getting between 90 and 100% right on each lesson so why bother when she's mastered the lesson?

There was a reason Catherine was doing so well though. Although Math 6 is meant for a grade 6 level the initial review lessons were on things like place value, addition and subtraction; stuff she's had a firm grip on for several years. Looking at the table of contents I didn't notice anything that would be particularly challenging for Catherine or any reasonably skilled grade 4 or 5 math student. At this point it will simply be review and practice for Catherine and at the speed she's going I don't expect it will take more then a couple of months to complete.

Another problem I had with the program was the very reason I was interested in it in the first place - the explanations in the lectures. At one point Catherine was given a quiz with a question on long addition that went something like, "Carrying is when part of the sum is carried to the next column: true or false?" Catherine called me over, not happy with the question at all. She knew that according to her lecture, "true" was probably the right response but she also knew, from her Singapore work, that the whole concept of carrying, especially with that definition, wasn't a good description of what actually goes on in long addition. In fact, it covers up the truth of what happens in terms of place value. I think I'd rather muddle through explanations on my own thank you very much.

Regardless of my complaints, Catherine enjoys it. She wants to work through it and I can't see it taking up too much time so we'll stick with it for now. I'll probably add in Singapore or Key to Decimals again fairly soon though for real work. TT Math 6, with Catherine, basically amounts to easy fun.


Heather said...

Hi! I'm glad she's enjoying it. I do agree with some of your criticisms of the program -- it is very 'easy' and sometimes the explanations are simplistic.

But the great thing about it for us was that my son really loved doing it and it gave him confidence that he actually COULD do math after all! Now that we've crossed that hurdle and math is no longer a huge stumbling block for him, we are using a program with more comprehension and detailed understanding (RightStart).

I'm still considering going back to TT for the high school math levels though. We'll see!

concernedCTparent said...

Hey Dawn- have you tried ALEKS? It's online, it regularly assesses for mastery, and the explanations and glossary have made things pretty clear. Most of all, there's a 2-month free trial for homeschoolers if you sign up here:


And when they say free, they mean free and full access with no need to provide any payment information at all to set up an account. My kids got so much out of it (and I appreciate the reporting aspect of it for portfolios) that we ended up purchasing a subscription when the two months ended.

You have the flexibility to move from one level to another during your trial so you should be able to find the right placement during that time.

At certain points the program tests for mastery- in the even Catherine masters 90% of the material, it will give you the option to move up to the next level or finish the remaining 10% before doing so.

concernedCTparent said...

Oh yes, and the quick tables element is great too. Fact mastery that earns you time on some fun math games.

Dawn said...

Thanks for the ALEKS recomendation! I signed Catherine up yesterday for the pre-algebra trial and she's having a ball so far. It's everything she liked about TT and easier for me to build extra work with TT, Key to... and the Singapore books around. Sort of fits my "work around a spine" style.

Heather - I think you've outlined why I'm definitely going to hang on to TT, whether Catherine pursues it to it's end or not, for Harry. It is engaging and I can (hopefully) see it drawing in Harry who doesn't have the same focus and discipline as Catherine.

concernedCTparent said...

I'm glad Catherine's enjoying it.

I just noticed that ALEKS may have changed things a bit since my children did the free trial. I clicked on the link I gave you and it said 48-hour trial. Did it do that for you too?

Here's a one-month trial link in the event they only gave you 48 hours (which would stink):


Petra said...


I found your blog when I was looking to find a used TT set for us to "move up" in a few weeks. My ds10 has been using TT for almost two years and it works really well for him.

I suggest that you try the placement tests before moving up. My ds moved from his old math curriculum (K12) Math3 to Teaching Textbooks Math6 without any trouble transitioning. I think the "grade levels" are kind of wonky in TT.

Good luck and thanks for the review. I love it, but agree with some of your issues.

: ) P