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Homeschool Crew Review: MathScore

Wow, it’s a good thing our family likes math because we have reviewed a lot of math programs this year!  Among all these, MathScore stands out because it’s a drill program that’s all about math, instead of being mathematical entertainment.  Entertainment is fine in its place, but a good, solid math drill program that goes from 1+1=2 right up to quadratic equations is worth its weight in gold.  Rather than flashy fun, MathScore has a simple military rank reward system that provides exactly  the right amount of motivation.  This program is a very good fit for our family.  

Summary

MathScore is an online math practice program, an effective, no-frills way to help your children achieve mastery in any of 222 topics from grade 1 through Algebra 1.  Parental reporting is superb, with detailed daily emails and a well-organized student history available on the parental account.  This is an excellent supplement to any math curriculum, and has been shown to increase students’ test scores significantly.   

The Program

MathScore begins by training the children to use the keypad quickly and accurately.  This is foundational for the timed arithmetic drills that follow.  (If necessary, a parent can add padding to the time.  For example, I have given Miss 7 an extra 1.5 seconds to do each problem.) Once children know the keypad, they are expected to work on fast addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, depending on grade level.  Of course, older students can skip these levels if they wish.  

Other topics can be chosen from a huge list. Topics are offered by grade level, but a student can choose to access those listed for different grade levels as well.  In this way it is possible to use MathScore to practice topics introduced in the children’s regular math curriculum.  

For each topic, the children are offered a mini lesson and sample problems to study, although they can ignore these if they wish.  Each time the children finish a worksheet they are given their results and points as well as detailed answers to problems they got wrong.  If they did well, they will get a more difficult worksheet or even have the option to skip several worksheets.  If they did not do well, another worksheet is generated at their level. When they reach a certain level in their topic, fireworks celebrate the accomplishment.

The children do all this work on a minimalist screen.  Although some complain the screen is not visually appealing, others find that its simplicity enhances concentration.  

The biggest incentive in MathScore is success.  Each online worksheet is a race against the clock and there’s huge joy when a child can manage the next level of a topic in a given amount of time.  (As I said before, there’s a time padding option for children who just cannot succeed in the given time.)  As children move through the topics, they can also see their list of completed topics as well as the number of points earned.

Each topic is worth a certain number of points.  A child’s rank goes up with the points he or she earns, from Trainee through various ranks of Cadets and Petty Officers to Ensign, Lieutenant and beyond.   Awards are given upon completion of a series of topics.

Reporting to Parents

Of all online and computer math programs I’ve seen, this one has the best, simplest, and most thorough parent reporting system.  Everyday I get an email telling me in compact detail what the children did the day before and I can log onto the site to get much more information, right back to when we signed up: what they worked on, how well they did, how many sheets they completed, how much time they spent, whether they are on track or really need improvement, and more.  Because my computer is slow I appreciate how quickly this information downloads.  I don’t have to wait at all!  Note that it is possible to change how often you get an email.  I like knowing every day so that I can catch a slacker immediately.

How We Use It

I assign Miss 7 and Miss 9 10-20 minutes a day on MathScore, depending on what else they’re doing for math that day.  Miss 12 has been asked to do 30 minutes a week.  Mr. 14 will be whizzing through some of the high school topics as a review and to improve his speed, and I’ve just assigned him a 30 minutes a week as well.

  • Miss 7 (grade 2) has 31 topics, including addition, odd and even, and telling time.  She has 500 points and has reached Trainee status.
  • Miss 9 (grade 4) has 57 topics, including parentheses, factoring, fractions, and graphs.  She has 7800 points, is a Petty Officer, and has a Math Facts Wizard award.
  • Miss 12 (grade 7) has 92 topics, including fractions, exponents, interest, absolute value, and algebraic terms.   She has over 16,000 points and currently has the rank of Lieutenant , but she has no awards since she was able to skip much of the work required for the awards.  
  • Master 14 (high school) has 69 topics, including exponents, radical expressions, probability, and more.  He has about 300 points and is considered a Trainee.

MathScore is satisfying work. I didn’t realize just how satisfying until I saw Miss 9 sit back after a difficult achievement, gazing at her modest fireworks with a deep, quiet sense of accomplishment.  Slowly she’s building up her math ability as well as her rank  She’s been very worried about doing division, but now she’s joyfully surprised that she can even do that!

So far Miss 12 and Mr. 14 find MathScore easy.  Although they are both superb problem-solvers, a small investment of time weekly will give them the subtle advantage of confidence and speed.  This is helpful in their everyday math studies, and will also help them when they participate in their annual math competitions later this year.

Miss 7, a hands-on girl who often still adds using her fingers and toes, seems to be close to the limit of what she can accomplish with MathScore.  I don’t want to push her because she just does not seem ready for serious arithmetic yet—but she can work out any reasonable math problem applied to real life.

Our Bottom Line

Although there are dozens of online and computer math programs, many of them are so much fun that the children spend much of their time playing games.  MathScore is not like that.  It focuses on math and speed, and is very effective. 

There’s nothing quite like seeing your little girl work hard and then realize that she has accomplished something big.  I think the MathScore developers are on to something.  Real accomplishments are rewarding in themselves.  Gimmicks may be fun and exciting, but there’s something special about the way Miss 9 sat there reflecting on her success.  Seeing that made me fall in love with the program.

More Opinions

To see other homeschool parents’ opinions, please visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog.  You can also preview the program, or sign up for a free half month trial. Dial-up families, please note that MathScore may be difficult for your family to use.  Try the free half month trial to see if it would work for you.   

To Purchase

There are a number of options for your MathScore subscription with the cost per child decreasing dramatically after the first child.  It is also possible to pay lump sums, which will give you bonus credit.

Disclosure Policy:   As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received six months of MathScore access for four children for free, in order to be able to write this review. 

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One Comment

  1. Aycee says:

    My kids have used Mathscore for 9 mo.’s and I LOVE it. My girl finished 3rd grade not knowing her times tables, and she was slow, really slow on +/- facts that she did know. 2nd grade at public school didn’t help. Picture a girl working on a math paper with the rest of the class in a circle around her table complaining that she was depriving them of playground time by being so slow. Yeah, every day for an entire school year. She was demoralized, and 3rd grade homeschool math took hours to complete. Flash cards with my drama queen were making me turn grey prematurely. It was bad. Really bad. ‘Nuff said.

    We tried Kumon, but they passed her on to the next worksheets even if she didn’t complete the previous ones in the time limit. That’s not what I was paying $110/mo. for! My son began begging me to enroll him in Kumon b/c all the best math students went there, and he wanted to be as good as they. At $220/mo.? Sorry kid. Just broke my heart to bits.

    Here’s the order we finally did things in:
    1. practice Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing (a computer program) just to learn correct fingering for the 10 key number pad, costs like $10. (Mathscore does have an option to input answers using the mouse to click on a calculator-like input device called a keypad. It’s a good option for the littlest kids, but for real speed, you need the keyboard skills.)
    2. buy the full version of Timez Attack (another computer program) that now has addition, subtraction and division facts too. Work until the program tells you to rest. Work every day — Christmas, Sundays, birthday. Every. Single. Day. Work until you can pass the first level in whatever you’re working on, like times 2 facts.
    3. pause with Timez Attack and start with Mathscore. Work a set amount every day. We did 10 min. of worksheet time. Work until you can pass the times 2 facts there too. Then pause the Mathscore, and start back on the Timez Attack for times 3 facts. (Uhh…”Pause the Mathscore” is a figure of speech. If you repeatedly freeze and unfreeze your account in a way that suggests to a human being, i.e. not a computer algorithm, that you are abusing the system, they will refuse to do business with you. But c’mon, it’s so cheap! Pay it just to have it at hand and ready to go.)

    The outcome? O.K. folks, I’m not lying here, SHE MADE UP 2 YEARS IN 3 MONTHS!!! I know, right? How is that even possible?!? Here’s how I define two years’ gains: Calvert Math said that by the end of 3rd grade she should be able to complete the math drill sheet in 5 min. In May, the end of 3rd grade, it took her about 10 min. to do it. The 4th grade lesson manual said that by the end of 4th, she should be able to do the same drill sheet in 4 min. Yikes! We spent the summer engaged in the process listed above. At the beginning of Sept. (the start of her 4th grade) she could do the Calvert drill sheets in, like, 3 min. and 30-something seconds, consistently. She had made the 4th grade time gains before 4th grade even began! Hand over my heart, folks. (And then she took a trip to Grandma’s and did nothing for 2 weeks, forgot a ton, and it took us until the end of Oct. to recover, so I really can’t stress the everyday-ness of it enough.) She is currently #12 on the high scores board for grade 4, and let me tell you something — #11 better have been working on Sun. night; he better not rest a minute, because my girl is right on his heels.

    I could afford to enroll my math-ish son, and he is going like gangbusters. Learned all, and I mean all, that his 6th grade Calvert Math book had to teach him mid-way through the year, through a combination of Mathscore and the homeschool math club. He is now in the Art of Problem Solving books, which never would have happened without the Mathscore. Calvert Math doesn’t teach how to do computation with negative numbers at his level, and that was a prerequisite to enrolling in the AoPS. But his Mathscore work had it covered. Look on the high scores board for grade 6, currently my boy is #9.

    There are lots of goodies for the gifted kid. All topics have levels above 100. Multiplication drills go up to the 25’s! And here’s the very best one — any topic can be mastered in, like, 6 worksheets, about 5-10 min. work. Seriously, if you know how to do it, and can produce it within the time limit with zero mistakes, it takes just minutes to get all those points, all those trophies. The reviewer above let her 12 y.o. just skip them. Don’t do that! Just say, “You know it, huh? Good, that’s an easy 1025 points for you. 6 sheets, knock it out.” There were many times that my son and I were convinced he knew a topic really well, and yes, he’s skipped many levels, but often ended up grinding away at the last level. Don’t skip. “Comp out” instead and get the points. BTW, nothing like that at Kumon, where everyone starts at 1st grade, level 1A, regardless of past achievement, and will be required to work EVERY SINGLE SHEET.

    I’m not going to say it was easy to get them to work at it. My girl was bruised, and every time the computer called her a stupid loser (at least in her mind) chairs would be overturned, doors slammed, screaming and crying so loud the neighbors could hear. But at least it wasn’t directed at me! I got to be the good guy, say the right things, make it better. And the computer didn’t care, didn’t shout back, wasn’t moved by pity to lower the standards. Computers are good that way. My girl was motivated to continue when she passed Fast Multiplication. She told me, “Mommy, I love Mathscore! I’m not a loser at math anymore!” Simple relief motivated her.

    My son was excited by the new insignia he kept earning. But now the biggest motivation is the high scores board. When they ask, “Why do we have to work on the weekend?” my answer is, “Well, ol’ CW is working today. You don’t want to lose rank, do you? (and BTW, they have, and had to fight to get it back) You’re in the big leagues now kids. Your competition is working. Now are going to or not?” Motivates them every time. Nothing like that at Kumon. Why do Kumon kids work? Because Mom’s a jerk and making them, that’s why.

    Can I be real with you homeschool moms? I’m just going to tell you how it is. Mathscore time is when I get my dishes done. There are written lessons on each topic and if that’s not enough, now there are links to Khan Academy videos on many of them. It’s pretty rare that they ask me for help nowadays.

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