May 18, 2011

Mad Dog Math

I have alluded before in this blog to my finger counting habit. I have seen signs that some of my children are developing the same "hide your hands behind your back while adding or subtracting and pray no one knows you are counting on your fingers" routine and have spent much of this year working on drills and the like with the goal that none of the youngers grow up to feel math-handicapped like their mother and one or two of their older sisters. We have done flashcards, counting games and speed drills utilizing M&Ms as well as extra "seat work" in their math books with varying degrees of success. When we had the chance to try Mad Dog Math for free in exchange for an unbiased review most of my children groaned. They are done with math. No more, no way, no how. They were reminded that they agreed to be guinea pigs when we started this year with The Old School House Review Crew. They had liked the idea then, were even excited about that point the year's educational horizon was vast and seemed rich with promise. Now they looked at me suspiciously, like sailors facing endless water with no land in sight weeks past the end of their enlistment term and desperately in need of a bath!

We downloaded the software, got the cute dog icon on the desktop. I started at the very bottom level. 100% correct in 36 seconds--hey! Maybe I am not so inept in math, after all! Well..OK. So this was just addition, 0-3, but it's a start, right?

I continued on. Each level I passed a dog barking could be heard. The dogs lying under the table perked up their ears (why are those dogs inside? The goats they are supposed to be protecting are outside!) After the third level Noah (age 6) and Timothy (11) were at my elbow watching. After the fourth level Liberty (age 8) had joined them. By level five Noah and Timothy were begging to take a turn but I played it cool. "No, I do not think so...I am busy today and I do not want to have to take the time to get y'all logged in..." In actuality it is super simple--simply click on the green bone labeled "log in", enter your name and you are all set to go. The software accepts a seemingly endless number of players (or students). Tracking how students are doing is almost mindless--log them in, and then click on the bone labeled "progress". You will be taken to a page that shows the levels completed and the level of mastery (ie speed) with which the student completes the answers correctly.

When a student is able to complete each level in less than two minutes they earn a "sticker". When they can complete them in one minute, another sticker and when they have mastered the level by demonstrating the ability to finish the level in thirty seconds or less they get yet another sticker. The parent can set the amount of time that they want the student to ave available to them for answering the set of problems. The option is also provided to do the drills un-timed for those students who need more time or who tend to freeze when under pressure. One particularly appreciated aspect of the software is how simple it is to progress through the drills. No hitting enter, or two or three step process--type the answer (say, "5" under "3+2") and the program automatically moves to the next problem. This may sound like a detail not worth mentioning but when you have children who may not be coordinated or who get easily frustrated by having to remember steps involved in answering rather than simply working on math fact mastery it can make a difference. This program gets to the heart of the matter--what math facts do you know and how fast can you relay those facts. This is nice when you have a student struggling or one who is younger, with a shorter attention span. It is also very beneficial that the drills are s short--five or ten minutes a day will work wonders towards mastery--but I never could get my children to stick to five or ten minutes daily--they drank in Mad Dog Math as if it were crystal clear water to parched sailors on a blistering ocean...until mom demanded her laptop be returned.

Mad Dog Math is available as a software download for $19.99 for one year, $29.99 for two years or $39.99 for a perpetual license. Parents can also purchase the program in binder or CD-Rom form. Flash cards, timers, certificates are also available from the company, though by no means essential to using the program successfully. All in all, Mad Dog Math was a very enjoyable discovery, one that interjected a breath of fresh air to a school year that was struggling in the doldrums and needing a fresh breeze to move the ship along.


Dawn said...

Thanks for the review on this. I still count on my fingers too. *blush*

Anonymous said...

As a fingercounter myself I think it's great you are doing this.