A penguin named Pi for a math teacher? With an Australian accent? Where math is fun and kids ask to do math? And they come to you with all sorts of interesting animal facts? There's a show called Ice Factor? Gift card prizes and other rewards abound? Clearly just a good, really strange dream, right?
Not at GPA LEARN, a program that was given to River to use for this review! GPA LEARN offers GPALOVEMATH, a complete, online, interactive, fun, math curriculum for students in grades Kindergarten through 5th.
To begin, River and I received two accounts for this program, a parent's account for me and a student account for him. I was able to oversee all of his work from my account, approve prizes, check his grades, and add new prizes.
Prizes? Oh yes! Seriously, these are HUGE motivation so I might as well just cut to the chase and start with rewards. Each time the student completes enough lessons, approximately five but that can vary by how many rewards have been chosen, the student gets a motivating reward. The program comes with many incentives already inputted that the parent can choose to use or the parent can add their own prizes geared towards the specific child. River had prizes like “play a game of your choosing” and "build an indoor fort”, I opted to not use any that would cost money. His first prize earned was snuggle time, which thrilled him to no end as he'd never won a prize for doing schoolwork before. He was even happier after earning "Mommy will make your bed for a day", a prize he wisely saved until his room needed a good cleaning.
It took us a while, but eventually River and I discovered the "holy grail" of prizes – after he earned enough points by completing lessons and getting good scores on them he was able to choose from available gift cards to Target and ToysRUs and other more tangible prizes. The availability of these prizes varies, sometimes there are plenty of them, sometimes you have to wait or maybe choose a reward that wasn't your first choice, but still - pretty sweet prizes. Over the course of the six week review period River earned 2 $10 gift cards to Target. Woo hoo River!
Some of the prizes:
Ok, back to the program, gotta do that to earn the rewards! For this review River did 1st grade math and used the program as a supplement to his current math curriculum.
River's GPALOVEMATH course contained three tracks; green for algebraic thinking, purple for numbers, and blue for measurements and data, as you can see in the bottom half of this image:
GPALOVEMATH lessons can be sorted and given to the student in two different ways - recommended order or by topics. We opted to go in recommended order, which allows the program to only make available to the student lessons the child has the proper background information for. Initially he only had lessons available in two of the tracks, after he completed a few lessons a lesson in the third track become available also. The program is geared to allow the student some flexibility by offering the different tracks, but to not ever get ahead of their abilities. If River had fallen in love with the blue track and done lesson after lesson in it eventually no more lessons would be available until he caught up in the other tracks.
Each animated video lesson began with a short introduction, followed by a lesson narrated by an Australian penguin (because who else would teach math??). Sprinkled throughout the lesson are animal facts, which relate to the tv show "Ice Factor" the penguin and the student are creating. Ice Factor gives the lessons a little more interest and fun, instead of just being math lessons. When River would learn new animal facts he would come running to me to share his new knowledge, those little facts were a great diversion for him. After the lesson River worked through some practice questions with the penguin and then answered 10 questions in a short quiz. The lessons take about 15 minutes each to complete and we tried to do 3-4 lessons per week. Most of the time River was able to do the lessons independently, just asking questions if he didn't understand the instructions of a quiz question.
As soon as a quiz was completed I would receive an e-mail letting me know he'd completed it and what his score was. The higher the grade the more points toward gift cards; needless he say he tried for 10 out of 10 each time. If he didn't do well on a quiz he could easily retake it and didn't have to go through the entire lesson again.
- River liked the penguin. He thought being taught by a penguin was a lot of fun.
- River loved the prizes, as did I. I thought it was pretty ingenious to offer rewards that really didn't cost anything but allowed River to feel like he was getting something really special.
- Information was presented logically, at a reasonable rate. He never felt overwhelmed or as if he'd missed some information somewhere.
- We both liked that if he wasn't sure about some of the words he could click a button and have the quiz questions read out loud.
- I liked receiving his quiz results. It let me know how he was doing and that he was working, without hovering over him.
Minor things we didn't like as much:
- The voice of the penguin sounded like poor quality voice recognition software. At times it seemed fuzzy and hard to understand.
- There were a few glitches in the program. On one quiz question no answer was accepted and he couldn't move forward, on another the answer was just plain wrong. I have no doubt that this is because the program is newer and that these quirks will be worked out, and it was only two questions out of a few hundred. And, to be honest, he appreciated being smarter than the program and we got a good giggle out of it. For example there's this one, which we decided was probably just "new math":
River will be continuing with this program but I'm going to move him up to the 2nd grade level to give him a little head start for next year.
GPALOVEMATH is available from GPA LEARN for kindergarteners through fifth graders. An annual subscription is $129 and includes all grades.
Click the image below to read more reviews by the This Old Schoolhouse Review Crew. If you decide to use GPALOVEMATH stop back and let me know what you think.