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TOS Crew Review — Mad Dog Math

May 18th, 2011

With school age kids ranging from Kindergarten to eighth grade, my younger kids seem to have a greater drive to learn early because they want to do what everyone else is doing. Recently my younger two took an interest in learning about multiplication. Not typically part of the scope and sequence for Kindergarten and first grade, we decided to give it a try anyway.

At the same time we received Mad Dog Math to review and this was a great opportunity for them to learn their basic math facts on their own. We did a quick little lesson on what multiplication means and how to figure out the answer and then sent them off. They started with reviewing some of their addition and subtraction, and then could switch to level 3 and work on some of their new found understanding of “times.” Now they feel like big kids. ๐Ÿ™‚

See a little more of what this program is all about in this video they put together (this is a little long — just under 10ย  minutes):

Product: Mad Dog Math

Details: A downloadable program that helps kids in K-5 practice their basic facts in a systematic, easy to use format. They get a set of problems to answer in a period of time and gradually progress to more difficult problems.

Price: $19.95 for a one year license, $29.99 for 2 years, $39.99 for perpetual license

What we loved . . .

  • Basic presentation. Not a flashy, “read a 100 page manual” program. Download, read a paragraph of instructions, and start drilling. My kindergartener was on it within two minutes of getting it on and he flew through the first through levels as he got used to the program.
  • Covers all the basic operations. This one program will cover addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division in one computer based program so you won’t have to keep flash cards around that mostly got used by your toddler to decorate the school room floor anyway.
  • Different levels to start at. Each child can start at their appropriate level. Level one starts at the very basic, “0 + 3.” It then very gradually progresses through each of the groupings first through addition and then subtraction. Once they can add everything up to 18 they will complete that level and earn their sticker. They can redo them to improve their times trying to complete the facts in less than 30 seconds with only a couple errors.
  • Good length. The speed drills vary in length and are appropriate for the levels they are at. As they progress they get a bit longer, but they are all able to be completed in 2 minutes by most kids. I could finish most in 15 seconds, so that allows a good bit of time for kids to find the correct number on the keyboard an move on.
  • Varied presentation. Most of the problems ask for a solution (the sum, difference, product, or quotient), but some leave out one of the other numbers that kids need to figure out instead. I like that they vary this to help kids stretch their thinking, solidify their skills, and keep it fresh.
  • Can be untimed. Some kids really struggle with the anxiety of a timed test. Mad Dog offers timings of 2 minutes, 1 minute, or 30 seconds. They also give you the choice of not being timed. This can be a great help to some kids struggling with success in this area.

Some considerations . . .

  • Simple program. While this is a plus for ease of use, it also means that it does not have some extra features that I like to look for in a program. It doesn’t track specifics of how your child is doing. It lets them continue when they have made mistakes (I like to be able to set the mastery level and change it as I see necessary). It does what it is meant to do, but not with
  • Kids need to advance themselves to the next level. Once a child has mastered one level it tells them what they need to do next, but they need to change the selection in order to move to that next step in the program. It will let you stay at the level you were working on, but you don’t earn anything new until you select the next level.
  • Watch the bark. When I first started the program up I must have had my speakers on too loud. The program does not have any talking or background music, but it does have a loud bark now and then when you click on something or move to a new section. It about knocked me out of my seat. So, keep your speakers at a reasonable level when you are trying it out. ๐Ÿ˜‰
  • Unique groupings. It seems most math programs I use learn all the “+ 1” at once. Mad Dog instead does everything that adds up to 0-3 first. So it is working with a smaller sample set each time. This worked well for the gradual progress, but it was different than what we were used to.
  • Rewards are a long time coming. While kids can earn rewards, they take a while to get there, especially at the lowest level. At level one I felt like I had been on it a while and the “encouragement” that showed up on the bottom after one quiz said something like, “Great job, just 35 to go to earn your sticker!” Wow, that was not encouraging.
  • Explanation focuses on vocabulary. In the instructions there is a little button to click for the program to explain the math terms. I expected it to tell you what “addition” means, but instead it tells you the technical terms for each number in an addition problem (and for the other operations as well). This is interesting, but not really helpful if a student didn’t know what “multiply” even means.

Mad Dog math is basically a computer based flashcard program. It is easy to use and most kids would much rather drill their math facts on the computer as opposed to with real cards. It obviously costs a lot more than a deck of flashcards, but if it will get kids to learn their basic facts without an argument, that is money well spent. And, you don’t have to worry about your kids not learning “7 + 8” because you lost that card and never realized it.

For more TOS Crew reviews on this product, check out theย TOS Crew blog.

Disclaimer: This product was provided to me free of charge through Mad Dog Math as part of my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew. I received no additional compensation and the opinions expressed here come from my personal experiences and sincere thoughts.



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TOS Crew review: Facts First (from Saxon)

January 29th, 2010

Math cannot progress well if we do not have a hold of the basic math functions of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. However, the drill or repetition required to master these is rarely exciting. Until now.

Facts First offers an affordable, entertaining way for your kids to learn, master, improve, and excel at their basic facts. They want your child to have fun developing an instant recall of these facts, and based on our experience with this program over the last month, they definitely succeed at this goal.

Product: Facts First
Details: A web based math program that was created by Skills Tutor, a sister company to Saxon, and is being distributed by Saxon Homeschool.
Price: $49.95 per year, this includes a one year household license for up to four users.

What we loved . . .

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  • Fun, fun, fun— Although entertainment is obviously not my chief goal during math lessons, my kids definitely ALL enjoyed this program. And, since it focuses on building their mastery and speed in basic facts, I don’t mind a little fun in the process. Or, even a lot of fun.
  • Limited game time — While it does reward the hardworking child with games, it limits these to 5 minutes at a time, and even the games often help reinforce their math facts.
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  • Tracking progress — You can easily log on and see how each child is doing. These easy to read charts show which facts they have mastered, and gives you an idea of how close they are to mastering other facts they have been working on.
  • Adjustable expectations — I clearly expect my seventh grade to know his facts more quickly than my kindergartner, and Facts First allows for that. You can go into the controls and change the standard for mastery. This alters how fast the program expects an answer, any where from 1/4 of a second to 60 seconds, or even untimed if that works best to motivate your child.
  • Audio! — Even my kindergartner can use this program fairly independently. A voice reads everything that she needs to know in order to continue to improve in her basic math facts
  • Instruction and drill — The program doesn’t just drill the facts (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division), but it also introduces a new fact before drilling it and then adding it to the list of facts they might see in their quizzes.
  • Great graphics — Just take a glance around their site, and you can’t help but enjoying what you see. Colorful, eye-catching, this site is fun to use and fun to explore.

Some considerations . . .

  • Limited in scope. This program is just about basic math facts. These are extremely important to master, but don’t expect something else from this program. It drills and redrills, and encourages kids to improve in their basic math facts.
  • One license for the house. My daughters didn’t like that my son could also look at their accounts and see their mastery grids. Simple solution, I just made other people’s information off limits, but as far as I am aware, there is no setting to prevent this.
  • Still may have too much game time. While I generally felt this offered a good balance of games and instruction, 5 minutes of play for a few minutes of work is still quite a bit. Of course, the games do include further reinforcement.

Facts First has a limited scope, but one critical to your child’s success in math in the years ahead. Especially for multiple children, the cost is reasonable, and since the program is fun and able to be used independently, this is a great way for kids to work on their own and see their mastery grow without groans.

For more TOS Crew reviews on this product, check out the TOS Crew blog.

Disclaimer: This web based membership was provided to me free of charge from Facts First as part of my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew. I received no additional compensation and the opinions expressed here come from my personal experiences and sincere thoughts.