Thanks to Smartick for our trial subscription. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
One of the areas I have been the most nervous about teaching my kids is math. I started to really loathe math as early at 3rd grade when I didn’t quickly understand the concept of long division (I actually have a memory of running to the bathroom and crying over it!). The last thing I want is for my kids to have an unhealthy relationship with math. I want the complete opposite for them, in fact. But can I help them achieve that as their teacher? I knew at the very least, I was going to need some help.
So I looked into online-based programs that can assess where your child is at in her math journey (as opposed to arbitrarily assigning them math problems that fit in with their grade year), and that’s how I discovered Smartick. Once assessments are complete, the child will log in daily to complete just 15 minutes of exercises, during which time points are accrued based on the number of problems the child completes. At the end of the session, the child has the opportunity to make corrections for an additional point. I find that it is often the case that the child has figured out how to solve a particular type of problem by the time they get to the corrections section, and it is really a good boost to their confidence level to get to go back and take another crack at a problem they missed before. The points are used to purchase fun virtual items such as pets or room accessories that can decorate the child’s room in the Smartick world. These points are extremely motivating to both of my girls, especially since they can “buy” really fun pets with them (cats and dogs are available, but also really wacky things like an octopus!).
One thing that has really impressed me about Smartick is the ability to communicate with the people behind the program and to customize certain elements. For example, there is a progress bar on the screen during a child’s session, and it will turn red when your child is falling behind the average time it takes for children of that age to complete these problems. This is likely motivating to some students (it motivates my youngest!) but it is extremely distressing to more anxious children, like my older child. In fact, it was starting to cause tears during Smartick sessions, so I emailed the company to ask if there was any way to get rid of that feature for her account. I didn’t expect that there would be, but I was surprised and delighted to learn that they could turn that feature off for Darah in order to help her have sessions that weren’t as stressful. It helped tremendously!
The program seems to be quite smart, and is doing a great job at keeping both of my girls appropriately challenged. I am seeing their confidence grow with every session, and it is really helping us develop positive relationships with math. While we are using it as part of our homeschool curriculum, it is not strictly designed for homeschooling children. Since the daily sessions are only 15 minutes long, it can be used as an enrichment tool for all children. Smartick reports that 94% of students improve their grades in school after using Smartick, so it really is a great option for children already enrolled in school. It is also designed to help your child advance faster than in school and beyond what is taught in the classroom.
As a parent, you will receive an email report as soon as your child completes a session with a summary of the work that was done. It’s helpful to me to get a sense for the areas where mastery is being built, as well as areas that are new and still quite challenging to my girls. The parent section of Smartick also contains helpful tutorials you can view with your child to help introduce a new concept (for example, vertical addition with carrying) and a listing of problems completed so you can go back over any problems that caused confusion.
In addition to the 15 minute daily sessions, Smartick does offer fun games for the kids. We have only played around a little bit with the games, so far, but my kids are definitely interested in getting to do more. The games are designed to improve concentration levels and to reinforce perception, attention memory and logical reasoning.
Overall, this is a very high quality program to help your child learn to love math and to grow and develop right at the level s/he is on now, as opposed to the level s/he “should” be on (I have one child who is almost a year ahead in math, and one child who is almost a year behind and both are loving Smartick). I would very highly recommend the program with one simple caveat: I find the price point to be tough. It’s $50/month per child, per month (there are small discounts if you enroll more than 1 child at a time and/or if you subscribe for a quarter or for a year). I do appreciate the referral program which allows current subscribers to offer a 25% off coupon to their friends, and in return if a friend signs up, the referrer receives a $27 discount on their bill. However, even with the discounts available it’s still quite expensive for something that is used for just 15 minutes a day. There is a 15 day free trial available, and I would recommend giving it a whirl to see what you think, especially since it won’t cost you anything to try it. It is making a difference for both of our girls, but it’s not priced to be affordable for most families (or at least not for mine), which really is a shame because I think the program is very beneficial.