Sunday, June 17, 2012

(TOS) Schoolhouse Review: Pearson My Math Lab for Homeschool

If you browse any curriculum book shelf you will find multiple texts by Pearson Publishing.  Pearson and Pearson subsidiary titles are used in school systems around the nation as well as in colleges.  Pearson has been a leader in educational publishing for many years; one innovative feature they created to go with their math curriculum is "My Math Lab".  My Math Lab is an online tutorial component accessed through a code provided in the student math book.  This was an especially useful value added feature in the college text line.

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Pearson has now extended the My Math Lab experience and customized it for homeschoolers who want to provide a quality upper level math program with minimum parent teaching required.  My Math Lab Algebra 1 and 2 is an online course environment -  fully digital math program -  that provides instruction in a variety of media, practice, tutorials, assessment and progress monitoring.  This allows the student to work at their own pace independently or with parental assistance.    My Math Lab Algebra is ready to go the minute you enroll or the teacher may customize the program to match their student needs.

My daughter and I were given the opportunity to review My Math Lab Algebra II by my association with the Schoolhouse Review Crew.  I think it will be easier to explain the program if I just describe our experience.


To begin with, I had been looking for some math program for Algebra II that would allow my student to work somewhat independently and would include some instructional components.   Normally, she does not benefit from watching a long video lesson.   She also catches on quickly most of the time and does not desire to view a laborious process of working out a problem step by step unless she really needs that level of explanation. I also needed the program to provide accountability in my student's work, including self-correcting problem sets and assessments.  This laundry list of needs and wants narrows the field of candidates.

All that being the case, I was thrilled to be given this opportunity because we needed an Algebra 2 course that will easily pass the certification process for the NCAA.   A text book or program from a well known publisher would be easily recognizable on our transcript.  My Math Lab has the added advantage of being aligned to core standards and since all the work is graded through the program it also provides outside accountability for the grade earned in this class.



PhotobucketOur two flat packages with access codes arrived in the mail.  (The student kit looks the same).   These packages included our access code for the Pearson site for this course.   
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I used these codes to start our subscription (15 months) for the course.  Because we tend to forget such things, I wrote the user names and passwords in the folders and wrote them in our planner notebooks.  (hint, hint)








The next morning my student signed on and went to work.  Student assignments are pre-built and assigned (available for her to open).  She clicked the first open problem set, decided she understood the work, since this was chapter 1 and basically review, so she did not immediately access any of the instructional features.  Feedback is given on each problem immediately as a problem is completed so Ginger immediately knew if she had correctly answered the question.  When she ran into trouble she had several options to get help besides calling mom.

A Variety of Instructional Options

The first level of help is the e-text, which is a standard text book written by award winning author Elayn Martin-Gay.  I compared this text to several other Pearson texts I had access to and found they were all similar in scope and presentation.  This is what I would describe as an honor's level text book for a standard high school course.   Opening the text provided her with a page view of narrative explanation, examples and vocabulary.   The online viewing was not as easy as using a real book, but it worked since it opened in a new window and could be diminished on the task bar.

There was also a Power Point presentation which was basically a shortened and graphic form on the text instruction.  I found this was helpful to open when I helped her personally.

When I wasn't available, Ginger could access a video instructional segment for the individual concept she was working on.   I believe Ms Martin-Gay is the instructor on the video and Ginger found her explanations clear and easy to follow -- not to long, not too short - just right.   (She also thinks I should have my hair cut in the teacher's style).

There are also animations for some sections, which we didn't find until much later in the review period.   Let me just give Pearson a virtual high five for these animations!!!   They include a very diverse range of options from instructional audio/animation segments to interactive games that reinforce vocabulary or allow the student to practice a procedure.


There is also an important assist called "help me solve this" which is a step by step solution of the problem the student is on. They may also choose to see a similar sample problem.

Finally, they may email the instructor.  This feature would be helpful in a distance learning setting where I had several students to monitor.   In our house, Ginger just yells and I come help when needed.

There number of options available to help the student is a bit overwhelming.  It took several days to find all of them and figure out how they worked.  I initially found the animations by searching the multi-media library on the course compass tool bar.   Virginia then pointed out that all of these options, including the animations, are available through a click-able menu right beside each problem as it is presented.  Duh!


One problem with a program of this nature:
Ginger tends to jump in and try to work problems without utilizing the instructional features.  She quickly learned this wasn't very efficient.   In fact it is downright frustrating when you keep missing problems over and over.  The program design encourages students to move past this behavior quickly.

Parents and students can organize their course through the "study plan" based on quiz results.  There are other organizational components that we didn't have time to explore.  

Quizzes and other assessments are interspersed in the chapter and  course parameters require a student to achieve a certain score before moving on to the next section.   The default bench mark is 90% but parents are able to adjust this in the instructor controls. These assessments do ensure that a student cannot move on until they understand the concepts.   There are many math problems for most sections and this can be over-whelming for some students and they can take some time.    The course program keeps up with the student progress through practice, quiz and test scores and reports these in a number of different ways to both the students and the instructor.  These produce a final "grade book" report. 

Initially we used Pearson, "out of the box", with no adjustments on my part.   However, as the instructor I may choose to adjust the course in a number of ways from changing the due dates of assignments to reducing the number of problems in a set.   I found that when I adjusted the due dates and Ginger missed a deadline, the program required her to have some contact with me in order to proceed.   Until I established dates, assignments were open-ended on the timeline.   I think that it helps the student to set due dates because it could be easy to bog down. 

This is the pacing guide provided by the course:
 Course Timeline
A typical course in Algebra 1 or Algebra 2 is completed over an entire school year – or approximately 36 weeks. However, this course is set up so that it can be delivered based on your desired timeline. If your child works for 90 minutes per day and 5 days per week, the material could be covered in approximately 18 weeks. There are 10 units included in the course; you should determine how much time to spend each week per unit in order to complete the course by your desired deadline. To complete all 10 units in 36 weeks, approximately three weeks per unit is needed. The amount of time it will take your child to complete this course will vary based on many factors including things such as knowledge of prerequisite material, time spent on task each week, and the rate at which your child can learn the new material.
 
I have not felt comfortable reducing the number of problems.  My goal is to have Ginger complete a challenging Algebra 2 course; I don't want to mess up what My Math Lab provides. 

The one part of this program that I didn't like.

I need to look into these instructor options more, but I simply haven't had time.   The instructor pages were the most confusing part of the program to me.  Making changes is also relatively time consuming.  The good news is that you don't have to know everything or make any changes in order to get started.  The course will run itself as is.   As we go through the course I can see using the instructor options more, but I would have to be highly motivated to spend the time required.

In My Opinion

Pearson My Math Lab is a complete, robust math curriculum based on core curriculum standards.  That is does so in an online, interactive format with so many instructional features is a definite plus.  Students have nothing to keep up with other than their personal notebook and the program can be used from any Internet access.

I'm impressed with this program.  In fact, I believe Pearson My Math Lab is one of the best options for upper level math course for parents who need the instructional piece in their course option.  

The link to the parent guide includes valuable information; you can access it here.   I recommend that you read this thoroughly before making a decision to purchase the program.



Speaking of purchase,  I was amazed at the reasonable price for My Math Lab. Here is the pricing information for this product on the product page website.

MyMathLab Student access costs  $49.97
The parent access is  $30

The two components are purchased separately; the parent does need the parental access to manage the program and see grades even if you do not wish to change any of the lessons.

In my opinion, a fully automated math program with access for parent and student for less than $90 total is a very good deal!  My Math Lab is essentially like purchasing a distance learning course.  Your purchase allows you access to the online program for 18 months which is longer than 36 weeks "required" to complete the work. 

More information about the complete line of Pearson Homeschool products can be found at the main website. 

As always, you do not need to take my word for it.  Please read what other Schoolhouse Review Crew member have to say about this program.   Pearson also has produced some courses for younger students in other courses so there is something for everyone.  Click here to read the Schoolhouse Review Crew post for Pearson and be sure to click the button at the bottom of that blog to read individual reviews on products which match your needs.


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 Disclaimer:   As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I received a free full access subscription to this product in exchange for publishing a review of our experience with the course.  All of the opinions are my own. 


My friend Debra had a great comment you need to read.   Her experience illustrates the value of a web-based program when your family - or just your child - has to travel. 



2 comments:

  1. Awesome review. :)

    And I'm glad Ginger learned that skipping the instruction was inefficient. Connor did too! LOL

    We loved the contact your instructor feature when Connor was staying 1000 miles away with his grandparents, otherwise he just hollered at me too.

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  2. Too funny! I did think of you and your son doing "distance learning" homeschool when I wrote that part!

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