After having spent 3 years helping one struggling child memorize the times tables and spending 4 more years helping another struggling child memorize them, I was tickled to have a chance to use and review Times Alive, a set of online lessons with animated songs and stories to learn times tables the fun way.
|Click the image for more information about Times Tables the Fun Way|
Set up was easy. Once membership was established, I followed directions for how to log in to the parent account, then there is a second screen from which the child logs in. This allows an unlimited number of children are allowed to open accounts under a parent account.
Once the child is logged in, this menu opens up:
For my Nature Angel (age 9), who'd already been studying the times tables for a couple of months, I suggested she start at 1a, the pre-test--a simple page of multiplication facts designed to find out what the student knows/doesn't know. I told my girl in multiple ways that this was not a test. This was simply a way for the program to custom build her learning experience. (Note: Actually it isn't. I signed myself in and got a perfect score on the pre-test, but I was still directed to the first lesson as if I'd never taken the test at all.)
Being the perfectionist she is, she began to cry when she didn't know the answers. I comforted her several times, reminding her that she was supposed to get wrong answers and she wasn't supposed to know everything and she could leave any of the problems blank, but to no avail. She struggled and worried about every single answer.
With half the page still blank, I told her to click "done."
And the smiles began.
She watched videos. She read stories. She played games. She took "tests." The program just moves automatically from lesson to lesson as long as the child is logged in. If, however, you want to skip around to targeted lessons, it is perfectly simple to click the "lesson list" button at any time and make your selection.
When dinner time arrived an hour later, she was still going strong.
"May I play again after dinner?" she asked.
"How about tomorrow?" I countered.
"Okay," she grinned at me. "I love this. It's really fun!"
She logged out, but I asked her to log back in again so that I could see what she'd done. Easy as pie, her progress report popped up on the screen, and I could see her scores and exactly what activities she'd done and which ones remained to be worked on.
|This is the first image that comes up for the student, but by clicking on "student progress report" I arrived at . . .|
|. . . this image that is printable.|
The next day Nature Angel was asking to "do times tables on the computer" before breakfast. As chores got done, she attracted rather a crowd.
Over the course of the stories, songs, games, and quizzes she enjoyed, she ran into another see-what-you-know exam. It looked almost identical to the pre-test, but this time Nature Angel was all smiles as she worked.
"Are you really remembering that easily?" I asked.
"Yes!" she exclaimed emphatically. "The songs and stories really work!"
I got curious.
Little Princess has not encountered multiplication in her math lessons yet. She's 7 and working in a second grade math curriculum that she loves.
She just loves math.
Times-Alive is not a math instructional program. It does not teach any of the whys or wherefores of multiplication. It is a memorization tool.
I pulled Little Princess over for a 3-minute introduction to what multiplication is. Then I set her loose with the Times-Alive program.
We skipped the pre-test completely because I knew she knew nothing, but she began learning the times tables facts within minutes.
On day 3 we ran into a feature that felt strange to us. We have 3 computers that kids use according to availability--there's no real rhyme or reason for which kid uses which computer when. I assumed that because Times Alive is an online program, we'd be able to access our records from any computer once we logged in. However, when I wanted to check Little Princess's work, I had to log in on the computer Little Princess used. When she logged in on another computer, because the first one was already claimed by one of her sisters, none of her records could be found. She just gave it her best guess as to where she should start and kept on going.
This means that now her records look like this:
|Computer A: Shows only the work she did the first day|
|Computer B: Shows only the work she did on the second day|
"The software writes to the resident computer. It is not stored on a remote server. Since it is written in flash, this is a feature that is possible. I hope it is not causing too much stress now that you know how it works.
"This is mentioned in the Times Alive directions of the email that was sent to you."
I checked the original email.
"The program will keep track of an unlimited number of student's progress but they must return to the same computer and login with the exact same name."
Guess I should read directions more closely. 🌝
No, it is not causing stress now that I know how it works. Because I'm not fussy about keeping records for drills like this, I won't worry about it. The kids will just have to keep track themselves of what lesson to pick up or try to use the same computer each time.
Nature Angel finished the entire set of 18 lessons in short order, with a perfect score on the post test. Because she raced through the program so quickly, I wanted to clear her test results to let her start again, this time working more slowly and allowing time for her memory to form long term connections. There's a little "clear" button that appears next to any scored exercises.
When I pressed it, I was instructed to enter a password.
I didn't know a password!
Right below the prompt to enter the password, though, I found a button called "Teacher's Directions." Upon pressing it I opened a page of instructions and learned that a password was included in my "Owner's Manual.''
I was confused.
What owner's manual?
Eventually I figured out that the original welcoming email that is sent with membership is the owner's manual. Within that email is the password for how to clear test results.
It's set up this way to keep kids from erasing their own scores.
I learned quickly that clearing scores so the girls could work their way through the program again wouldn't be necessary, though, because Nature Angel informed me that the drills and tests stay the same, and she was memorizing the answers.
"That's the goal," I said, "to memorize the answers."
"No, Mom. I'm memorizing the order of the answers on the page," she clarified.
Incorporating randomly generated drills would make the program more useful over time.
However, Little Princess, who had only the briefest of instructions about what multiplication even is before starting the program, played her way through the lessons within a couple of weeks, and, with zero additional assistance, scored 52% on the post-test.
Just imagine what she could do using this program as a supplement to a regular math program that teaches the principles behind the facts!
Some weeks later, I asked Nature Angel, "Did it work? Did Times Alive really help you memorize the times tables?"
She answered enthusiastically, "Yes! I remember them better than before. It helped me a lot."
I let my girls work independently through the Times Alive program. They were happy to do so, but I am realizing that I need to spend some time familiarizing myself with the songs and stories so that I can cue the girls to remember their facts if/when they occasionally get stuck as they work through their regular math curricula.
I've heard my girls singing the songs and telling the stories from Times Alive several times since they finished the lessons. It is an engaging and helpful supplement that I really wish I'd had access to years ago when my older girls were really struggling to learn their multiplication facts.
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