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Friday, February 5, 2010

New Review!!! Facts First!

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About the product/service:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Crew I received a 90 day subscription from facts first, a site created by Skills Tutor and distributed by by Saxon.  Yes, the Saxon Math folks.  (Though you don't need to be using Saxon to use the program.)  I was given the subscription so that I could let my kids use it and let you know how it worked in our homeschool. 
This site does not try to be a comprehensive math curriculum.  The objective of the site is to teach your child the basic math facts.  You know, good old addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. 

Here's what is says on the factsfirst website: 

factsfirst™ is a personalized and fully adaptive online math product that builds a child’s confidence and helps develop instant recall of basic facts in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Children are engaged in performance-based learning through interactive, real-world scenarios that make math facts meaningful and fun.

Here's a little more from the website about how the program works:

The lessons consist of five basic segments; new facts, commutative property, practice, quiz, and scoring. New facts are gradually introduced to children as they work toward mastery. Facts are grouped in units with each lesson in a unit introducing two new facts. A child masters these facts before starting another unit.

More than 360 activities engage and encourage children to quickly and accurately respond to questions and advance to the next set of facts.

What are the pros of this product? It's the facts, ma'am, just the facts.  This is SO important.   I'm so tempted to push kids along to the next level, even when they don't know the facts, just so they don't get behind.  But, you know what?  They ARE behind if they don't know the facts.

For kids who are into bright graphics, this is a winner.

Also, kids make their own avatar before using the site then which appears throughout the program, making it more personal.

There is also an "Arcade," where you child can go and play a game as a reward for completing a lesson.  The nice thing is that arcade time is limited to five minutes so your child does not spend all his time playing the games instead of doing the math.  :)

It's easy to see how your kids are doing with "the matrix." 

What's not to like?  While there are lots of bright pictures, there is not a lot of animation.  Not that that's really a big deal, but just to let you know it's NOT on the same level as some other games I've seen. 
There isn't a ton of diversity in what the characters say and my son got annoyed with it and shut off the sound!  LOL

There is no easy way to easily recover your password.  You have to e-mail customer service.  I did, and I got it quickly, but it was far from being instant like in most programs.  I realize that's not a huge deal for many, but I when I got the initial user name and password I typed it in for a while, then decided to make an easier password, which I did.  Then, later, I couldn't for the life of me remember it.  I was all ready to sit my son down to "play" and had to let him do something else until I got the password later in the day.

I'm not sure, but I don't think there's a way to change your user name.  I couldn't find one, anyway.  So if there is, it's not easy to find.  Our user name was a letter/number combo.  It wasn't a word or anything easy to remember so I had to make a little word pad doc on my desk top so that we could access it quickly.  I was hoping to change it to something simple.  A little thing, I know, but it's nice when the kids can just have their name as a user name or something.  Now, to be fair, once you are IN the site, the kids each have an icon with their name on it.  It's just that we have to log in to get to that point, and that's where a nice easy ID and password comes in handy.  (Or maybe a place to check "keep me logged in" would be nice.)

The price is nowhere to be found from the main page.  Also, I was given accounts for us to four children, and I couldn't find a place to add additional children.  (I have eight, and five of them could use the practice.)  I guess you could say that even though the program is called factsfirst, I had a hard time finding a few of the facts on the website!  :)

The Crazy Mom take:  I don't think I've ever written such a long "What's not to like?" but that doesn't mean I don't like the program!  I do!  There are a few things that need to be tweaked, but otherwise, I love the idea behind it. 
Now, I tend to not like a lot of bells and whistles.  Really, while this program is colorful, it is not full of fluff at all.  It's really rather simple.  I like simple, as you know, so it works for me.  My kids do like the color, and that's a plus.  There's not a bunch of garbage added in like in some other programs.  Some just think you have to have potty humor to make things fun.  Now, I don't necessarily mind potty humor on occasion, but I like things to be more innocent for the younger set.  That's just how I roll. :) 

I had my two youngest try the site, Baber, 6, and Bear, 8.  They both seemed to enjoy it.  Having the avatar to make and the bright colors seemed to be enough to draw them in.  My son did get rather frustrated that he was not getting 100%, though, when he would get everything right.  That was not a good incentive for him.  I didn't realize right away that I could adjust the program to give him more time.  I think using the laptop slowed him down a bit. 

In the end, though, I think we all would give it a thumbs up.  I'm sure the people at Skills Tutor will be tweaking it here and there as time goes by.  Right now I would say it's a good program, with the potential to be great with a little work.  Until then, I still think it's worth checking out.

What's the bottom line? One year subscription $49.99

I am going to give factsfirst 3 out of 5 smileys!!!

Check it out!

See what my fellow TOS Crew members have to say @

*The Smiley System: 

I can't really recommend this product.
 I doubt this product would be helpful to many people.
 This is a good product, but isn't right for everyone.
 Most homeschool moms will find this useful.
 This is great, and I would recommend it to anyone!!!

Disclaimer!!!  I reviewed this product because I am a member of The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew.  I was given the product by the vendor to use and evaluate in my home so that I might share my insights with others.  Other than receiving the product, which I kinda have to to be able to assess the product, I am not compensated for my reviews in any way.  I am in no way obligated to give a positive review.  I do try to point out negatives when I see them, though I am admittedly a pretty easy going gal!  What you read are my honest assessments of the products I receive. 

As with all products, you must do the research before buying.  Please visit the the other crew members' blogs, the vendor websites, and any other review sites you might find before buying.  I can't guarantee that a product will work for you.  You must decide what will fit with your teaching style, and your child(ren)'s learning style(s).  I do not judge anything other than the educational value of the products I review.  I am not qualified to make judgements as to the safely of any product, and I make no guarantee that the products I review are safe for you, your family, or anyone else.  I am simply giving my opinion; only you know what is best for you and your family.

Don't use your blow dryer while you sleep or take a bath.  Don't read my reviews in the tub either, and please do not read them when you are asleep, though I do not guarantee that you won't fall asleep reading them!

Copyright 2010 Ramblings from the Crazy House


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