Jul 15, 2012

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Professor B

Math is not our favorite subject. Well, I do have one odd kid who has been known to gloat delightedly over a page of math problems, but we try not to hold that weirdness against him. For most of the family, math is something we know we have to live with, so we try to deal with it as painlessly as possible. This is why I am always interested in math programs... could THIS be the ONE that makes us fall in love with math forever?!?!

So we approached our review of Professor B Math with anticipation. You can read about the history and philosophy of this program here. There are three levels to the program, which you access online each time with a username and password. Level One is roughly PreK through 2nd Grade. Level Two is 3rd through 5th. Level Three is 6th through 8th. Each level has a workbook and answer key that you can download and print off for extra practice. Each level is further divided into lessons which you can access at any time. There are free placement tests available for determining which level your child needs. We were given access to all three levels, so all four kids worked with this program. I started Abbie at the beginning, but with the other three kids I kind of jumped around a little, mostly choosing lesson topics that I knew they didn't know/needed work on. I liked the freedom of being able to do that and not having to "unlock" any lessons for any child. The drawback to this was, of course, that I needed to then keep track of where they were and what they had done.
Ok, so once you have picked your Level, you go to a Table of Contents screen, where you choose which lesson you want. (Some of the lessons, you can choose which part of the lesson to do.) You then follow Professor B's instructions to complete the lesson with your child.


As you can see, you can pause and continue, fast-forward or rewind the lesson at any time. There are pauses built into the program to give the children a chance to respond. Although the Bee "speaks" directly to the child, it is expected for the parent/teacher to attend each lesson and to help teach the lesson. Professor B is mastery based... the only way for you, the parent, to know if the material has been mastered is to attend the lesson and observe, first hand, what your child knows. For this reason, Professor B has no sound, everything must be read off the screen.
This program is pretty basic. There are no "bells and whistles". There are no rewards except for that of a job well done. Each lesson holds a teaching segment and an opportunity for the kids to practice the concept, and then a review, typically called "fast eyes" in which the kids have to give quick responses to what flashed on the screen. For example, Abbie was learning numbers/counting, so different amounts of pandas, blocks, etc. would flash on the screen and she would have to say, quickly, how many she saw. At the very end of the lesson would be a "homework assignment" like this: Have your student practice the skills of this section 8 minutes a day for 8 days.
I have to admit that we struggled with this program. The Bee seemed to either move too slowly over concepts and the kids were rolling their eyes, "We KNOW that!" or he moved too quickly and I had to fumble with the pause and rewind button. Its lesson sequence was different than what we have previously done, so jumping around in the lessons kept me confused and disoriented. (This was even a problem with Abbie who started from the beginning. I still had to figure out a way to keep track of where she was in the lessons.) Also, remember, we dislike math, so the lack of fun rewards was a tough blow for us to take. But the main thing, for me, was that I had to be completely present for three lessons each time. (Kaytie and Nate work together) and, in order to make them most effective, I really needed to preview the lessons first, so that I knew when it was ok to fast forward through a too-slow-for-them section without missing anything important. This took up a lot of my day.
 One thing I did really like about Professor B Math was that even though it was an online program, for the levels we used, at least, it was active and the kids were asked to use their fingers to show their answers (not counting on their fingers!) This added a kinesthetic quality that I feel is necessary for kids' learning. I also liked that there were several concepts that FINALLY clicked with Kaytie and Nate that they have been struggling with for years. That was worth the eye rolling and the frustration.

The kids' opinions:
Kaytie: I didn't like it. It was too hard for me. The fast eyes was too fast for me. 
Nate: I don't like it at all. It is way too difficult. I never could understand what they were talking about. I did learn things, but it was really hard. 
Daniel: chose not to give me an opinion
Abbie: I learned math. The fast eyes game was too fast. I did have fun and I liked the math that I learned and I liked the bee, sort of. He has a bow and a stinger. He was cute, too. (Mommy note: actually, she really did like Professor B and every time he "said" good job, she beamed and thanked him prettily.)

All in all, I think this is a solid math program that would be great for a remedial student or one that just needs a tad of extra help here and there with certain concepts. It certainly helped Kaytie and Nate with some!
You can read other Crew Member's thoughts and experiences on the Schoolhouse Review Blog. You can also access a sample lesson and/or call for a 30 day free trial right from their homepage. You can check out their Facebook page, as well.

DISCLAIMER: I was given a year's subscription to this online program in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

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