O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles. Psalms 43:3

And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith. D&C 88:118

The kids

The kids

Monday, July 9, 2012

Professor B Math instruction, Schoolhouse Review


What is it?
Professor B Math is an online animated math tutor which has some substantial achievement data and a unique philosophy to teach the whys of math. There are three levels covering all aspects of elementary school math. Each lesson is designed for the parent to sit with the child and read the lesson to the child while a little bee with glasses and bow tie uses a pointer. There are also worksheets which are to be completed after the lessons as well as drills the child is supposed to do every day after the lesson is taught. Occasionally additional materials may be required. For example in level 1 the bee will also ask the "teacher" to gather enough "cubes, rods, and flats" to help the child learn place value. This is referring to the unit, ten, and hundred blocks that are common math manipulatives. Each level of Professor B and each is designed to be used over 10 months and claims each level is equivalent to 3 years of math. Level 1 is for age 3-grade 2 and covers Introduction to Addition and Subtraction Facts, Counting to One Hundred, Lower Addition and Subtraction, Higher Addition and Subtraction, Place Value, Fractional Parts & Order, Time, and Money. Level 2 is for grades 3-5 and covers Multiplication and Division Facts and Problem Solving, Introduction to Fractions, Fractional Equivalence, and Addition and Subtraction of Fractions. Level 3 is grades 6-8 and covers Multiplication and Division of Fractions, Decimals, and Percents.Professor B can be paid for monthly or annually. One level is $20/month, two levels is $35/month, and three levels is $45 per month. This pricing is current as of this review but may change at any time. Not advertised on the website is a price of $100 for 3 years of access to1 level. In order to get this price, customers need to call their customer service number at 678-765-6655. I am told Professor B is working on updating their website but as of the writing of this review it has not been updated.  

What I liked:
  • I liked the variety of topics covered. 
  • Professor B focuses on teaching the why instead of rote memorization of the how.
  • The bee is cute, and the drill games are well done, especially for the earliest lessons. 
  • Each lesson ended with an admonishment to the parent to practice a skill a certain number of times for a certain amount of time. This was followed by a great reminder: "Mastery once obtained must be sustained." 
  • I also liked that the sequence of learning was incremental in a logical fashion. Unlike many math programs, this program is designed to help the parents teach math to their children. 
  • Professor B shows WHY math works the way it does, not just what to do.
  • I like the lack of sound. Today there are too many flashy programs that detract from learning. The lack of sound simplified the program to allow interaction instead of zoning out.

What I didn't like:
  • At times advancing through the slides in the lesson was not as easy as I hoped and sometimes lessons seemed to be so micro-explained that my children were bored and frustrated.
  •  I had to remember which micro-section of a given lesson I was on rather than having my place bookmark. The table of contents in each level is rather lengthy and many sections have several sections. Some of the names sound similar as well. On more than one occasion my child said, "Mom, we already did this one." and I had to go back and find the right section.
  • I  was frustrated with the placement tests. They were only slightly helpful in figuring out where to place my children.The level 3 placement test was the same as the level 2 at the time of this review. Neither had instructions as to how to determine level.
  • When I emailed customer service, I received no response after several days. I emailed again and several weeks have gone by without any response.  I did check my spam folders so I know there was no response sent to me.
  • I found  the way fingers were illustrated in the first couple of lessons in level 1 very odd.  I am not sure why the fingers chosen were used. For example, the 1 finger is the pinky. 3 was depicted in a non-typical arrangement. The child is supposed to copy the pictures with his fingers and at times my daughter found it very difficult to do with her fingers because of the arrangements.

Experience of my children:
The first thing my children asked me was why was there no sound. The funny thing is there is a volume control even though it is designed to be soundless so that the parent interacts with the child. I primarily used level 1 but touched on the other levels with my older children.

Butterfly has reached mulitplication in other math programs but doing the level 1 test showed a few gaps. I decided to have her fill those gaps and then move on to level 2. After trying to teach her to tell time for a couple of years, Professor B taught her in an hour or so. While she did learn to tell time, and at moments she enjoyed the games, she also got frustrated because the video would either be too slow or too fast. It is important to have an adult present to press the pause button while a child is playing the game/drilling the concept to avoid frustration. Although she succeeded in learning to tell time with Professor B, she disliked the program and did not want to continue. The method used to teach multiplication starting with looking at fingers, which were supposed to represent a bundle of sticks, and stating the multiplication facts bothered her. Even though she already knows some of her multiplication facts, she and I both found it a little confusing.

Pumpkin Pie started with level 1. I started her just a tiny bit behind where she has been working because of the methodology of explaining the concepts. She breezed through the first couple of lessons and loved the little games and the oral practice. She also liked the little bee. After the first few lessons, she hit a wall. The idea of looking at a number line and how many spaces between the numbers was not concrete enough for her with regards to subtraction. We needed to pull out manipulatives before Professor B mentioned them  a few lessons later. Initially she really liked Professor B and would ask to do it each day, but then grew frustrated with the instruction and did not want to do it anymore.

I had Tiger do a few lessons in level 3 as he has progressed through all elementary levels of math in other math programs but there was one area I thought would be good to review. Tiger has seen repeating non-terminating (repeating forever) decimals before and been asked to convert to a fraction a handful of times. He was taught a formula but didn't really understand HOW to do it. I showed him the Professor B lesson on this topic. He agonized through the whole lesson. He insisted he knew how to do it already but then when asked various questions by the program, he was incorrect. He grew frustrated with the lack of sound and the slow speed. He felt like the silent movie was talking down to him. Sometimes he would answer and then we had to wait until the rest of the animation to advance to the next slide. A few times I tried to advance to the next slide and then ended up having to back up. I don't know if Tiger gained a better understanding of repeating non-terminating decimals though. It seemed that for him the negatives outweighed the method and he didn't gain much.

While there were many aspects of Professor B I really like, it was not a good fit for any of my children in the end. I think Professor B is very detailed and has the potential to be even better; however I think there are some problems in the program that need to be addressed to make it more user-friendly. These areas are bookmark the stopping point, a supply list for the teacher, an assignment sheet for the teacher since it is difficult to keep track of the multitude of assignments for daily practice, and quicker customer service. I think that Professor B is best suited for a child who is really struggling with math or for a parent to go through and learn how to teach it and then teach the child without the computer. The micro-lessons within each lesson will deliver crumbs of knowledge to the child and eventually the whole bite. For a child that tends to understand mathematical concepts easily, it can be too slow. There are sample lessons available on the website. Professor B also offers a 30 day trial.

Be sure to check out what other Crew members thought to get a good idea of how well it will fit your family.

Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received a complimentary 1 year subscription to all 3 levels of Professor B in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

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