Monday, January 25, 2010

TOS Crew Review -- Facts First

Math cannot progress well if we do not have a hold of the basic math functions of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. However, the drill or repetition required to master these is rarely exciting. Until now.

Facts First offers an affordable, entertaining way for your kids to learn, master, improve, and excel at their basic facts. They want your child to have fun developing an instant recall of these facts, and based on our experience with this program over the last month, they definitely succeed at this goal.

: Facts First
Details: A web based math program that was created by Skills Tutor, a sister company to Saxon, and is being distributed by Saxon Homeschool.
Price: $49.95 per year, this includes a one year household license for up to four users.

What we loved . . .

  • Fun, fun, fun-- Although entertainment is obviously not my chief goal during math lessons, my kids definitely ALL enjoyed this program. And, since it focuses on building their mastery and speed in basic facts, I don't mind a little fun in the process. Or, even a lot of fun.
  • Limited game time -- While it does reward the hardworking child with games, it limits these to 5 minutes at a time, and even the games often help reinforce their math facts.
  • Tracking progress -- You can easily log on and see how each child is doing. These easy to read charts show which facts they have mastered, and gives you an idea of how close they are to mastering other facts they have been working on.
  • Adjustable expectations -- I clearly expect my seventh grade to know his facts more quickly than my kindergartner, and Facts First allows for that. You can go into the controls and change the standard for mastery. This alters how fast the program expects an answer, any where from 1/4 of a second to 60 seconds, or even untimed if that works best to motivate your child.
  • Audio! -- Even my kindergartner can use this program fairly independently. A voice reads everything that she needs to know in order to continue to improve in her basic math facts
  • Instruction and drill -- The program doesn't just drill the facts (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division), but it also introduces a new fact before drilling it and then adding it to the list of facts they might see in their quizzes.
  • Great graphics -- Just take a glance around their site, and you can't help but enjoying what you see. Colorful, eye-catching, this site is fun to use and fun to explore.
Some considerations . . .
  • Limited in scope. This program is just about basic math facts. These are extremely important to master, but don't expect something else from this program. It drills and redrills, and encourages kids to improve in their basic math facts.
  • One license for the house. My daughters didn't like that my son could also look at their accounts and see their mastery grids. Simple solution, I just made other people's information off limits, but as far as I am aware, there is no setting to prevent this.
  • Still may have too much game time. While I generally felt this offered a good balance of games and instruction, 5 minutes of play for a few minutes of work is still quite a bit. Of course, the games do include further reinforcement.
Facts First has a limited scope, but one critical to your child's success in math in the years ahead. Especially for multiple children, the cost is reasonable, and since the program is fun and able to be used independently, this is a great way for kids to work on their own and see their mastery grow without groans.

For more TOS Crew reviews on this product, check out the TOS Crew blog.

Disclaimer: This web based membership was provided to me free of charge from Facts First as part of my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew. I received no additional compensation and the opinions expressed here come from my personal experiences and sincere thoughts.


MommaMindy said...

The program looks good, no doubt, but I am getting a little frustrated with the pay per year aspect. It can end up being SO expensive! I did a grade program this way, and have regretted it. Do you do the pay per year often for any curriculum? Do you think it is worth it? If you used this for 5 years, that would be $ tax...yikes. Would love to hear your thoughts.

5intow said...


I definitely agree that yearly (and even monthly) pay as you go programs are often not worth the expense. Especially if you have a number of kids that all need to be paid for and enrolled separately.

I have not used a lot of these web based, pay per year programs in the past, and have really just gotten familiar with them this year as I have been reviewing so many of them.

I don't think I would enroll in these types of programs year after year, but could see them being useful during certain seasons. For example, during summer months we like to do school, but still mix things up a bit. A program that I could enroll in for a few months would be ideal during that time. Keeps my time free-er for planning the coming year, but keeps my kids on target with their studies.

Or, I could see budgeting one program each year to free up some time and motivate the kids in a particular area of struggle.

So, all that to say, I think they definitely have applications, but I don't see them as multi-year programs, and they would definitely be something we would pass on completely if money was tight.

Hope that helps!