Jan 312010
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FactsFirst is an on-line math product that provides math fact practice in order to build instant recall. It is a product of Saxon Math. The program is interactive and fun for the student to use.

The first thing a new user gets to do is create their character. There are many options to choose from. Here’s a sample character.

After the character is created, the student will begin working on either addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division. There is a list of facts that will be covered. The program makes a suggestion for the best activity to begin. For each section there are pre-tests, lessons, and post-tests. There is a wide-variety in the lessons. They initially teach the pertinent facts, then have the student practice them. This sample lesson is teaching simple addition at the grocery store.

Do you see the little circles at the bottom of the screen? Those indicate how many more problems need to be completed before there is a short break. Both accuracy and speed are important for demonstrating mastery of the math fact. So the student practices a few facts, then the game pauses and allows the student to click “go on” before the next set of facts begins. I think that is a good way to ensure that the student can retain his focus during the whole session. The indicator helps encourage the student to keep going when he can see how soon his break is coming.

After completing a section, the student views the math fact matrix. The matrix is a visual display at how well he is doing and how many more facts he needs to learn.

After the matrix, the student is allowed 5 minutes playing one of the available games. The games also practice math facts, but do not involve typing the answers like the lessons and tests.

I had my 7 year old son test out Facts First for me. He really needs to work on his addition and subtraction facts. I am not a fan of drill before understanding, but he has demonstrated his understanding so this seemed like a good way for him to practice.

He loved making the character to represent himself. He laughed and laughed as he chose the items and still laughs when he logs on. Because of his lack of speed, I had to lengthen the time allowed to receive an excellent. A lot of his lack of speed is not in the recall of the answer, but in all the steps required to enter it. First he has to think of the answer, then type it in, and then press enter or the space bar. It was frustrating for me to watch. I wound up giving him 30 seconds per problem. The initial setting is for 2 seconds.

Since he is so slow entering the answers, the sections take him longer to complete. (Of course) The problem with that was that it was a longer period before he got the little breathers in the pre-test. So the fact that he has a hard time focusing was multiplied because it took him longer to get to the break. He had to do more problems than he could really focus on. It was frustrating to him that he couldn’t get out of a section before it was complete. For most students it would not be a problem to complete a whole section though.

The bottom line is that while he doesn’t ask to use the program, he doesn’t mind practicing his addition facts on it for a little while. I have seen a definite improvement in his recall speed. Of course that’s only if I have his attention when I ask him the question.

You can see the demo of FactsFirst at their website. The subscription price is $49.99 for one year’s access to the program. With that, you can have up to 4 unique student accounts. If you have multiple students that would benefit from this program, it is a good value.

Visit the TOS Homeschool Crew blog to see what other Crew members think about Saxon Facts First.

Disclosure: This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are our own.

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