CTC Math and Thinkwell Math reviews (mostly CTC)

CTC Math lesson screenshot
CTC Math lesson screenshot

Productive Mama Bottom Line:  CTC works really well for The Tween. I was just notified our six month subscription is coming to an end and I will be renewing for at least 12 more months.  It’s working very well for us.  Thinkwell worked wonderfully for the Teen, though she is now in school so I don’t have as much ongoing experience to share.  Moving to video based and self correcting lessons was a smart move as the girls reached middle school.  “Relationships first, relationships first….” chants the mom of three daughters.

The Tween and I were doing too much head bumping when working on math together.  It was time for me to search for another way. I used Singapore Math all the way through 6B with my oldest before switching her to Thinkwell, which worked really well for us and helped her prepare for starting school in 8th grade.  For both girls, I wanted something that would have them learning more independently. I wanted the concepts introduced without mom. I would be available for clarification and extra help. I also wanted problems administered without me and some level of correction without me, as well.  That way, they are taking on more responsibility in all areas.  And, to be truthful, Mom takes less blame for being unclear, not telling them X, Y or Z, “I didn’t understand,” “You didn’t say THAT,” and more. The more Mom is out of it, the more they realize what is actually a concept they need help with and the emotions do not muddy the waters.

My hopes for a video-based math program for the mid-schoolers:
  • Web-based and accessible from any online computer (not necessarily iPads, but that seems to be in development)
  • Student can re-watch lessons as necessary
  • Lessons are in digestible lengths
  • Automatic Tracking of progress
  • Lessons are ordered so student can easy move along independently
  • Clearly explained lessons

I looked at Thinkwell again (and may return to it in the future) but opted for CTC Math for Tween.  I purchased both of these from The Homeschool Buyers Co-op.  http://www.homeschoolbuyersco-op.org

The savings are CONSIDERABLE.  45%-60%.  On these types of online programs, as well as physical, hold-in-your-hands curricula.  Do not buy any homeschool program without checking here first!  I’ve never had any problem with any of my purchases from the Co-op, which so far include a writing program, Homeschool Planet Planner, these two math programs and Reflex Math.


THINKWELL (It’s been a year, so some details are fuzzy).
“….students watch a series of dynamic 10-minute video lectures and then complete interactive online exercises that reinforce concepts and demonstrate mastery of the topics.
 Thinkwell’s presenters are actual professors from some of the country’s top colleges, including Williams College, Rice University, Purdue, Middlebury, University of Chicago, and more. Each professor is one of the great communicators in his/her field. Their tutorials and extensive interactive exercises make the material memorable by delivering the unexpected with examples and stories.”
  • $125 for 12 months access to ONE grade level, but usually 45% off at Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op
  • Grade 6 through AP Calculus available for Math
  • Videos of teacher AND visual lessons.  The lesson page is divided up into a few boxes where you can view each lesson component
  • Teen thought teacher was “a little cheesy,” but I also heard her chuckling along
  • Other subjects available:  American Government, Economics, Public Speaking, Biology, Chemistry, Physics
  • Problems within the lesson are graded by the program
  • Worksheets are printed and then graded by looking at the answer key (I believe they are pdfs). I graded them sometimes and sometimes had Teen grade them herself.  Having her grade herself eliminated some of the disbelief at incorrect answers.
  • You must purchase each class/grade separately.
  • Course lessons are clearly outlined and easy to follow
“…the lessons are short and concise to help your student break down concepts and appreciate math in a whole new way!….The lessons are taught the traditional way, not to a “test”….Each one of the video tutorials are taught by internationally recognized teacher, Pat Murray, who is known for teaching math concepts in a simple, easy-to-understand way (and in only a few minutes at a time). Even students who struggled with math can get great results.”
  • $197 for 12 month access to ALL grade levels, but 60% off at Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op
  • Math lessons available for Kindergarten through Calculus
  • Videos are just lessons, teacher is not seen
  • Teacher has Australian accent. I thought that made it kinda neat to listen to.  Soothing, even!
  • All answers are corrected by the program. Correct answers are shown, but not solutions.
  • If student misses problems, the next time they work their problem set, there are new ones to challenge them
  • Scoring is done by the program.  You can set the minimum percentage grade required to move on.  Occasionally I reset this so the student could move on.
  • Since scoring is done by the program, the program requires the answers to be entered CORRECTLY.  Sometimes Tween would switch answers (such as entering length instead of width, or she’s put Sally’s age in the spot for Tommy’s age).  If Mom grades, there might be argument if I marked these wrong, even though I understand what happened. This was a GREAT lesson for her.  The program isn’t trying to be mean or trip you up.  When you take a test or do classes online, you must pay attention to these types of details!
  • It’s easy to see your scores as you move along.  It’s motivating for Tween to see her progress. While it was disconcerting for her when she got low scores upon learning new concepts, the next day she usually re-did her problem set and got a much improved score.
  • *One of my main reasons for choosing this program* is that you receive access to ALL GRADE LEVELS for one price.  This was perfect for us, as Tween was on track in some topics and behind in others. In fact, so that she could learn the program and see quick progress at first, I started her fairly far behind her grade level and she moved along at a quick pace. She’s slowing down now as she reaches her current level.  You can also see how the grade lessons are divided and move around a bit in each section, if you’d like to.
  • Metric and British/Australian terminology and units since this program is out of Australia
  • You cannot see the problems after they complete the lesson, so I have my daughter print her results right away.  This uses a lot of paper, which is not ideal. But it does make a “textbook” of sorts for her, as I also have her print the one page lesson for review.  Having the lesson for reference helps ME to help her and helps me to understand what was presented.  We print and date the lessons and then print her worksheets and place them behind the lesson for review. I’m about to go over everything from the past six months and then clear it all out for her to start fresh in the fall.
  • Lesson presentation is simple.  There aren’t any animations or music.  But I think that keeps her focused on the content. It also shows her this is a “real” lesson and she takes it seriously, as previously our computer work has been games.
  • Some topics/sections don’t have many problems so if your student needs more reinforcement or practice you might need supplemental practice
  • While you can watch the video over and over, if your child just isn’t getting a concept, you will need to step in yourself or find other resources to help explain.  So far I’ve only needed to do this once in each program
  • It’s easy to track progress in the teacher/parent area
  • I receive a weekly email from CTC that lets me see how she’s doing. I love these because they make them so easy to interpret at a glance.  There are color coded bar graphs for her scores in each section and I see which lessons she viewed and when she logged in and out.  This helps me see if we need to do any trouble shooting.  For instance, if she viewed a lesson THREE TIMES, she might be struggling with that topic. Or trying pull one over on me and just letting the video play but not really taking it in.  What? Not MY kid!
The Tween says she wants to continue with CTC and I agree it’s working well for her. We have both seen progress and I believe her sense of independence with this new program is helping in us in several ways.
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