Make Math Practice Fun with Smartick

I have a few children who hate math. Okay. I’ll admit that all of my children hate math. I sincerely hope this isn’t the fault of their homeschool teacher who also hates math. I try not to hate math. Really I do.

One thing I’ve tried to do is to choose math curricula and math practice materials that are fun. If the kids can say “math” and “fun” in the same sentence, perhaps the math hate will go away. Recently I was introduced to and given the opportunity to review a new program- Smartick- that is designed to make math practice fun for kids. I was given a three month trial.

Does it work? Is it possible to equate math with something fun? Keep reading to see what we thought.

Math practice with smartick

Disclosure: I received free access to this program in exchange for review. All opinions are always my own.

About Smartick

Smartick is an online learning platform that is designed to help your child increase math skills, logic, calculation skills, and concentration. Kids can use Smartick on a computer or tablet or other mobile device. The goal of Smartick is to help kids excel in and enjoy mathematics.

The program is designed primarily for kids ages 4-14. As children begin working with the program, it adapts to their knowledge and skill level and will level up as their ability increases. When the child gives a wrong answer, the correct answer is shown, and there are tutorials that kids can watch to help them learn specific concepts.

Smartick is meant to be used fifteen minutes a day, every day. The developers recommend at least five days a week but stress that every use will be the most beneficial. This program is not a full curriculum for math. Younger children- kindergarten and very early primary- may be able to use only Smartick for math practice, but the program is designed as a supplemental activity that kids do every day, along with a regular mathematics curriculum.

The program aims to make math fun by including incentives in the program. As kids do their daily sessions, they earn “ticks.” These ticks can then be used in a virtual world where kids can furnish houses, play games, and even add friends that also use Smartick. Parents can also set specific incentives for numbers of ticks.

Parents can easily keep track of kids progress. When you login to the admin area of the program, you can see when each child has practiced as well as a record of what she’s been practicing and how she’s performing on different skills. You can also see information such as how many ticks she’s earned and what her room in the virtual world looks like.

You can find out more details about the program on the FAQ page here, and you can watch a video that shows how the program works here.

Using Smartick

I was intrigued with the idea of Smartick when I had done a little research. I know that my children- and probably most children- like to play games on their electronic devices. If they could play a game that actually increased their math and thinking skills and helped them not hate math itself, this could be a very good thing. I signed Ashlyne- age 13- and Rachel- age 11- up for the program.

When the girls began, the program started with a timed test that was designed to test their current ability levels in different categories. At first the timer was a frustration- especially for Rachel who tends to be a perfectionist and really dislikes timed activities because she feels pressure to complete everything even if she’s struggling. I talked with her and helped her to realize that this part of the program was just to test her ability to know where she should start in skills practice, and the crisis of the timer was averted.

We ran into another snafu when I told the girls that they could use Smartick instead of their math curriculum for a brief time while we reviewed it. (We were approaching the end of our homeschool year and finishing up with most subjects anyway, at the time.) This caused them to think of it as their regular math lessons. Rachel- who enjoys plowing through and getting her school work done promptly so she has more time to play- wanted to do multiple sessions in a day and be done with the next day’s schoolwork as well. But the program is set up so that kids can’t complete another session within the same day.

This is not a bad setup, if you’re using the program as a supplement and not a curriculum. In fact, there’s good research to back up having a short session to increase concentration instead of a longer session where kids may become distracted. So I had to have a conversation with Rachel about how the program was really designed to work.

As the kids worked through a session they received ticks for correct answers. When an answer was incorrect, the correct solution was shown. And in some instances there was a tutorial for them to watch to learn how to do that kind of problem. At the end of the fifteen minute session, the program asks the kids if they’d like to correct their missed problems for additional ticks. Rachel, at least, confessed that she hadn’t taken advantage of this.

Once we got the hang of it, the girls used the program for a time to try it out. They worked for a fifteen minute session. Them the program would allow them to go into the virtual world where they could play around and spend their ticks. The virtual world also has a place where kids can go and find tutorials on various subjects. Although the girls had come across this in their exploration, they admitted that they hadn’t watched the tutorials. (Hmmm)

One thing I noticed was that, at times, questions were presented in a way that was very unusual for us. Smartick is aligned with Common Core standards, and we use curricula that is not Common Core aligned. I think this probably accounts for those questions we thought were unusual.

What’s Good About Smartick

As a supplement, I can see how the program can definitely increase math skills, concentration, thinking skills, and calculation skills. There are some interesting questions that involve thinking and multiple steps to solve. I enjoyed watching the girls figure these out.

Having the incentive of a virtual world makes the program more appealing. Many kids already enjoy playing games where they can build and customize a world. Smartick plays into this interest that kids already have by allowing them to use their ticks in their virtual world.

I like that the program adapts to the child’s ability level instead of assigning them a grade level and giving them problems based on that level. Because the program is constantly adapting, the problems should be at a level where kids are challenged but not frustrated.

The short lessons are a good thing. That makes it easier for kids to develop a habit of using Smartick for the allotted time each day.

What Didn’t Work for Us

My girls at the upper age range for the program (13 and 11) quickly learned how to “play the system.” I was watching Ashlyne at the beginning of one session and noticed a question that came before she started working. The question had a series of faces with different expressions and asked how the child was feeling today. Ashlyne chose the “feeling bad” expression- even though I knew she’d had a pretty good day.

When I asked her about it, she admitted that she’d experimented with this, and she got easier questions when she chose a bad day feeling at the start. She also discovered that she could get easier questions by occasionally missing a question. And at the end of the session kids are asked how easy or difficult the session was. She would usually choose “very difficult” so that she could get easy questions the next time. In one of her sessions, she was getting some very, very easy questions for her ability level.

Younger children probably wouldn’t figure this out, but I’m thinking any older child who tends to think outside the box and not just answer straightforward questions could probably experiment and figure this out.

Another thing that wasn’t as good because my girls are older is that they weren’t as motivated by the ticks and virtual world. They enjoyed it, and both loved setting up their avatar. But as we were going through the review period and I was getting their opinions, I quickly realized that they would not like to use Smartick and their regular math program together. They especially weren’t impressed when I told them that the goal was to do Smartick at least five times a week, even through school vacation times.

The pricing of the program would be another hindrance to us. Because we’re homeschoolers and we pay for a full math curriculum already, this would be an additional cost. There are monthly, quarterly, and yearly payment options. And there are discounts for multiple children. There is also a free trial period so you can see if the program is good for you before you invest in it.

smartick math review

Final Thoughts

I think that, for homeschoolers, Smartick would best be used by young children. You could then use it as your primary math curriculum, which would make the payment a little easier. Young children would also be more motivated by the incentive system, and this would make it easier for them to develop the habit of using the program each day.

You can find Smartick and learn more here.

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