Monday, January 31, 2011

City Creek Press: Times Alive!


The Times Alive! computer program is based on the popular book, "Times Table the Fun Way" published by City Creek Press:

The program includes stories that use numbers as the main characters. Click HERE for a sample of the stories "The Threes" and "The Fours." For the Times Alive software program, the stories are written on the screen while a narrator reads it aloud. After a story is read, the student is prompted to type in the math fact that was learned.

Some of the lessons have a song that helps reinforce the math fact. The songs can be purchased separately as a CD. Listen to samples of the Songs to Remember.

Within some lessons, are sheets to "color" that related to a particular math fact (the one shown here was for 3x3=9). These were pretty basic and easily navigated (my 5 year old who was too young for the program itself, loved doing the coloring pages). They provided a nice break within the lesson line-up. If, however, your student isn't interested in coloring page, they can just click on "next" and continue to the next activity.

There are also tests built into the program. Students need some experience with typing in numbers and using a mouse. Speed and accuracy results are given immediately. Wrong answers are indicated with the correct answer provided. The student can choose to retry taking the test to improve their score or they can just continue to the next activity. You can also choose to print out a copy of the test and have your student do it on paper (however, the answers would need to be entered in the program to show up as completed on his progress report).

As the child progresses in the program, completed lessons are checked off and partially completed lessons are shown with a partial mark. So if a child just keeps clicking "next" to get to the next lesson, it won't show full completion.

Students can view a list of the lessons and see which activities have been completed. When they pick up the program, they can just click on the next lesson. If a teacher would like a student to redo a test, the test can be cleared to allow another attempt. Once a user quits, the program shuts down. Subsequent users must restart the program to use it. It would be nice if there was a to allow one user to logout and another to log in without having to restart the program.

City Creek Press indicates a 95% retention rate with the use of their product. That certainly is a promising result. For someone who has a student struggling with learning math facts in a traditional manner, the Times Alive! software is a highly imaginative way to cement math facts. The goofy cartoony stories and the quirky songs do help add some visual and auditory components to math fact retention.

The best way to get a feel for this software is to watch the sample videos the City Creek Press YouTube channel. Here's an example of one:

Our Experience
When we were provided this product to review, my 11 and 7 year olds originally both tried it out. My 11 year old completed most of the activities through Lesson 5 and then just was not interested in continuing. She thought the program was too corny.

My 7 year old, on the other hand, enjoyed the program and progressed through 12 of the 18 lessons. Whenever he would use the program, it was pretty common to see his 5 and 3 year old sisters with chairs pulled up to watch. They thoroughly enjoyed the stories and songs. [WARNING: The songs do tend to stick in your head.] There were a few times when my son really though he had entered the correct number and the program said it was wrong. But it's possible he lightly hit an adjacent number key. Overall, he was pretty happy doing the activities and he would benefit reviewing the lessons again.

I also worked through some of the lessons. One thing that was frustrating to me was the inability to navigate within a video clip. I can see why they may not want students to skip ahead in a school setting, but in a home setting, it would be nice to move forward or backward without having to replay the whole section to hear something a second time.

Product Information
The Times Alive Software CD-ROM retails for $48.95 or purchase an instant download version for $44.95. You can check the system requirements and view screenshots when you visit the product page.

City Creek Press publishes a number of products such as cards, posters, books, story board, song CD, activity sheets and more. You can view all these products HERE.

Our verdict
I'm not sure I could personally justify spending so much on a software program for learning multiplication facts. For families with a large number of potential users, the cost might be justified. If you can afford it, this software does provide a visual and auditory reinforcement of multiplication facts and is infinitely more fun to do than plain old flashcards. For those who honestly cannot afford to purchase the software, it might be worth purchasing the book on which the program is based, "Times Tables the Fun Way." Or you could purchase the song CD if your child is more of an auditory learner.

If you have tried every way imaginable to teach your child multiplication facts with no success, then this may be just what you are looking for. It helps give students an independent way to master math (the computer is infinitely more patient than any human!). And the combination of the various senses might be a life saver for a struggling student. In that case, it would not be difficult to rationalize the cost of this product. It's a one time purchase that you can use over and over and over again. Could be a valuable tool over the summer to keep math skills sharp. Or just a fun, educational supplement to what you are already doing in math.

Contact Information

A number of other TOS Homeschool Crew members tried out Times Alive! program. Read what they had to say about their experience HERE.

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of Times Alive! for the purpose of reviewing and blogging about our experience. No other compensation was received.

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