*We received one free year of a family membership to CTC Math in exchange for this review of the product. However, the opinions expressed are solely our own.*
After many years of using the same math program in our homeschool, we made a change to CTC Math for this school year. This change came about because my 13-year-old son had asked for a new math curriculum. Since math is hard for him and he works really hard at it, I was willing to do whatever he thought would help him learn best.
CTC Math is an Online Program
His main request was that we move to an online math curriculum. He loves all things on computers, which is common for children (and adults!) with ADHD. It removes some of the writing and it provides immediate feedback.
It also allows him to watch a short video on his own without mom involved. This is a big plus for him! And he knows after the short video that he will have exactly 10 questions to answer. Having a routine structure where he knows what is expected each time is important for ADHD brain.
My older son used an online math program several years ago where you need to get a certain number of questions correct in a row to move on to the next lesson. In other words, the number of questions he had to complete kept changing. He hated this! Changing expectations like this is a nightmare for students with ADHD so one of the first things I liked about CTC Math was the consistent expectations.
Each day when my son logs into CTC Math, he sees what tasks he has been assigned for that day. This is another way that he knows exactly what to expect. I prefer to assign his lessons based on how he has done on the last few lessons. But, there is an automatic scheduler that will set up all the lessons for you, if you prefer.
Short Math Videos and Customized Questions
Each lesson in CTC Math starts with a step-by-step video of the skill that will be covered in that lesson. Each video lasts about 4-9 minutes and contains a visual of the steps as well as auditory explanation. Then 10 questions are given for students to practice the information they learned in the video.
The 10 questions presented to the child are based upon how they are doing in real time. If they are cruising through the questions easily, the difficulty level will slowly increase. If they are struggling, then the questions they receive will be at the level they need to work at.
During our trial phase of the program, my son specifically said he liked the “visuals”, which sealed the deal for me. He has gone through years of vision therapy, and I know the visual piece of math is what he struggles with. So, teaching the lessons in a way that visually works for him is important!
Immediate Feedback and Step-by-Step Structure
One reason people with ADHD gravitate toward online learning is the immediate feedback they receive. Positive feedback in the form of streamers, fireworks, balloons, etc. give us a little shot of dopamine, which especially keeps the ADHD brain engaged and moving on to the next task.
In CTC Math, my son even receives feedback throughout problems that have multiple steps. If one of the first numbers he fills in is wrong, it gives him a simple visual cue and he has to correct the number before the program even presents the next blank to fill-in.
This presentation of one step at a time also keeps him from accidently skipping a step. This is basically an online version of the strategy I have used with our boys for years for Getting Unstuck in Math.
Also, the program reduces the amount of writing by providing some of the other information like addition, subtraction, and equal signs as well parentheses. Not only does he have less to write, but there are less places for him to make a mistake.
But, I know he will eventually need to develop those skills, too. Which is why in later lessons written worksheets are provided for him to complete. It just removes some of the obstacles while he is first learning the material. And a great feature of the worksheets when we get there is we will just enter the answers back into the online program and it will grade them for us. And it THEN makes a solution sheet available to us to correct any mistakes.
A Mastery and A Spiral Math Curriculum
Now technically, CTC Math is a mastery math curriculum. BUT…if you don’t use the automatic scheduler and instead schedule your student’s lessons each day or week, you can also use it as a spiral math program to review concepts that were on the border of mastery. Let me explain…
First, a mastery math program teaches a concept and then has a child practice that concept until it is mastered, meaning it is now part of their skill set for ever more. CTC Math gives a mastery rating at the end of each lesson depending on how many your child got correct AND the difficulty of the questions they got correct. If the student has not reached the highest mastery level, they are encouraged to try the lesson again. Of course, you can save this review for a later time if they have reached their mental or emotional limit for the day.
You can learn more about how the mastery piece of the CTC Math program works in this video. Here you can see several lessons he has done and where his mastery level is in each one:
Now I could choose to have him repeat the lessons throughout the week until each one is blue. But I also know that sometimes repeating skills, especially skills that are not coming quickly, can be frustrating to a child. They start to feel like they are not progressing and can lose motivation. And this is where the spiral approach comes in.
A spiral approach is where the same concept is revisited at different intervals and more depth is added to that concept each time. Working through different, but related lessons in CTC Math and then returning to lessons he has not mastered yet allows him to potentially build the skill in a different way. Looking at the above chart, he has mastered five lessons in this section and almost mastered two others. It is now time to return to the yellow and green starred lessons and work through them again.
How We Got Started
There have been several questions in online forums about where to begin with CTC Math. The company recommends that you do the diagnostic tests for each unit in the LAST grade level your child completed for math and then work on any skills that are not mastered. We tried that and found it to be confusing. So instead, we just started going through the lessons for his current grade level and have found that to make more sense to us.
There are about 110-170 lessons per grade level depending on which grade you are working on. So, doing one lesson a day for four days a week for 36 weeks would have you complete one grade a year. However, the lessons are short so if your child is showing good progress at mastering the skills, you may want to schedule more than one lesson a day.
We have done up to three lessons a day. Sometimes we do two new lessons and one review lesson. Sometimes we do three days of new lessons and then a review day. And, if you finish a grade level part way through the school year, then you can just move on to the next one.
How It’s Going
We have now been working through CTC Math lessons for six weeks. Overall, my son has enjoyed the lessons and is making good progress. He chooses to do his math first thing each day so that tells me the program is a good fit for him and his ADHD.
I have been on a bit of a learning curve figuring out how much to repeat a lesson right away and when to review it at a later date. I am realizing that I probably should have been reviewing more as we went along and mastering more lessons in a unit before moving ahead. So, we will be going back and doing more of that.
There have also been a few lessons that he has needed me to sit with him and “hold his hand” as we worked through the problems together. And that is fine, I keep having him repeat that lesson until he is able to master it without me sitting there with him.
We also have done several reviews of Roman numerals on the whiteboard to improve this particular skill. But overall, he is working much more independently and successfully with CTC Math than he did with his last math curriculum, and we are definitely going to stick with it!
That said, I think his last curriculum, which used lots of manipulatives, was good preparation. I am not sure CTC Math would have been a good match for him a few years ago.
Maybe I will do another update at the end of the year on our progress!
Have you tried CTC Math or are you thinking about it? Do you have comments or questions? Let us know!