If you're a fan of Right Start math, you may be interested in checking out this new online curriculum: Dreambox, for K-2 math. Sadie is working her way through Right Start's kindergarten curriculum, using lots of visuals -- tally sticks, an abacus, counters and manipulatives. When we started playing around with Dreambox, she found many of the exercises comfortably familiar, as Dreambox uses these same tools, but in the context of Flash animation and games. Dreambox encourages kids to visualize numbers and think in blocks of five and ten, just like Right Start, and we've just found that the two systems dovetail extremely well.
Dreambox's online math curriculum is very interesting, in that it progresses at a variable speed, based on your child's performance. If something seems easy for the child, the software skips him/her along to something more challenging. If something is too hard, the software pulls back to spend much more time on that skill. This quality means that it's *super* important for you as a parent not to help your child. The software is meant to be used by a child independently, because it customizes itself to the student's strengths and weaknesses. I did make the mistake of directing Sadie a bit too much at first, and that resulted in her being skipped ahead too much. Dreambox fixed it for me, though, and now we're back on track.
Here are a few screenshots of the software:
This shot shows the three sections of the Dreambox world -- the house, the adventure park (where most of the math games are played), and the carnival (where the less academic, more fun games are played). Kids earn tokens in the adventure park which they can "spend" at the carnival to play and unlock games. In other computer math systems I've experienced, there is more difference between the "work" games and the "reward" games, with the reward games being purely fun and the work games being more purely work. Dreambox mixes it up a little -- the work games are contextualized in narrative and have little cartoons and characters to play with, and the reward games are also teaching math concepts. Here's a shot of the carnival. Yes, Sadie's avatar has purple hair -- a harbinger of things to come, no doubt!
You can play for free for two weeks, and then it's around $10 a month, depending on how many months you buy at a time. If you have a strong internet connection and a K-2 child who likes computer games, Dreambox is a great way to teach without worksheets, without pencils, without lectures. The learning is intuitive, the rewards are integrated, and the software is fun!