Review by Galen McQuillen, Common Sense Education | Updated November 2015

Bettermarks

Slick math practice with intuitive tools and plenty of examples

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Critical Thinking
  • College & Career Prep

Subjects
  • Math
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
4-10
Common Sense says (See details)
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Not yet reviewed

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Pros: Worked examples are great learning tools; here they're a click away if you need them, hidden if you don’t.

Cons: Supports demonstrate only the "how," not the "why," and open-ended problems are nowhere to be found. This is all skills practice, all the time.

Bottom Line: A solid choice for supported independent practice and useful student metrics, but not quite enough for a complete learning experience.

Rather than attempting to create a complete math learning experience, Bettermarks aims to be the best possible replacement for worksheets and textbook practice problems. As such, it works best in that capacity; an infographic on the site’s home page suggests teaching lessons in class as you normally would and assigning Bettermarks problems for independent practice. We’d recommend this as well. If your students have reliable Internet access, this simplifies homework grading and empowers students to self-assess. It also could work great as in-class skills practice, freeing up homework time for project-based assessments or other, deeper independent-practice options.

If computer access is an issue, custom-created worksheets and tests can be saved as PDFs and printed. You lose most of what makes the site's approach work so well, but they're perfectly fine test-prep-style problems nonetheless.

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Bettermarks is an extensive bank of nicely crafted math practice problems covering topics across the grade 4+ Common Core State Standards and beyond into pre-calculus territory. Response entry is deeper than multiple choice, letting students manipulate sliders, easily draw figures, and drag and drop to submit solutions. They get several chances for success, too; if a first solution is incorrect, a hint appears and they can try again.

Support is nicely baked in, as textbook pages with worked examples are included for every question. Gone are the days of flipping back to the chapter text, only to find the given examples don’t quite match the problem at hand -- here they’re always relevant. Progress metrics round out the experience, giving students a summary of their work and letting them retry and revise, while a teacher dashboard gives plenty of class-level and individual student data.

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Worked examples are a great way to support math skills, and Bettermarks is chock-full of them. As practice problems go, these are a definite step up from those at the backs of textbook chapters or included in curriculum packages -- they’re surely more engaging than repetitive skill worksheets, and immediate feedback and scaffolded hints make for a much safer environment in which to make mistakes.

Ultimately, Bettermarks gains 3 stars for learning because of this excellent approach to skills practice, but it can’t climb beyond that without either some richer discovery experiences or interactive tutorials to boost conceptual understanding. This is all procedural content, all the time. But it’s very, very good procedural content.

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Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Loads of engaging exercises with intuitive tools and response entry that's a bit richer than traditional multiple choice. If standardized-test-style math problems and textbook examples get your students excited, they’ll love this.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

A fantastically streamlined way to flip between the practice problems and the worked examples in a textbook. Learning is encouraged through procedural, skill-based practice, so don't expect rich discovery and deep conceptual understanding.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Hints and examples are available for every problem. Students can try practice problems and worksheets multiple times and track improvement. Each section reviews previous learned skills and previews new content.


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