Review by Jason Shiroff, Common Sense Education | Updated November 2013

FlexMath

Strong vision for improved learning in math; digital tool falls short

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6-9 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: The algebra, mental math, and geometry lessons help build understanding of complex concepts and provide instant feedback.

Cons: Common Core standards alignment could be listed; students would benefit from a more adaptive approach to feedback within the curriculum.

Bottom Line: A good starting point for teachers looking for free, high quality, online resources for algebra proficiency.

Teachers can use the FlexMath lessons to help explain math concepts to the whole class or in small groups. In a flipped classroom environment, students could preview the lessons at home and work on learning the key vocabulary associated with each lesson. Practice exercises could likely be done at home or at school.

In the classroom, working on the exercises in pairs could help enhance math conversations. Teachers can use data from the website to check for students' understanding and plan next steps for instruction. FlexMath would also be a useful extension for students that are aspiring to explore more advanced math concepts.

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FlexMath's free lesson plans and activities are designed to support middle and high school students' algebraic thinking. The site is currently adding new material -- at the time of review it has 84 algebra lessons, 5 geometry lessons, and a comprehensive set of mental math activities.

Students can browse and access the content on their own, or teachers can set up groups and assign content from the calendar page. Lessons are sorted by subject area -- however, there isn't any mention of Common Core State Standards, or any other standards, on the site.

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FlexMath's best uses come with its solid approach to teaching algebra and mental math. Each lesson is divided into several parts including: presentation, exercises, practice, conclusion. The introductions for each lesson are a great way to set the stage for new learning concepts. However, while the site's blended-learning approach is nice, it isn't always clear which activities are intended for online completion, and which ones are paper-based. It would also be a bonus if content could be more accessible to English learners, and those with differing learning styles.

Setting up a class is fairly straightforward, but there are a few unnecessary obstacles. Teachers can't add students directly to their FlexMath groups. Instead, students must add themselves, providing an email address to FlexMath for account setup. Also, an easier way for teachers to assign and assess students' work would be nice. Teachers might find it helpful if they could mix and match lesson from all three subject areas on one calendar.

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Overall Rating
3

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
3

The multi-part lessons give students conceptual insights with multiple opportunities for practice. The website packs in information without being too busy or distracting. The activities may work better for strong readers.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
3

The instant feedback is great, but individualized, adaptive feedback would help learners the most.The confluence of online activities and paper-based practice could be better organized.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
3

Teachers and students have access to detailed achievement data. Hints and correct answers offer help, but adaptive feedback could better improve student performance. Heavy on text with little auditory support.


Common Sense Reviewer
Jason Shiroff Classroom teacher

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Featured review by
Donald P. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
3
Great lessons for math teachers to use WITH their students - teacher led lessons.

This site provides lots of great examples in Algebra, with the other areas lacking a little. As a teacher, you can find the exact concept that you need and to pull it up quickly and begin using it. These lessons are meant to be teacher led with a teacher working with the students to work through each lesson. Vocabulary is another great factor, providing essential vocabulary for each lesson - would have been better if it had also provided definitions for the vocabulary given. This site has very little interactivity with examples and problems given having to still be worked out on pencil and paper by the students instead of online. The practice problems and the homework problems provided match the lesson well, however there is no 'overall assessment' provided at the end to give students feedback on how well they did. Also, while working on the practice problems there is no way for students to be able to tell which of the examples on the page they have wrong. It ends up being a 'game show' type of situation where you have to change your answers randomly until you get them all correct. There should be specific feedback on which one is wrong to help students figure out where they made their mistakes. Overall, it is a great basic curriculum for teachers to use as a supplement to what they are already teaching. Could be made much better by adding additional interactivity or some video lessons to go with what is already provided.

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