Redbird Mathematics: Advanced Edition, the result of more than 25 years of research at Stanford University, is one of the most thorough online math programs for the elementary grades. Available for grades K-7, the program is geared for gifted students. However, the course is also great for average students even if they might need to work below their grade level. While you enroll a student for a particular grade level, that designation can be changed if need be. However, previous work is summarized and future reports reflect only work done at the new level.
This is an adaptive curriculum within each grade level. The program adapts somewhat to student performance. If students already understand a concept, they can skim instructional material and move quickly through the lessons. According to the publisher, the courseware adapts based on a variety of inputs including right and wrong answers and the order of those responses. As students give more correct answers, it advances them more quickly (fewer questions and fewer review items). It won’t skip concepts, but it reduces the total number of questions/problems if they are zooming through. If a student answers wrongly, it will show problems in a different way to instruct that concept using different modes of instruction. Then it will provide more practice material to ensure the student knows the material and concepts.
Lessons include instruction, examples, and guided practice, before students try to apply concepts or skills on their own. Lessons often include word problems and real world applications (sometimes with real-life videos) as well as digital manipulatives and simulation tools. If a student misses a problem, they are shown the correct answer with an explanation. The program tackles concepts from a number of directions, often presenting problems in a way that requires critical thinking along with computational skills.
Beginning with second grade level, students are also given an online, project-based learning activity. For example, second grade students plan a 5-day mission to the moon, using addition and subtraction skills to build a rocket with enough food and water to support ten astronauts.
Overall, the program seems exceptionally good at developing conceptual understanding.
I was not able to complete an entire level of the program for this review, but I had a five-year old and an eight-year old both try different levels of the program with great success and enthusiasm. They would work for quite a while in this program without getting bored since lessons continually change their format. Students aren’t stuck solving endless problems of the same sort before they can progress. The website says that there are more than 15,000 practice problems in the system, so there is plenty of practice without duplication.
Games incorporated into the program both teach and encourage students. The games require students to employ math skills and knowledge from current lessons but within unusual, fun, and challenging contexts. One game for young students requires students to build bridges in two stages before they can get their truck across the bridge. Another for older students mimics programming skills within a game format.
You can see more details and samples for each level by scrolling down to the footer at the bottom of the website home page, then click on the various grade levels under “K-7 Math.” There you can also check out some of the games at each level. Your children can actually play these sample games!
While projects and problems in all grade levels sometimes include mention of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) applications and careers, at the upper grade levels, videos and interviews with real-life professionals encourage students to start thinking about STEM careers.
Students completing the highest level of the K-7 program should move on to the Beginning Algebra program for grades 8 and 9 at GiftedandTalented.com. You will probably find that completing the K-7 program will prepare students to move very quickly through any pre-algebra course.
Students can enroll for independent study or tutor-supported study. With both options course material is delivered entirely online and student progress is tracked by the course. However, the tutor-supported option includes unlimited support via chat, phone, or email, academic coaching, parent-tutor conferences, a comprehensive exam, and a certificate of completion. From what I could see and experience with this program, students might need someone to be available to help them read through instructions or sort out unfamiliar lesson presentations. Every once in a while, I ran into a lesson presentation that wasn’t entirely clear about what needed to be done, but it was easy enough to figure it out. But that means that some students might be stumped from time to time and might benefit from either someone on hand to assist them or the tutor-supported option.
I am really impressed by the quality of Redbird Mathematics. Courses are comprehensive and thorough. The only reason you might supplement would be to give students more paper-and-pencil practice with math computations.