CTC Math is an online, subscription-based math program for kindergarten through high school created and taught by Australian math teacher Patrick Murray.
For each course, lessons are divided into a number of “streams” or broad areas of math then further divided into topics within each stream. Then each topic will have a number of lessons. For example, kindergarten level has four "streams", and the first one (Number, Patterns and Algebra) has eight topics, Number I, Number II, Patterns, Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Fractions, and Money. There are a number of lessons for each of these topics. This amounts to a lot of content at each grade level.
At the topic level, there are optional diagnostic tests that might be used either as pre-tests or post-tests for all courses up through Basic Math and Pre-Algebra (a single course). As pre-tests, you can find out if your child already knows a topic and can skip to the next grade level in that particular stream. You can also use either test as a final exam when a student has completed the lessons within that topic. There are two forms of diagnostic tests: standard or comprehensive. Both tests draw from the same bank of questions, but comprehensive tests present about twice as many questions as do the standard tests. Diagnostic tests will tell the parent or teacher what a student knows or needs to learn, but the program doesn't automatically prescribe a grade level or course based on the tests.
The Basic Math and Pre-Algebra course introduces a “topic test” at the end of some (but not all) topical sections. This is a test that is to be printed and completed offline. Answers are then entered onto an online answer form for scoring. While these appear frequently in this course, they appear sporadically in high school level courses. Calculus has none, and Algebra II and Trigonometry appear to each have only one, yet Pre-Calculus and Geometry have a number of them.
On the menu, directly under the diagnostic tests are the lessons for that topic. When there are no diagnostic tests at upper levels, the menu just lists the lessons. Simply click on the first lesson and start.
Each lesson begins with a brief tutorial that runs from four to nine minutes. Tutorials use colorful graphics and animations with Patrick Murray’s voice-over explanation. The consistency of hearing just one voice makes this program feel more personal and predictable than some other programs where the style of presentation and the voice-overs frequently change. Murray’s Australian accent is very understandable. Murray and the written material in the program both occasionally use Australian (British) vocabulary and images with which students in the U.S. might not be familiar such as colour rather than color and images of a cricket bat and ball. This is not a huge issue, but students will likely encounter something unfamiliar at one point or another. Interestingly, the program uses U.S. currency, at least at kindergarten level. I notice that the screen tells me that the program is loading the U.S. Version, so they have clearly made some changes to the program reflecting the location of the user. The staff at CTC Math tell me that the program has been available in the U.S. for less than a year at this point, and they are continually making changes in regard to issues like this.
Lessons teach in small increments with plenty of practice on each topic. The program allows students to go back and repeat lessons or jump ahead to a different topic if that is helpful.
You can print out a one-page summary of each video tutorial for handy reference or review if you wish. Unfortunately, there is only one tutorial for each topic, so if a student doesn't grasp a concept as presented in that tutorial, they don't have another option. Parents will need to watch for this. If a student seems to be missing a particular concept, they might need to use something besides CTC Math to teach that particular concept. CTC has added weekly review sets of problems which should help you spot weak areas right away.
After the tutorial, students are given a series of interactive questions. Students type their answers into the computer or use the mouse to select an answer. The program immediately scores their work, and it also maintains student records. You can print a page showing the problems with their step-by-step solutions, but you cannot print worksheets of unsolved problems.
Sometimes lessons require students to type in words. If a kindergartner is asked to type in number words, yet the child knows neither the keyboard nor the spelling of the words, this can be quite challenging. Non-readers definitely need assistance.
If students don't answer enough problems correctly, they can re-watch the tutorial if necessary and then tackle a different problem set. The program has a huge database and will present one or more additional sets of problems that are different from the original set. So students can practice a concept as much as they need.
CTC Math doesn't waste a lot of time with pointless animations and “praise.” For each topic area, the program shows a reward ribbon symbol that varies by level of accomplishment: bronze, silver, gold, and platinum. The program also provides certificates of accomplishment for each section that parents can print out if they wish. Parents can access detailed reports showing topics studied, time spent, and quiz and test scores. Reports and certificates can also be automatically emailed to the parent or teacher as well.
The scope and sequence seems challenging in the early grades but less so as it progresses. For example in third grade CTC Math teaches both multiplication by single-digit numbers and division with remainders—neither is required by the Common Core State Standards (CC) until fourth grade. The scope and sequence on at least some core skills slows down after this. Multiplication with two-digit multipliers and carrying is taught in the fifth grade in CTC Math while it is listed as a fourth grade topic in the CC. Long division isn’t taught by CTC Math until sixth grade while it is to be taught by the end of fifth grade in the CC. And long division with decimals doesn’t show up until seventh grade in CTC Math while the CC says that it is to be taught by the end of fifth grade.
Keep in mind that many math programs used by homeschoolers (e.g., Rod and Staff's Arithmetic series, Singapore Math/Primary Mathematics, and Horizons Math just to name a few) are all more advanced than either the Common Core standards or CTC Math in the upper elementary grades.
This doesn’t make CTC unusable, but you probably need to speed up the pacing to keep your children close to grade level past third grade. At high school level, you might want to have students complete the Trigonometry and Pre-Calculus courses in addition to the core courses if you want them to have more rigorous coverage. Note that CTC Math courses go all the way through Calculus.
The early courses are labeled for kindergarten through sixth grade. These are followed by the Basic Math and Pre-Algebra course, a broad course that seems to “catch up” the scope and sequence. Immediately following the Basic Math and Pre-Algebra course are Elementary Measurement and Elementary Geometry. The latter two courses cover geometry topics that are usually taught before high school level geometry, so students should complete the group of all three courses before tackling high school courses. There should be plenty of time to do so.
Students at all levels need to be familiar with paper-and-pencil math. Older students will need to do some paper-and-pencil work to solve complex problems in CTC Math. However, younger students also need to be given opportunities for paper-and-pencil problem solving since CTC Math at younger levels rarely makes their use necessary. A supplemental workbook, handwritten problems, or computer-generated worksheets should do the trick at little or no cost.
I concentrated on the courses for the early grades for most of this review, so those are the ones with which I am most familiar. In my opinion, CTC Math seems to be an excellent option for math coverage if you keep in mind the few cautions I’ve mentioned above. It is easy to navigate, and it is efficient in both the tutorials and the presentation of problems to solve. The fact that students can review and practice as needed is a real plus. Students can watch tutorials or jump in and try to complete the problems without watching the tutorial if they think they already know the concept.
CTC Math offers a number of subscription plans: monthly, six-month, or twelve-month. They also offer membership for a single student or a family plan for two or more students. The family plan for twelve-months is clearly the best deal, and especially so if you have more than two children! Each student is given an individual login, and the program tracks their progress. The student has access to all grade levels for the subscription period. This is especially valuable since it is difficult to identify just one grade level that covers everything a particular child needs to learn, and your child might complete more than one grade level in a year.
While you might have to supplement for topics that students don't understand from the CTC tutorials, and you probably need to have students complete some additional paper-and-pencil math practice, CTC Math should be able to serve as your core math curricula. It also works very well as a supplement since it is easy to locate topics for review or practice.
Note: As of 2/6/18, CTC has added weekly review sets. This should be very helpful!