Parents’ Review: Can the Smartick Method boost your child’s math skills?

The kids are starting to go back to school. Over the break, they had time for rampant fun, relaxation, and . . . hemorrhaging knowledge? Yep, it happens. And supplemental educational programs for kids, like the Smartick Method, claim to help; but do they?

I was offered a trial subscription to the Smartick Method for my third-grade daughter to try and share with you. This is what we found.

What is the Smartick Method?

The Smartick Method is an online supplemental math program designed for children ages 4 to 14. The math sessions are geared for daily participation for 15 minutes. It’s accessible on desktops and tablets and adapts to your child’s aptitude level. It doesn’t follow government-regulated math standards, and, therefore, claims to help children advance in math more quickly than in school. You can try it for free for 15 days, after which you can choose a pricing plan.

Before we discuss Smartick’s claims and my review of my child’s experience with the program, here’s an in-depth look at what you can expect and what your child will experience. (To skip the tour of the math program, scroll past the screen shots to the section What kids like and don’t like about the Smartick Method.)

The virtual Smartick Method experience

This is what your child will see after logging in to start a session. The program is adaptive to your child’s mood.

Here are some standard math problems at the third-grade level (this level also includes division, multiplication, pattern recognition, graphs, and more). They will increase or decrease in difficulty depending on your child’s performance. The number and highlighted circles in the upper-right corners represent how many problems solved so far and how much time remains, respectively.

Top: Every day after your child completes the 15-minute session, (s)he is asked to rate its overall level of difficulty.
Bottom: Daily results display following a completed session. Your child is also given the choice to correct any missed problems and is awarded an extra tick (or point) for doing so.

Following the daily session, your child is rewarded with access to Smartick’s virtual world, including a customizable bedroom, tree house, school with a math gym and library, and store to purchase pets and personalized items for his/her avatar. All purchases are made with reward points (ticks) earned from math problems. The number in the lower-right corner next to a star represents the number of ticks remaining in your child’s virtual wallet.

In the virtual gym (top), your child can compete with other Smartick kids by playing math games (bottom).

There are many math games your child can play (with or without competing) to practice in the areas of attention, memory, perception, and reasoning. The more your child plays, the more levels (s)he unlocks. One game example (bottom) is Chess for One.

Results of your child’s daily sessions and progress reports are readily available for you to review. Every time your child plays a math game, (s)he has the chance to improve his/her SGI score (Smartick Games Index) in whichever category your child played the games.

Top: In the SmartickBrain Games section, your child will have the chance to earn trophies for his/her performance.
Bottom: As your child increases his/her SGI score, (s)he can view his/her ranking among peers.

Top: Smartick also has math tutorials for a session prep or just for practice.
Bottom: Your child will receive a diploma after the successful completion of each level.

What kids like and don’t like about the Smartick Method

My daughter (eight years old and approaching third grade) loves the diploma feature the best. The first one came as a complete surprise, and because she had to work hard for it, she felt a strong sense of pride and accomplishment. Another feature my daughter likes is the ticks/stars system for buying virtual pets, room decorations, and avatar clothing and accessories. And the virtual world itself is always fun for kids. In it, they can customize the weather, make real friends (other Smartick kids), play games, compete against peers for awards, and go shopping (no real money or ads, just ticks/stars).

Things about the Smartick Method my daughter doesn’t like include the inability to use it on her iPod. Instead, she has to wait for me to take a break and use my work laptop. That factor affected her ability to utilize the program consistently during the first few weeks. I hope they will have a fully-functional app for iPod’s soon. She also doesn’t like how sometimes the program tosses in advanced or abstract math problems without warning, which is understandable. Whenever this happens, she’ll either learn by trial and error (which affects her overall score), or she’ll pause it and enlist my help.

Here’s an example of an easy problem (top) followed by an abstract problem (bottom). Other instances include multiplication problems below 10s jumping to large numbers before easing into it. This just happened during today’s session, and the program did adapt and begin easing her into larger numbers.

What parents and tutors like and don’t like about the Smartick Method

There’s a lot I, in the parent and tutor role, like about the Smartick Method. The program adapts with your child’s mood, performance, and rating of difficulty level after each session; I love that. And though the timer can be a source of anxiety for my daughter (and probably others too), it has helped her stabilize her performance under pressure, and I believe this teaches test taking skills. The progress reports and reviews of my child’s performance in each area help me to identify what tutorials and math games (features I also like) she can use to increase her understanding and performance. And I, like my daughter, love the diplomas that follow consistent effort and results. It wasn’t until my daughter earned her first diploma that she took the initiative to practice with the Smartick Method daily. That’s right, daily. And after each session, she checks her progress before playing in her virtual world.

As for the dislikes, we’re on-the-go a lot, and there’s no app for students (only parents and tutors to monitor). My daughter could have progressed more in math had she been able to practice on her mobile device. I do believe they have an app for tablets, however. The outlier math problems — those that pop up without review or clear instructions that are too advanced or abstract — are annoying. Perhaps these should be covered in pre-session tutorials before being presented to children under a timer. And since my daughter can geek out on math when she’s in the mood, or may not want to lose momentum and points if she’s unable to log in the next day, she often wants to do more than one 15-minute session. I don’t like that the Smartick Method limits problem solving to just one short session a day. I understand the logic behind it, but every child learns differently; so, the option to do more would be nice. This way, eager math beavers aren’t discouraged.

Even though it took a few weeks to grow on my child, and I had to sit with her through the sessions at first, overall, it’s a great supplemental math program for kids. It’s boosting my daughter’s math skills, math confidence, and training her to stay calm and think clearly under pressure. As a kid who got As in class but suffered chronic test anxiety, I appreciate that my daughter can learn this important skill at a young age. And as a parent and tutor, I highly recommend the Smartick Method for families with kids ages 4 to 14 who want to improve in mathematics.

About Elle C. Mayberry

Elle C. Mayberry is a mom and author, who just released a new children's book with her young daughter. With a passion for parenting and degrees in psychology and "make it workology," she created Tuned In Parents (TiP).

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