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Straight Curve Mathematics Series 2

By John Drag Jr. - Posted Nov 1, 2006
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Overall Rating:5 Stars
Ease of Use:A
Product Support:A

Company: PLATO Learning, Inc., 10801 Nesbitt Avenue South, Bloomington, MN 55437; Phone: 800/447-5286; Internet:

Price: $20 per student. 

Audience: Grades 3-5, students and teachers.

Format: Web-based program: graphics, text, audio.

Minimum System Requirements: Computer with browser and Internet access.

Description: Straight Curve Math-ematics Series 2 provides supplemental material designed to enrich core elementary mathematics curriculum for students and teachers. The program focuses on the concepts that students in grades 3-5 find most challenging: decimals, fractions, measurement, probability, and problem solving.

Reviewer Comments:

Installation: I reviewed Straight Curve Mathematics Series 2 on a Dell Dimension 4400 desktop computer with a Pentium 4 processor (1.60 GHz) and Windows XP.

The installation of specific plug-ins is required. The latest version of Adobe Reader should be installed to view user guides, the learner guide, and curriculum guides.

Access to the PLATO Web Learning Network is easily reached by following the links provided in the section titled "Installing Courseware Plug-ins." Installation is easy; well-written instructions are included, and hotlinks direct users to specific URLs (e.g., Macromedia Shock-wave). Pop-up blockers must be turned off or disabled. Installation Rating: A

Content/Features: Straight Curve Mathematics teaches concepts and strategies through a series of instructional blocks, mini-lessons, investigations, workshops, games, and quizzes. Each activity is designed to fit in a 20-minute period. The format easily permits teachers to integrate Straight Curve activities into any portion of a standard 60-minute mathematics block.

Suggestions are provided regarding the intended audience and setting for each activity. The primary delivery method for each activity (online or offline) may be found in the Teacher Support Materials section.

The mini-lessons initially introduce concepts and principles; these are also found in the Investigation and Workshop instructional blocks.

Students solve problems and activities through a Warm-up and Challenge within the Investigation Instructional block. Teacher Support Materials within this block include worksheets, journal-based activities, and suggestions for students that may require help completing the Challenge.

The Math Workshop allows students to come together to form a math community.  Workshops are teacher-led; however, the teacher is expected to guide group dynamics and not to teach content. 

The Games block provides games designed to be completed in 20 minutes, although replay is permitted and students may wish to spend more time on this activity. Online games may have offline equivalents, but not the reverse. I played several of the games and found each challenging and interesting. I am confident that students of any level will reach the same conclusion.

The quiz material is primarily available online, comes in a multiple-choice format, and provides practice for standardized tests. The first half of the quiz is practice; a virtual mentor is available for support. The second half of the quiz is scored; help is not available. 

Students can try questions twice; the pool of questions is twice the size of the quiz. Teachers may preview all acceptable answers and view student scores, completion rates, and time on task. All data is reported in the management system.

A variety of features provide user support. The Read Along button on the screen permits users to read, as well as hear, directions. The Glossary helps users quickly find the definitions of words used within a lesson that may be difficult to understand.

The Tools button permits access to a number of handy items a user may require while working on a lesson, including a ruler, calculator, fraction blocks, and more. Teacher Notes directs the user to PDF files of support material. Teachers may find the Teacher Journal a convenient tool on which to write and print notes regarding the current lesson.

Users can easily repeat a lesson, skip through a specific portion of a lesson, and play or pause as necessary. Content/Features Rating:  A

Ease of Use: Straight Curve Math-ematics is very user-friendly and contains content that is easy to understand and interesting to work with. Upon installation of the necessary plug-ins, I was immediately directed to a display of the different learning paths available with my specific log-in.

The program includes numerous features that make the program easy to use. I found the following helpful while navigating through a mini-lesson on the Circumference and Area of Circles: a Read Along button, Glossary, Tools button, and Teacher Notes feature. 

The ease with which I navigated through every part of the program optimized my online experience and saved time. Ease of Use Rating:  A

Product Support:  Technical Support comes in a variety of formats, including toll-free telephone support, e-mail support, online Web site support or live chat support (available Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., CST).

Users are encouraged to download the PDF file titled "Checklist for Contacting PLATO Support" prior to contacting support to improve the quality and speed of the response to their request.

A variety of teacher support materials providing on-demand teacher resources are available both online and offline. Product Support Rating: A

Recommendation: Straight Curve Mathematics offers resources that help teachers find the best ways to teach difficult mathematical concepts, as well as the opportunity to use that same content to teach students.

This program also would be helpful in teacher preparation for certification (subject area testing, especially math). I have observed numerous teachers, certified and/or on their way toward certification, who would benefit from a deepening of their mathematical knowledge. Highly recommended.

Reviewer: John Drag, Jr., Principal, Broward Community Charter School, Coral Springs, FL.

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