Friday, March 25, 2011

Big IQ Kids Review

What is Big IQ kids?  An online program for math drills, spelling, vocabulary, and state geography.  It is basically a drill program, for those things that need memorized and practiced every day.  There are both free and member versions of the website, but I will leave researching the free section up to you.  You can see a chart with comparisons of the paid and unpaid versions on the Big IQ Kids website.

First I want to quickly talk about the four subjects in the paid membership to Big IQ Kids- spelling, math, State study, and vocabulary.  The spelling program is designed with one lesson each day, and then a test on Friday.  Your child simply clicks on the next button to do the lesson for that day.  The beginning lessons are quite simple.  Bop is on lesson seven, and the words on this list are mainly CVC words such as fun, stun, bun, sun, shun, etc.  There are no phonetic explanations of any of these words, just drills.  There are several activities to do so they are not the same every day.  You can pick from games like robot spelling, spelling bee, and word scramble, along with your expected say-the-word-and-type-it exercises. 
The math program is drills only.  The program automatically starts the child with a certain number of problems to do, I think it was 50.  that was way too many for a 1st grader, so I changed it to 20.  It is very customizable, and I have her doing 15 addition problems and 5 math problems each day.  You can pick from fact families (+2 problems, -7 problems, etc.) but once you get it set up it will advance itself.  When the child meets the program’s standards for that fact family it will move them up.  From +2 to +3, etc. 

The State study program is a little confusing to me, as there is no grade levels in this section.  It was must too hard for a 1st grader, so I did the review for this section myself.  You start by picking a state and then the program tells you a little about it, such as nicknames, cities, industries, etc.  Then you will have a little quiz.  Then you will go on to spelling.  This part has the robotized avatar asking you to spell state names, and you try to type them.  These are not necessarily states that you have learned about statesit the first part of the program.  Next you will do a selection of randomized state capitols.  The avatar reads the state capital and the state, and then you drag it to the highlighted state on the map.  The last section has you typing the abbreviations for each state. 
The vocabulary program uses simple words for the first level, but the way the words are introduced makes it, again, not suitable for first grade.  First, you hear the word read.  Then you read the definition, antonym and synonym.  The computer does not read this part to you, so a higher reading level and a certain level of grammatical understanding are required.  After typing all the words, you are then asked to match the word to it’s correct definition and drag and drop the words into sentences. 
The Big IQ Kids program has animated people with computer voices teaching the child.  They call them avatars, and they sound very much like robots.  When your child successfully completes a lesson he is rewarded with a game coin, which can be used to play games in the game menu.  There are a lot of different kinds of games, but the overall impression that we got is that they are not designed for younger elementary age kids.  Bop could only play a few of them. 
So what did we think?  This does not seem right for our family, at this point.   Personally, the robot voice was extremely irritating and I thought that it was hard to understand.  I was also confused at the vocabulary and state programs which did not seem customizable.  The vocabulary program uses very simple words to begin with, such as ‘center’ and ‘deep’, which most 1st or 2nd graders will already know, and it teaches them using complicated definitions, antonyms and synonyms.  Bop has always had a great vocabulary, but she just could not understand any of it using these methods.  
 states 2
The state program quickly goes through a lot of information, and then expects the child to remember something like the biggest city, or the industry, and answer a multiple choice question.  It is not easy to understand the robots, and Bop really had a hard time listening to the ‘robot’ voice and then answering a question about it.  The next steps in the program have the child spelling names, abbreviations, and learning capitals.  All very good things to learn, but difficult to learn in this way, for an early elementary age child. 
We liked the spelling program a lot more.  It had different ‘games’ to try each day, with the spelling list for that week.  I really appreciated how the lessons are based on word patterns, not a random list.  They are very simple words to start with, but if it’s too easy you can pick different levels.  Bop enjoyed the lessons well enough.  She wasn’t thrilled by them, but if something works and they need it, I don’t really care if they are having the time of their life or not.  And I think (if you want the drill-and-test type of spelling) that this is a great way to do it.

The math program was very simple.  They do math drills in whatever level they are in, and then (eventually) they move on to the next fact family.  Bop knows her addition facts up to 10, but she still has not moved past adding and subtracting 2 in Big IQ Kids.  Why?  She isn’t fast enough.  She will sit there and think about each problem, then think about typing it in, then look at it on the screen and decide if it’s right, and then finally push the enter key.  I have used other drill programs with her, and the same thing happens.  I cannot rush her, because she has to make sure they are all perfect before she hits enter.  I like the math aspect of this program, and I really like how you can hide the clock.  She would have panicked and never typed anything if the clock was staring at her.  The timed drills don’t help her, because she just won’t hurry,  but I think that for most kids this part of the program would be great. 


I think that this could be a great product for unmotivated children, or parents who have trouble drilling consistently.  Because the computer is in charge, the parent doesn’t have to set limits.  If the kids don’t like it, they can blame the program.  :)  The prices range from $19.99 to $99.99, plus an individual program option stating at $7.99.  You can see a list of pricing options at Big IQ Kids, and I would recommend thinking about getting individual programs instead of the package, if you have younger elementary age kiddos.  Big IQ kids is for 1st grade and up, but some of the programs are aimed at the upper elementary grades.

You can visit The Old Schoolhouse Crew blog for more reviews
(hopefully some of them are shorter… God Bless you if you read this whole thing!)
and you can try out all of the free games and lessons at Big IQ Kids

           I received this product free of charge
as a member of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew,
for review purposes. I promise to be honest
and fair in my reviews, and I received no
other compensation in exchange for my review.
You can visit The Old Schoolhouse Crew blog
to read more reviews on this product.

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