This review reflects the observations and experiences of independent teacher volunteers, and is provided as a service to Education World readers. The review in no way constitutes an endorsement of the product or its manufacturer by those teachers or by Education World.
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FlashMaster, an "11-ounce computer that replaces flashcards," allows students to practice math facts at school and at home. Recently, Education World reviewers checked out FlashMaster in the classroom, rated it on a scale of 1-4, and shared their thoughts about the device's strengths and weaknesses. Discover what they had to say. Included: How to obtain a free FlashMaster for your school!
FlashMaster by FlashMaster.com is a handheld device that allows students to review and practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division in an easy and appealing way.
Recently, Education World asked our reviewers, all teachers or educational technology specialists, to check out FlashMaster in actual classroom situations. Reviewers were asked to use FlashMaster with their students for a period of at least one month, note specific strengths, weaknesses, and/or quirks of the program, record personal observations -- both positive and negative -- and rate various qualities of the device on a scale of 1-4.
The results are in, and this is what our reviewers -- and their students -- had to say!
Click here to see educators' reviews of other products including Kidspiration, Timeliner, Graph Master, Adobe Photoshop, NetSupport School, NetOpSchool, and more!
A Special Offer!
Offer extended! Get your free FlashMaster today!As a special offer for Education World readers, Flashmaster LLC will send a free FlashMaster ("with batteries included and no strings attached") to the first 2000 principals of public or private K-12 schools in the United States or Canada who request one. To receive a free FlashMaster, principals should send, by August 31, 2003, a self-addressed mailing label, and a letter on official stationery confirming that the school does not already own a FlashMaster to:
P. O. Box 9321
Jackson, WY 83002
Postage will be paid by Flashmaster LLC, although Canadian schools will be responsible for any import duties or taxes that might apply.
"I used the device mostly for drill and practice. Students also used FlashMaster during extra time -- when they were finished with their assigned work. They also chose it as an activity to do when they were allowed to play games or select other fun activities.
"I had planned to share FlashMaster with another classroom, but my students did not want to give it up."
"A teacher would probably want to have more than one available for an entire class -- everyone will want to use one."
"It's portable, so it could easily be sent home with students for homework practice or remediation."
"I would recommend several be purchased for each classroom."
"I would highly recommend its purchase. The students loved it, and math is an area that is tested -- and we concentrate on tested areas. Students need to have mastery of computation to move on to higher math. The price is OK and I'm glad to see they offer discounts to schools and discounts for quantity purchases. It's also nice that it's something parents can purchase and use at home."
"The device was used in a fifth grade math classroom for drill and practice, and as something to choose to do during free time."
"There are too many words on the front; consequently, my students did only the first thing that popped up; they didn't try to figure out the all the rest of the activities on their own."
"I would not spend $50 on this item. The students did not choose to use it during their free time; they had to be handed the item and told to use it. It lacked a 'fun element' that can be found in many online activities for math fact drill and practice."
"I gave the FlashMaster to a fourth grade student after lunch one day and told him he should experiment to find out how this new 'math computer' worked, and then be ready to teach three classmates how to use it. It took him about ten minutes to discover how to use FlashMaster. He only asked for help once, when he was trying to enter Special Problems, but we used the included guide to learn how to do that. After he taught three classmates, those students showed another small group how it worked, and then that group showed with the next group, and so on. By the end of the day, the entire class had been introduced to FlashMaster and were fairly comfortable using it."
"I used this device in a single classroom. For the first week or so, I had it on my desk and the students could get it and use it during free time. There were often three or four students huddled around it, very much as they would have around a computer game! After the first week or two, I began suggesting that certain students use it during indoor recess. They were reluctant at first, but after trying it, they were excited. I would start them out at their level and speed so they could experience success."
"I gave it to a special education resource teacher to use with her math students. She thought it was fantastic! She liked its instant start and levels for all her students."
"I especially liked the option of repeating missed problems."
"There are few things my students did not discover about this device. For example, they didn't realize that they could change the sound effects."
"I preferred this device to practicing on a classroom computer because users don't have to hit enter after they type in the correct answer; the next problem appears automatically. There's no wait for the next problem to load as there may be in older computers. The device is so small, students could carry it in a car or anywhere. Parents could purchase it for use in the car or at home."
"I would recommend this device to other teachers and to parents. Many of my kids have little computer games and so on --if parents can afford those, they should be able to afford this device. (I think the price is $49.95.) I also noticed on the Web site that there is a reduction in price for schools and quantity purchasing. I think this is one accessory that would actually get used."
"I showed FlashMaster to my principal. He asked for my review and will consider purchasing FlashMaster for our school."
"The device turns on instantly which makes it highly desirable for anyone who has a limited amount of time to use it. If a student wanted to get on a network program on the computer, he or she would need a good five minutes to log on, load the program, troubleshoot, adjust the sound, and so on -- even starting to use the program. Also, the student would have to be under adult's supervision because of the access to the Internet. FlashMaster can be used for as little as a 30-second free time. Also, FlashMaster cannot be used inappropriately! To most students it is a game!"
"FlashMaster received a lot of use during the test period. I expected my 'mathematically challenged' students to go for the device first, but just the opposite occurred. Students who had already mastered their 9's devoured the device. I had to tell them to put it away at times. I know, however, that they learned their facts through the 12's! We were working on reducing fractions at the time and the 'monopolizers' of the device were very handy at dividing by 11 and 12 -- which really is a very useful skill to have. The students who do not know their math facts steered clear of the device for the first week and only picked it up at my suggestion. They too were proud of their progress, but did not stick with it on their own."
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"Fourth grade students were able to use the device independently, or in a partnership, after very little experimentation. They thought it was fun and easy to learn. Several commented: 'It's a great way to learn your math facts.' 'It's a good way to practice timed tests on multiplication.' 'This is cool.' Another said, 'I like that it keeps all the 'cards' together,' -- so obviously virtual flash cards are less messy than real flash cards."
More Student Comments:
Kyle (15) -- "I loved it. What a fun way to do math! I wish I had this when I was in elementary school."
Caleb (10) -- "This is neat. Can I do it again?"
Jacqueline (11) -- "I can't wait to try it again. I really liked it."
Molly (12) -- "This is the most fun I have ever had doing math."
Kylie (11) -- "FlashMaster was easy to use. I figured it out by myself!"
Chase (11) -- "It helped me figure out my 11's and 12's!"
Jessica (11) -- "I know my math facts now!"
Grayson (12) "I learned my 11's and 12's, and it helped in reducing fractions."
Stephanie (12) -- "It kept my interest because after I mastered one level, I could challenge myself by changing to the next level."
Megan (12) -- "I liked the FlashMaster and in the future it will come easier."
Kristen (11) -- "It was so simple you just have to push a few buttons and bam! you're playing!"
"It's self-explanatory, very easy to use, and easy to adapt to individual students -- especially special needs students."
"It has too many buttons on the front."
"More illustrations added to the guide would make it easier for students (and adults) to first learn how the device operates, so they could deal with questions or problems as they arise."
"When FlashMaster arrived, I showed it to the students (I held it up). They had known it was coming, and they were excited to be part of the review. Initially, I told them I would give it to anyone in the class during free time. I also told them I wanted to see if they could figure out how to use it, and I wanted them to try the various programs and levels. I was not asked one question! In fact, the students showed me how it worked! They were very anxious to show me their improvement in both speed and accuracy. For about a week, I did not see FlashMaster until the end of the day."
"The device seems very durable; we dropped it the first day, of course, and it came up ticking."
"I especially liked the green See Results button for viewing a student's progress."
"This device is extremely easy to use."
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"Just put in the batteries and it is ready to go."
"I didn't have any problems setting it up. I just turned it on and followed the steps right on the front of the FlashMaster."
"I had no problems the whole time I used it."
"Overall the device worked just as the directions said it would. It's easy to pick up and get started just by reading the steps on the front."
"It's easy to set up and use. No problems were experienced by the students when using the device."
"I know you can't have everything and keep the price of a device like this reasonable, but I wish students could sign off with their initials or something, so I could really monitor their progress. Right now, the machine changes hands so frequently, I often don't know whose results I'm looking at, unless the student is under my direction."
"I have rated this program exceptional for usefulness in all categories for several reasons: The device requires no teacher supervision; it cannot be used inappropriately; it is durable and relatively inexpensive; and it can only improve students' mastery of math facts. You can target which operation a student needs to work on. The teacher or student can choose whether the operations are to be timed and, if timed, whether that time should be displayed. By repeating missed problems, students do not waste time repeating already mastered math facts."
"The Change Problem Format option, (which students did not discover on their own), is very useful for introducing algebra. It is also very helpful for illustrating and assessing one of our standards: Using inverse operations to solve equations."
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"FlashMaster is a quick yet novel way to practice those necessary math facts at any elementary or middle school grade level."
"Our math instruction is currently standards based. We know that teachers in the lower grades are also overwhelmed with the volume of material they are responsible for covering in their math instruction. It seems, however, that although the lower grade students have had more exposure to many mathematical concepts, they are displaying a disturbing lack of the basics -- primarily with their math facts. We cannot take the time in sixth grade to include mastering math facts as part of our curriculum. I usually have to enlist parents or offer after school time to catch them up. (Staying after school is not often an option for many students in our consolidated schools.) FlashMaster can be a real learning resource for bridging this gap in the classroom."
"This makes a quick center activity."
"It's great for drill and practice of facts -- something students really need."
"Students were interested in using FlashMaster for about ten minutes or so, and then they moved on to other activities. I wonder how appealing this simple device would be for children who are used to computer games and video games with lots of bells and whistles? However, if students -- especially students who are struggling with memorizing their facts -- are able to practice math facts for ten minutes each day, the results should be positive."
"FlashMaster is a simple, easy, and portable study tool for learning addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts. The company has a pricing promotion and quantity discounts for schools that purchase five or more. I think a small set of five to eight FlashMasters could be used successfully in a classroom math center, for independent student practice, or sent home with math support students who would benefit from additional practice on basic math facts."
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"The Web site is very helpful. There are record-keeping forms available on the site, and it's very easy to follow the online help. There also is a phone number available for assistance if no Internet is available -- although the number is not an 800 number, which could be a problem for some. The manual can be read online or printed. It's a good idea to have both options."
"The online FAQ's section is minimal, but most of the information can be found in the manual that was included in the packaging -- and is also available online. You can contact the company for help; however, their preferred order of communication is e-mail, fax, snail mail, and telephone."
"The hardware worked flawlessly and we did not require help. The manual is very thorough. I visited the Web site, which is quite comprehensive. You can even print a manual from the site."
"The instructions on the face of FlashMaster are very comprehensive; there's no need to consult the easy-to-read manual. (Can you believe it -- an easy to read manual!)"
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Article by Linda Starr
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