Sunday, September 26, 2010

Jones Geniuses Matrix Math® Review (ages 2-6)

A simple Matrix Math® practice sheet
"Any fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius - and a lot of courage - to move in the opposite direction." 
Albert Einstein
A couple of weeks ago, Dr. Jones from Jones Geniuses Accelerated Education sent me his Early Learning Kit for review.

The Early Learning Kit has both a reading and math curriculum (Threshold to Reading® and Matrix Math®), but for the purpose of this post I will only be discussing the Matrix Math portion. (Please stay tuned for upcoming Threshold to Reading® review).

What It Is

The Matrix Math® is the first (Level One) program in the Jones Geniuses' math curriculum. Jones Geniuses math programs cover basic to advanced arithmetic and number concepts all the way up to algebra and geometry, and does so on a level far exceeding most traditional math programs. Jones Geniuses Math Programs are intended to advance students approximately four times faster than traditional math education, while at the same time utilizing advanced standards and techniques (such as rapid calculation with large numbers and difficult operations, systems for instantly memorizing long lists of numbers, and so on). (See our introduction to the company here)

Matrix Math®, the first level program, focuses primarily on introduction to number concepts, addition, and subtraction, by the use of a special "dot matrix". The program is geared toward 2-6 year old children, although it could possibly be adapted for older or younger students depending on ability. Matrix Math covers:
  • Numbers (actual quantities)
  • Numerals and numeral writing (symbols for numbers) 0-9 and above 
  • Counting forwards and backwards (one-to-one correspondence) to 20, then to 100
  • Greater than and less than concepts
  • Addition and subtraction skills with numbers 0-20

How it works 
Hunter practicing the placement of the dot matrix 
ma·trix [mey-triks] -noun 
1. something that constitutes the place or point from which something else originates, takes form, or develops

The foundation of the Matrix Math program is the dot matrix. The dot matrix is a simple yet ingenious system of intentionally placed dots within numerals, that teaches children the actual quantities behind the abstract symbols. The numeral 7 has seven dots in it, the numeral 9 has nine, you get the picture.

These simple dot-numeral hybrids are used to teach children quantities and numerals
at the same time and as the same thing, counting, greater than and less than comparison, how to write numerals, and, most importantly, addition and subtraction.

You may have seen (
or heard of) the idea of placing dots inside of numerals to teach small children the realities behind the symbols, such as this example here. But herein lies the uniqueness of the Jones Geniuses dot matrix system:

  • The dots within the dot matrix are intentionally and logically placed, for the purpose of memorization. For example, every circle contains four dots, and every long line contains either three or five dots.
  • The dot matrix is used to teach addition and subtraction with dot matrix based manipulatives and worksheets. Children count the dots, starting at the larger number (instead of starting all the way at one) and then count up (or down, in subtraction) as they touch each dot within the smaller number. For example, "8" is touched and named in 8+4, then the child touches each dot in the "4" as he counts up from 8, reaching the final answer, 12.
  • The dots are counted in a specific order, so children learn not to double-count (or skip) dots on accident.
  • The dots are made to be memorized. Initially, children practice addition and subtraction with these "special" numerals, but the purpose of the program is to memorize the placement of the dots so that they can be used as aids in regularly-written numerals, even when they're not there. This is taught by writing dots inside of blank numerals (see picture above) in daily exercises, exactly and precisely, so children quickly move from "matrix" equations to regular equations, using their pencil to count imaginary dots in each numeral.
  • The dot matrix, once memorized, can be used throughout the child's life, since our's is a 0-9 based numeral system. It can be used for larger numbers, such as 173+285, and also can be used in multiplication and division, for example counting by threes while touching the dots in the "9" of 9x3. These skills are taught in future levels.

Our Experience with the Program
Hunter, as you probably already know, was a little bit "past" this level in most senses, as he could already count, understand quantities, greater than and less than, write numerals, and so on. But nonetheless, I think he highly benefited from the use of the program and by learning this amazingly clever dot matrix tool!

As you might know, we have had an interesting and sometimes perplexing road after using Glenn Doman's How to Teach Your Baby Math program over three years ago. I would do the program again in a heartbeat, and Hunter has often times amazed me with his mathematical abilities, including being able to instantly solve large equations without counting, fill in the blanks in algebra equations, effortlessly grasp concepts, and so on. But his ability to solve answers visually (with aids) never translated into being able to solve answers auditorily, or even on paper.

This program has been an amazing "next step" for us, and after quite a while of not doing very much math since we didn't know
what to do or how to go about things, Hunter is once again excelling (and I can't wait to see what the next levels have in store for us!) After just a little over a week of daily working on the program, he had memorized the dot matrix exactly and was able to graduate to their numeral-only equations, and is flying through them!

Why it is Accelerated (and better) 
There are a lot of things that I enjoyed about this program, but the main benefit is that it is clear, understandable, and accelerated. Accelerated does not just mean that you go through the same material faster - it means you go through the same material better!

It does this by:

1. Streamlining and simplifying, doing away with "crutches" such as counting on fingers or with beads. It gives kids a useful, efficient, long-term, and easier tool that they don't have to be painfully weaned off of!

2. Skipping the "start counting from one" step for addition, teaching kids from the beginning to begin the equation by counting from the bigger number, which is much more efficient and common sense.

3. Teaching addition and subtraction as inverses, doing away with the all-too-common problem of children who are strong in addition and weak in subtraction (because kids always count forwards but rarely count backwards). They teach you to count backwards with your child every time you count forwards, and every math session is composed of equal attention to both addition and subtraction. This makes for children who are not only strong from the start in both essential skills but understand the concepts better since concepts are most easily understood as contrasting opposites.

4. Teaching a speedy method of computation, since, as every phonics teacher knows, speed produces comprehension. If it takes a child five minutes to "sound out" the sentence "the car is driving fast", the child won't understand what he just "read". The language of mathematics is the same way, and by using the quick and efficient tool of the dot matrix, children are able to better understand and retain the information, not just "going through the motions" without truly internalizing what is happening. Speed also complements memorization and helps children to be able to instantly solve equations, faster, sooner.

5. Instilling confidence by helping children succeed, and therefore, keep going and keep learning, doing away with the unfortunately all-too-common math phobia. When you're not good at something, you avoid it. When you are good at something, you're drawn to it. A motivated child will excel for the love of the subject.

Pros:
  • Logical, thorough, accelerated - The program is, I believe, a beautifully-designed, well thought-out, thorough program, saving you and your child time, money, and frustration, while producing excellent mathematicians. What better pro could there be than that?
  • Early start - The program is simple enough to begin as soon as your child can talk, usually around age two, since math is a language just as is English, and the program is designed to emphasize such.
  • Easy to understand - The curriculum is well-organized and easy to understand.  The DVD and instruction manual explain each step carefully and clearly, making it simple and straightforward for the parent.
  • Individualization - All the programs are not age-based but skill-based, doing away with the "one size fits all" mindset found in most math curriculum.
  • Excellence in education and attention to detail - High expectations, true mastery, and precision are core character traits incorporated into the program, which are taught gently and joyfully to small children early on.
  • The belief in joyful and early teaching - Just like Doman, Dr. Jones believes learning should be joyful, fun, and gentle for the child.
  • Wonderful customer service - So far, all my dealings with the company have been wonderful, including quick responses to emails, friendly, in-person phone consultations (for free) and extremely quick shipping.
  • Non-profit company - Always a plus, Jones Geniuses Accelerated Education is a not-for-profit company.
  • Reasonable price - Less expensive than most other math curriculums, yet delivers so much more!

Cons:
  • Sturdiness of materials - The materials are printed on regular computer paper (posters, reproducible worksheets) or plain card stock (flash cards). This was a con for me because they are somewhat fragile and not "kid proof". This was easily solvable with some simple lamination, though, so nothing big here.
  • Print quality - Overall, I think the print quality was fine, but there were a few instances (perhaps 2-3) where the material's printing was "off center", making it difficult to complete the worksheet. I'm sure this was just an individual printing mistake and not present in every program, though.
  • Website description - This is not a con with the program itself, but rather for prospective buyers. I would have liked to see a more complete and comprehensive package description easily accessible on the website of what all is included, further details about the program and its implementation, and better pictures of the individual items before making the choice to purchase. With what an amazing program it is, I just don't think the site does it justice.

What is Included in the Program
Included materials (click to enlarge)
1. A fifty-minute instructional DVD (for the parent) that carefully covers each step of the program, early learning philosophies and teaching, how to use the materials, child demonstrations, and more.
2. A 36-page instruction manual (for parent) with an introduction to accelerated education, early learning and brain development, how to implement each step of the program, suggested activities, how to motivate your child, parent's perspective, and more.
3. Eleven 11x17" posters, including blank number lines (up to 100), dot matrix number lines and dot-placement posters, number-letter memory association graph, Matrix Math steps, worksheet challenge progression, and addition and subtraction demonstrations.
4. A 34-page How the Numbers Made Friends with the Letters storybook, which introduces children to the number-picture associations that are used in later levels for advanced memory techniques.
5. 0-9 Matrix manipulatives and operator symbols (+, -, =), which are 8x5.5" flash cards that are used for teaching counting, greater and less than, and initial addition and subtraction.
6. Seventy-one 8x11" reproducible, leveled worksheets, which gradually and gently progress children from doing 4 extra-large print, dot-matrix-based addition and subtraction equations per session to 100 small print, regular-numeral addition and subtraction equations per session (65 pages), as well as dot-matrix fill-in-the-blank and numeral writing worksheets (6 pages).
7. Beautiful, gold-lettered award ribbon for being a "Matrix Master" after graduation from the program

Matrix Math can be purchased individually (special order) for $100 plus tax from Jones Geniuses Accelerated Education, or together with Threshold to Reading for $160.00 (a 20% discount) when you buy the Early Learning Kit.

Jones Geniuses Accelerated Education sent us an Early Learning Kit to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own and I was not otherwise compensated for this review.

Hunter, at time of using the kit, was 5 years, 5 months old

6 comments:

Waterdreamer said...

Thank you for this review, it made me realize the kit I have purchased from them was incomplete. Had I not seem your pictures in this entry I may have not know.
Thank you so much

Elizabeth (DomanMom) said...

That's unfortunate, what was it missing?

Hopefully they will be able to fix the problem soon, good luck.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this thorough review. -arvi

Catharine (octaviaorca) said...

hey, thank you for sharing that. i think you should be paid by the company! it seems like they want to keep things sort of 'hush-hush' about their program... that makes it hard to purchase! my concern has been the quality of the both physical product and graphics. i find so many programs geared for homeschoolers to be subpar to toys and games that my kids already play with that their interest falls away quickly or the graphics aren't clear so i can't even understand it to explain it. i am really interested in this program and thanks to you i'm on the verge of hitting the 'buy now' button. thank you!

Anonymous said...

Are you still impressed with the program, and if you are? How is Hunter enjoying them now that you are further along in the program? Do you feel you need to supplement with any other math workbooks/etc or do you feel this is a complete program.

Thank you,
S

Dr. Jones said...

Go Hunter go! Jones Geniuses always replaces ASAP anything missing or defective in any kit free of charge or shipping. Just call us at 817 718 8822 or email our Curriculum Advisor at chris@jonesgeniuses.com. We have just finished re-engineering the Matrix Math and Threshold to Reading kits, re-edited texts,
new posters, etc. We do that periodically based on the feedback from parents. If you are a current client, mention that when you call and we will send you anything new you do not have in your old kit for free.

Dr. Miles Jones,
founder Jones Geniuses