Before happy hours became the norm in local bars, nineteenth century saloon owners used to give their patrons a "free lunch" if they ordered at least one drink. These poor, unsuspecting patrons didn't realize that the "free" ham, cheese, and salted crackers were meant to increase their thirst prompting them to buy more drinks. Once people caught on to what was happening, the phrase "There's no such thing as a free lunch," was coined.
Subsequently, we've all been cursed with the burden of thinking there must be a "catch" to everything. We're wary of munificent people, thinking, "What's he got up his sleeve?" when someone does something unexpectedly kind or generous. Our friends caution us, "If it seems too good to be true, then it must be." when we tell them about a deal we came across on the internet. Distrust is our go-to reaction whenever we hear the word "free". It's just the way we're conditioned.
That's why I keep waiting to find something wrong with Xtramath.org. I got a link to the site last spring and clicked on it out of curiosity. My students have a horrendously difficult time mastering basic facts, so I figured it couldn't hurt to take a look. Little did I know that I had uncovered a gold mine. XtraMath is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting math achievement. Their goal is to develop effective, efficient, adaptive and intrinsically rewarding supplemental math activities and make them available for FREE. Amazingly, this web program, which promotes fact fluency, is entirely funded by donations.
Initially, I thought the same thing you are probably thinking right now, "How good can it be, if it's FREE?" Check it out at www.xtramath.org, and you can see for yourself. The program is tremendous. It's teacher-friendly, easy to set up and manage. It's kid-friendly, simple and direct. It's research-based,. And did I mention it's FREE? For a really detailed description of how the program works in the classroom visit http://malchowsreflections.blogspot.com/2012/01/this-is-site-that-i-have-written-about.html
If you need a supplemental program to help reinforce automatic recall of basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts, you need to check out this site. You can have your class set up and letters printed out for parents in a few minutes. My students had only one complaint so far. They said the virtual teacher they race against makes annoying gestures, but don't dismay. The kids figured out how to turn the annoying teacher off.
If you decide to give Xtramath.org, I'd love to hear what you think. Maybe you'll agree with me when I say, "Some things just might be too good to be true ;)