Review of Top Math Sites
By Murray Bourne, 19 Jun 2008
HomeSchool.com recently released their Homeschool.com's Top 100 Educational Web Sites of 2008. There were 7 math sites included in the Top 100.
What makes a Top Math Web Site? To find out, I've had a closer look at the 7 sites that were selected by Homeschool.com.
The following comparison of the sites (in the table, below) considers several factors:
- What is the Content? This is vital for any visitor, of course.
- What Grade levels is the site aimed at?
- Is there real-world context for the math or is it math for math's sake?
- Who is behind the site? In some cases no name or address can be found.
- What does the site sell?
- What are the top keywords for the site's home page? (This helps search engines to determine what the site is about. Determined using SEO Tools - Keyword Density, mostly using 3-word phrases)
- Does the site have valid HTML (if it doesn't, there is a good chance that the site will not display properly on different browsers, different operating systems, and on mobile devices. Determined using W3C's HTML Validator)
- Does the site have valid CSS (same reasons as above - if the CSS is bad, the site can look terrible, or not work at all. Determined using W3Cs CSS Validator)
- How popular is the site? This one is tricky, since there are different ways to measure it. I have included Google's PageRank score (high is good - it means Google knows that many other sites link to the site; maximum is 10), Alexa Rank (lowest is best - this is supposed to be the site's popularity rank, but is skewed due to its non-representative sample), Compete Rank (same concept as Alexa; lowest is best)
The original list of math sites on Homeschool.com did not appear to be in any particular order. I have ranked the sites, based on what I believe to be important in a math Website, which is as follows:
- Quality of content and context for the math
- Value to students (which I regard as having greater importance than a site's value to teachers, or parents in the case of homeschooling, since we are trying to develop in our students some self-learning skills and life-long learning skills)
- Web standards (how well is the site designed? Is it future-proof?)
Of course, I have kept in mind the needs of home-schoolers in my comparison.
At the bottom of the table, I have included a similar analysis of my own site, Interactive Mathematics, for comparison. (It was not included in Homeschool.com's list)
I hope you find the following information useful.
[Information as at June 2008.]
1. Ask Dr. Math
College & Beyond
|Grade Level||K to 15+|
|Real-world Context||Possibly, depends on the student's question|
|Who||Originally Swarthmore College, now 300 volunteer 'Doctors' from all over the world|
|Sells||Dr Math books
|Top 5 Keywords||the math forum
ask dr math
algebra dr math
dr math explains
explains algebra dr
|Valid HTML||No (14 errors)|
|Comments||Searchable database of questions with solutions.
Students are directed to Tutor.com if they "can't wait" for an answer.
2. Purple Math
|Content||Good explanations on a wide range of topics:
Solving Word Problems
|Grade Level||5 to 12|
|Real-world Context||Some - in the word problems|
|Sells||CD of whole site for sale at nominal $10.|
|Top 5 Keywords||lessons are written
student in mind
pointing out common
help you find
written with the
|Valid HTML||No (11 errors)|
|Comments||Very slowpage load time for several pages on the site.
I tried again at different times of the day over a few days and page loads over 1 minute were common.
3. Math Goodies
|Content||Easy to understand lessons on:
Perimeter & Area of Polygons
Circumference & Area of Circles
More On Decimals
Topics in Pre-Algebra
Data and Graphs
Introduction to Statistics
Includes worksheets and puzzles
|Grade Level||4 to 8|
|Real-world Context||Limited (eg Statistics section)|
|Sells||CD of whole site - around US$50.|
|Top 5 Keywords||help since 1998
our free newsletter
goodies interactive math
interactive math help
math goodies interactive
|Valid HTML||No (15 errors)|
|Comments||Has a popular newsletter.
Lessons are in HTML format and open in any browser. Most of the content is on the CD, not on the site.
4. Math Playground
|Content||"Play with numbers and give your brain a workout". Fun atmosphere.
|Who||"...teachers who are passionionate about math and technology"
No names given, no address given
|Top 5 Keywords||welcome to math
middle school students
elementary and middle games math
site for elementary math games
math word problems
|Valid HTML||No (22 errors)|
|Comments||Some good activities - but where do you input your function in the function example?
Claims to be a "safe site"
5. The Math Worksheet Site
One Hundred Chart
|Grade Level||K to 6|
|Sells||Subscriptions for a greater variety of worksheets than the free version|
|Top 5 Keywords||math worksheet site
the math worksheet
single digit horizontal
5 minute drill
digit horizontal single
|Valid CSS||No (1 error, 19 warnings)|
|Comments||User is able to create printable worksheets (PDF) after choosing certain parameters.
Can this promote drill and kill?
6. Web Math
|Content||Has an online algebra solver. No content as such. Solver is optimised for:
Plots & Geometry
Trig. & Calculus
|Grade Level||K to 12|
No address given
|Top 5 Keywords||help you solve your math problem
lines the equation
data analysis finding
numbers number line
convert to a
|Valid HTML||No (4 errors)|
|Valid CSS||No (3 errors, 23 warnings)|
|Comments||Solver can deliver unsatisfactory results. For example, it will spend several lines to multiply 5 by a.
Also, how well do these solvers help students to learn?
7. Mega- Mathematics
(It seems this has disappeared.)
|Content||Difficult to determine from the home page. The topics in the graphic are:
The Most Colorful Math of All
Welcome to the Hotel Infinity
Games on Graphs
A Usual Day at Unusual School
Untangling the Mathematics of Knots
Algorithms and Ice Cream for All
Machines the Eat Your Words
|Grade Level||Appears to be for teachers - Contains lesson plans (that are devoid of objectives, context, year level, etc)|
|Real-world Context||Difficult to determine - doesn't appear to have|
|Who||"A project of the Computer Research and Applications Group at Los Alamos National Laboratory;
classroom teachers, mathematicians, students in education and computer science, elementary school and high school students, school administrators, computer scientists, parents..."
|Sells||Nil - government site|
|Top 5 Keywords||this is mega
is mega mathematics
|Valid HTML||No (4 errors)|
|Comments||Home page has unattractive image map for navigation.
Site appears stuck in a 1995 time-warp.
Takes a lot of digging to find anything - navigation is poor.
Purpose and audience is unclear.
|Grade Level||8 to early college|
|Top 5 Keywords||play with it
math while you
interactive mathematics math
interactive mathematics learn
mathematics learn math
|Comments||Interactive games and exploratory activities to enhance math lessons.
Has a popular blog and a newsletter.
See the 5 Comments below.
20 Jun 2008 at 2:23 am [Comment permalink]
Good post. I just want to address a few things you mentioned in your analysis of Math Playground.
Math Playground does offer activities in a real world context. There is a role playing game called Math in the Mall that asks students to visit a health club, a toy store, a restaurant, and a bank. They must solve problems related to tax, tipping, interest, and do some comparison shopping. Percent Shopping and Making Change also have real world math connections.
In the function activity, you can enter the function after the five input/output pairs are presented. It will appear onscreen at the end.
I am curious about the html errors. Do you know what kind of errors they are? I use Dreamweaver and have never seen an error report. I'd like to correct the errors if I can.
The safe site award was given by wiredkids.org based on their criteria. There are no hidden downloads or agendas on the site and the content is wholesome and aimed at children in grades 3 to 7. There is advertising but I am very careful about the type of ads that appear on the site and ban advertisers with questionable content.
I'm sure your criteria for judging a math site differs from that of the award giver. All I truly care about is the feedback I get from the teachers, parents, and students who use the site. If it's making math fun and understandable, then I feel the site is serving its purpose.
Thanks for the critique.
20 Jun 2008 at 8:57 am [Comment permalink]
Hi, "Math Playground" (we still don’t know your name(s)...)
Thanks for your response. Sorry that I missed your "Math at the Mall", which is a good idea. I checked it out just now and had some trouble. I tried the "percentages" activity and when I visited each of the "toys", "bank", "gym" and "cafe" I was unable to get a question to answer. I expected a question to appear when I got there. I clicked around trying to get a question, but nothing came. I used both the male and female characters. Is there a bug, maybe, or did I miss something?
I used the word "claim" when talking about the "safe site" because some of these certificates are just based on self-nomination.
You can check HTML errors using W3C’s checker. Sometimes there are huge differences in the way Internet Explorer (especially version 6) and standards compliant browsers (like Firefox) cope with a page that has errors.
I’m sure your criteria for judging a math site differs from that of the award giver.
Actually, Homeschool.com had no criteria given for their choices of awards, other than...
These websites contain some of the best educational content on the Internet today. Best of all, almost all of these sites are free or have free sections.
Of course, they are looking at it from the perspective of usefulness for home schooling. I don’t pretend to have such experience, but I do get considerable traffic from the home schooling sites.
All I truly care about is the feedback I get from the teachers, parents, and students who use the site. If it’s making math fun and understandable, then I feel the site is serving its purpose.
Quite right, too! I said in my comparison that your site has a "Fun atmosphere".
Thanks again for your response.
20 Jun 2008 at 11:57 am [Comment permalink]
Math at the Mall does not have any bugs as far as I know. You have to actually walk your character past the signs to the end of the "road". At that point, the character will appear in one of the new rooms. Please let me know if you are still unable to proceed through the game.
I apologize for being discreet about my identity. Unfortunately, someone's idea of fun was stalking me online with very personal email messages. Since then I have been careful about revealing too much information. All that really matters is that I am a high school math teacher with 12 years of classroom experience who likes to write code in her spare time. My friends call me Colleen 🙂
21 Jun 2008 at 4:06 pm [Comment permalink]
Hi Colleen and thanks for your clarifications.
Sorry to hear about the stalker - there are some total idiots in cyberspace.
I managed to find the activities in your game - thanks for that.
3 Jan 2013 at 2:03 am [Comment permalink]
Not sure how HomeSchool gets around to reviewing all the math web sites. I would love to throw mine into the mix and start to get some feedback. If anyone know how to get their ear, please let me know.