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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Math Tutor---It works!

To tell the truth, I never really gave much thought to math tutoring programs...they always seemed so dry and lifeless. After all, why have a pre-recorded "tutor" teach your child when he can have you in the flesh and plenty of manipulatives to work with? And looking at the Math Tutor DVDs I received to review as a member of the TOS homeschool crew, at first I didn't see much to change this opinion. Here's a math teacher, Jason Gibson, obviously very well qualified with all the credentials, standing in front of a white board with his black dry-erase marker and explaining how to do word problems. He misspeaks a few times, seems a bit nervous...what's the big deal?

Then I showed my 8-year-old son the Algebra 2 DVD...

And, his first reaction is, "Ehhh Math!"

I told him he didn't have to do anything, just sit down and watch the DVD with me and let me know what he thinks. About 5-10 minutes in he said: "Can you pause it for a minute? I want to write some of this down?"

"Sure, go ahead and bring in the white board." He dragged the white board into the living room and set it up near the TV.

The next thing I knew he was drawing his graph and plotting lines along with Mr. Gibson. For each new example, I paused the DVD and David figured his coordinates for the line equation and then plotted them on the graph. Then I played the DVD, we watched Mr. Gibson finish up the example, and David checked his answers.

After a while David said, "Mom, can we stop now? I want to go plot some lines on paper so I can keep them!"

So, how's that for turning a math hater into a math groupie? Not a miracle exactly, but I'm convinced Math Tutor has got something here. And the funny thing is, I think the nervousness and imperfections actually help the overall presentation. It's a confidence builder for children when they can do something better than the "teacher" can. David was delighted that he could draw a straighter graph that went up to higher numbers than the one Mr. Gibson drew on the DVD. And whether your children notice and point out little mistakes (in the Math Problems DVD, the instructor will very occasionally say the wrong number, though he writes it correctly) is actually a good way to see if they are paying attention and help engage them in the math dialog.

Mr. Gibson also does a good job of explaining the problems in simple, easy-to-understand terms and uses many, many examples of varying difficulty. Too many examples for you? Just skip ahead to next topic. I do especially like the fact that, with a little ingenuity, the DVDs can be used as self-checking exercises for extra practice.

The Basic Math Word Problem Tutor, priced at $26.99, is an 8 hour Video Course on 2 discs that covers the following topics:

Disc 1
  • Adding Whole Numbers
  • Subtracting Whole Numbers
  • Multiplying Whole Numbers
  • Dividing Whole Numbers
  • Adding Decimals
  • Subtracting Decimals
  • Multiplying Decimals
  • Dividing Decimals

Disc 2

  • Adding Fractions
  • Subtracting Fractions
  • Multiplying Fractions
  • Dividing Fractions
  • Percents
  • Ratio and Proportion
This DVD set is designed to provide extra help with word is not designed to replace a basic math curriculum. While basic operations are used in the examples, they are not explained in depth. There is a Basic Math Tutor set available.

Ordinarily, I don't think much of separating word problems out from "regular" math (after all, the whole point of understanding mathematical concepts is to be able to use math in real life---i.e. word problems). I also don't think much of dividing word problems into particular types. Determining what operations to perform involves critical thinking and understanding what is being asked, not following certain rules. However, I still think the self-checking possibilities of using these DVDs for extra practice in understanding how word problems work make this set a valuable resource. You can very easily play the original problem, pause it and have your child reason out the problem, and then play Mr. Gibson's explanation. Not only will your child see if his answer is correct, but he'll get a full explanation of how to arrive at the correct answer.

The Algebra 2 Tutor, also priced at $26.99, is a 6-hour course on 2 discs and covers the following topics:

Disc 1

  • Graphing Equations
  • The Slope of a Line
  • Writing Equations of Lines
  • Graphing Inequalities
  • Solving Systems of Equations by Graphing
  • Solving Systems of Equations by Substitution
  • Solving Systems of Equations by Addition

Disc 2

  • Solving Systems of Equations in Three Variables
  • Simplifying Radical Expressions
  • Add/Subtract Radical Expressions
  • Multiply/Divide Radical Expressions
  • Solving Equations with Radicals
  • Fractional Exponents
  • Solving Polynomial Equations
  • The Quadratic Formula
Again, these is not a complete course in Algebra 2, but it does cover and give numerous examples of many of the most important topics.

To see the other topics available or to look at screen shots from the actual DVDs, take a jump over to And for more reviews of these products by other homeschoolers, click the banner below:

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