Thursday, September 9, 2010
Math Tutor DVD Review
Today is an exciting day for me - I GET to review some fantastic products. Notice the emphasis on the word "GET"...I'm not exaggerating in the least; the products I'm writing about today are some of the best I've seen in my 13 years as a homeschooler. Furthermore, this company's resources would be a help to any student studying math on any level (from basic math to physics). Read on to learn more!
I received 2 DVDs from the MathTutorDVD company - The Pre-Algebra Tutor Volume 1 and The Texas Instruments TI-83/TI-84 Calculator Tutor. Of the two DVDs, my family and I have used the Pre-Algebra Tutor discs the most, so my review will focus more on that item than on the TI tutorial. Let me say, however, the Texas Instruments tutorial DVDs will be used in our home and I am certain I will learn a lot about complex calculators & their functions. Both of these resources are of great value to my homeschool - I am very impressed with both products. and each disc is divided into "sections". There are a total of 9 sections on the 2 discs and each section is something like 40 minutes long (give or take). We use the sections as additional teaching help whenever they correspond with our current math program's lessons. That sounds harder than it actually is; the section titles are listed on the back cover of the DVD & it's pretty simple to match the section with the current Algebra topic being covered in our day to day math program.
Let me briefly discuss one of the sections from the Pre-Algebra Tutor Volume 1 set. "Absolute Value" is one of the sections on Disc 1; it's a simple but often misunderstood algebraic concept, so it seems like a good topic to discuss. The teaching style on the DVDs is very relaxed; the tutor uses a set of whiteboards as he explains and reviews the concept while working plenty of examples. In the section covering absolute value, he begins by explaining the symbol for absolute value - such as |4| or |-2|. Then he explains that each digit has an absolute value using a number line to demonstrate this concept. Whether negative or positive, the digit "2" is 2 places removed from "0" which is at the center of the number line. So, it's absolute value is "2" whether it is a negative or a positive number. Don't worry if my explanation doesn't sound simple - the tutorials are so well done that anyone can learn new concepts with this program.
The next thing he teaches in this section is a list of rules for adding and subtracting integers (which are simply positive and negative numbers). Again he uses the number line as he teaches, backing up his words with a visual example. So my visual learners can grasp the concept along with my auditory learners and those that are more kinesthetic can "complete the learning loop" by pausing the DVD, working some of his example problems on their own as they say the rules aloud to themselves or pause the DVD and add some notes to their math binders. And I would also like to mention that the tutor has a very pleasant voice - now, that may sound silly to some of you, but after 13 years of homeschooling I've learned that a monotone voice = a tuned out student.
While the tutor does say it's okay for student's to check their work on a number line, he wants them to memorize the "rules" and "signs". I agree with him 100% on this point - and that is one reason we use math binders for notes in our homeschool. Each student has their own binder and notes are added one page at a time as needed. All their notes are in one place, neatly written and organized. My children rarely need to have an "open book" quiz or test because the process of keeping the binder and reviewing their notes during their day to day assignments works amazingly well. (Except for my math loving son - he doesn't need notes for math - he does Calculus to relax!)
In a nutshell, this company has produced products that should simply sell themselves. I like everything about the tutorials - from the length of the lessons to the cost of the DVDs. And I must admit, after using many different programs over the years, I was pleasantly surprised by these products! Even my son the math whiz commented on how great they were - coming from a young man who makes the interpretation of math classes on MIT's Free Courseware seem simple, that's a high compliment. If he says they do a good job, believe me, they do a good job! And it gets even better - MathTutorDVD has online subscription's available for $19.95 per month. All of the courses are available to watch from your computer at home - and different aged children in the home can share the same account and watch different subject levels. That's a real bargain for a homeschooling family!
The DVD sets cost anywhere from $21.99 to $49.99 depending on the subject. I've looked over their product selection and couldn't find anything "missing" that I would have needed during our son's math-oriented high school years. The length of the tutorial DVDs varies - some are 4 or 5 hours in total, while others have as much as 14 hours of teaching on the discs. Teacher prep? None is required, although mom or dad could watch the section first in order to be one step ahead of the student. All ages and all learning styles would benefit from this series. I'd have to give this company a "strong A". If you'd like to learn more, you can visit their website at
Feel free to contact me with any questions or comments about these fantastic products - I'd be more than happy to give you my biased opinion :)
Lord bless your happy homeschool today!
Day 40 done :)
Jan L. Burt