Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Review: Math Tutor DVD

Last January, I had the chance to review a couple of titles from Math Tutor DVD, and we really loved them.  So I was thrilled to have the opportunity to review more.  This time it was Pre-Algebra Volume 1 and a TI83/TI84 Calculator Tutor.

Both of these volumes are taught by Jason Gibson, who has a fascinating career and educational path.  At least we thought so.  I read his little biography to the kids, and it did make the older three more interested in listening to him.  A couple highlights -- he has degrees in electrical engineering and physics, along with certification as a space shuttle flight controller.  He's done a lot of interesting research, and worked at places such as Texas Instruments and NASA.  In 2009, he left NASA to focus on Math Tutor DVD.  I'm glad he did.

I love some of what he says, though, in summing up his qualifications to be teaching on this DVD:
Now, I am the first to admit that none of this amounts to a hill of beans when teaching a lesson.  What really matters is if the instructor can take a complex topic and assume the student knows absolutely nothing about the task at hand and take him/her from zero knowlege to expert in step-by-step chunks.
I personally get a thrill out of making seemingly complex topics suddenly easy to students.  I have found over the years that the easy way to do this is to learn by working example problems, beginning with the easier ones and gradually progressing to the harder ones.
Okay, so on to the actual product here.

Pre-Algebra Volume 1 contains 9 sections, starting with Real Numbers and ending with Order of Operations.  My favorite sections were on Absolute Value and on Powers and Exponents, as those are the two areas my kids seemed to really need to cover before beginning algebra.  Of course, the discussion about the definitions of Rational Numbers, Irrational Numbers, Integers, Whole Numbers, and Natural Numbers is always good.  I can never remember whether 0 is a natural number or a whole number, I just know zero is the difference between natural and whole.  (For the record, 0 is NOT a natural number, but it is a whole number.)  I can remember that.  Uh-huh.  Sure I can.

The sections average a bit over a half hour, which I thought was a good length for students old enough to be using it.   My kids all watched it, in fact.  Connor (13) nit-picked some of the definitions and the like.  That would be because he's 13, not because there was any issue with the statements.  William (11) will be starting Algebra soon, probably in October, and this video was perfect for him.  While he didn't love it, he didn't complain about it either.  In fact, when I asked if I should purchase Volume 2, he rolled his eyes at me, then said, "Yeah, you probably should."  I laughed.  I love it that my kids are starting to recognize that there is some value in the not exactly flashy stuff!  Thomas (9) thought it was great that he was understanding so much pre-algebra.  It made him feel smart. 

I loved this.  Dry was the word we over-used when reviewing Math Tutor DVD in January.  And yes, this is still dry.  It is Jason of Math Tutor DVD standing in front of a white board lecturing.  But the information is excellent and it really is presented so that we had no problem following along.  I'd highly recommend watching sample videos on their website.

The other item we got to review was a tutorial on using a graphing calculator, specifically the TI-83 or TI-84.  We are fortunate enough to own a TI-86 from Dale's calculus class, from, oh, 12-13 years ago.  So I was thrilled to get something to help ME learn to use it.  And Connor was really excited too.  The DVD set is 3 disks, with 37 sections and 8 hours of content.  Seeing as Connor isn't quite to the point of using a graphing calculator, we ended up only watching the first few sections, and we will continue to work through it fairly slowly, or maybe we'll put it away to pull back out when Connor gets to Calculus (which could be frighteningly soon!)

We both were very impressed with the instruction.  I've never used a graphing calculator at all  (neither has Connor) and this made me feel like I could actually figure it out.  Instead of Jason in front of a white board, it is Jason's voice with a graphic of the calculator, and he uses a pointer to point out various keys or features.  It was great to see what the display should be showing as you go. 

If your child is going to be using a graphing calculator, I highly recommend this tutorial.  The sections are fairly short, which is a plus, and you can should play along if you have the calculator in front of you.

Either of these volumes are available for $26.99.  If you visit the website, you can view the table of contents and some video samples.  There is a new option at MathTutor DVD now too.  For $19.95 per month, you can subscribe to the online version of the site, where you have access to ALL the DVDs they have produced, and even to content that has not yet made it out in DVD format.

We will be purchasing more of these, most definitely.  There is the Pre-Algebra Volume 2 I mentioned above.  I'd love to get Geometry and Unit Conversions for Connor this year.  And all the upper math, yikes, it makes me think maybe we can get through Calculus and Differential Equations.  (Did I really just say that???)  I'd love to be able to purchase practically everything they sell...

You can check out what my fellow crew-mates have to say about Math Tutor DVD at:

Any questions? I'd love to know what you would want to know in deciding whether or not this is something you want to purchase.

Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive two complimentary DVD sets from Math Tutor DVD.  The fact that I received complimentary products does not guarantee a favorable review.  It does guarantee a review. A fair review. But I am not going to praise something unless I think it deserves the praise.  If I don't like it, you'll hear that.  And hopefully with enough detail as to why so you can decide for yourself if what I hate about it makes it perfect for your family.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.


Deanna said...

I am glad I am not the only person who doesn't use the calculator! That TI-84 is a mystery to me so the DVD was as much an experience to me as it was my son.

Tess said...

Great review Debra! My interest is piqued in the online option and the DVD's sound wonderful. I'll email you if I end up with specific questions.