Sep 8, 2010

Math Tutor DVD

One of the questions that anyone who home schools their children will invariably receive is "what about ____________ ?" (Insert most loathed upper level course taken in high school.) This course may be science, such as chemistry or physics and when it does it is often centered around the perceived challenges of setting up a laboratory facility at the kitchen table, but most often it seems to be about math, algebra 2, calculus and trigonometry seem to be concepts which cause fear and trembling to arise deep in the soul of the most accomplished mom. It matters not that you may have managed an office full of engineers, or unruly preschoolers or presented cases before the most irascible judge in the county prior to taking on the mantle of homeschooling mom, the thought of teaching math seems to conjure up old, long forgotten anxieties.

I have never suffered these anxieties--mainly because my math phobias are so deep seated as to be laughable. Calculus? Trig? I struggle to explain place value to second graders! I manage enough math skills to be able to multiply pulse rates when at deliveries with my midwifery clients, medication dosages for goats or when multiplying recipes to enable them to feed the small army here at Swede Farm. I survived math in school, but I definitely did not thrive which means that I have a basic understanding of the how but not the why. Because of this I have managed to retain enough of my laboriously gained math skills to do the calculations that I need to function in my life, but definitely not enough to teach it. Me, teach math? The concept is laughable and scary.

Yet we have graduated two from high school and have one more as a senior. How did this happen with such a mathematically challenged mother? We have carefully researched and chosen curricula that tends to be taught by those other than mom, but rather through a well written and designed textbook or software. This is more than helpful in our home it is essential! Additionally I sought out math-minded friends who could troubleshoot for me when those oh-so-carefully chosen tools failed us, but obviously this fall-back method has it's limitations, although it would be helpful, I do not have a math teacher living next door with nothing more to do than explain concepts to my children and to be honest, even if I did I would feel guilty to utilize their skills more than one or twice.

When I learned that I would be receiving DVD to review from Jason Gibson, The Math Tutor, I felt guilty. Here we would be receiving (free of charge in exchange for the review) the fruits of some one's labor and I sincerely doubted that ours would be a good test home. I wondered if a home in which math is enjoyed and looked forward to might not be a better test home.

Once again, I was mistaken.

We received two DVD to use and review, "The Pre-Algebra Tutor, Volume 1" which retails for $34.99 and "The Texas Instruments TI-83/TI-84 Calculator Tutor", retailing for $31.99. When I finally forced myself to actually sit down and watch the DVD I was amazed! Jason explains concepts in a very simple and direct manner. No fancy animations to capture my attention, just a man and a white board discussing in simple words some very basic concepts--that he understood that the student watching may be scared or uncomfortable with advanced math skills but that he would be able to explain them in a manner that would enable the viewer to understand along with examples and enough problems to do that the concepts would be reinforced and thoroughly retained.

And he was right!

Jason Gibson has a very real talent in dealing with the math phobic such as myself (and many of my children). The Pre-Algebra lessons begin with his statements that the very word "algebra" is intimidating, but that he would walk through the concepts slowly. He explained that algebra (and pre-algebra) is like learning a foreign language with new words and ideas. That is obvious even to me. He then said that he wanted to viewer to simply "watch and absorb" the lesson before trying to actually use the problems--as if when you were two years old and learning language from watching and absorbing from those around you. What a wonderful idea!

I have to admit that I am embarrassed to realized that I actually hushed one of my children when they wanted to talk with me while I was watching a lesson. Jason really does explain concepts in a manner that is easy to grasp. As he explained concepts I was excited to realize that I understood them and that this really wasn't so difficult after all.

I do not think that one would call the Math Tutor DVD a complete curriculum. (Though it is possible that some math skilled families may be able to use it as such, I just know that we could not.) Instead I see DVD are rather like that next-door neighbor who doesn't mind being used to explain concepts that mom struggles to be able to express (or the regular textbook fails to communicate in a manner the the student can really grasp). It is a resource to take that textbook to the next level, from a class to be endured to skills truly gained so that the student does not need to feel that there are surely large gaps in their understanding (as I did) and that math is simply something that they "just don't get". These DVD are excellent companions to any math course and invaluable references for when teacher mom finds herself staring at a page in a textbook finding the words to express the how and the why of the problem eluding her.

And look! Jason also does geometry! And physics! With more advanced math coming down the pike. The website allows previews of selected lessons in each course. Additionally one can become a member and this allows significant discounts on all courses as well as down loadable worksheets, a forum to discuss the products and how one is using them in educating your children and access to all of the lessons online 24/7.

I just wish that these had been available to me when I was struggling through Pre-Algebra!


Terry said...

And to think I slide through Algebra with allot of luck and a steady supply of Corn Nuts, who knew??

April E. @ ElCloud Homeschool said...

Good job, LeeAnne! I like how real you are about your own struggles in your review. :)

Anonymous said...

Mom I enjoy math.


LeeAnne said...

True, Sara is the one child of the household who truly enjoys math.