TOS Crew: Math Tutor DVDs

TOS Crew

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first started watching the Math Tutor DVDs. I opened the package and found The Basic Math Word Problem Tutor (yes!) and Algebra 2 Tutor (My first response: Huh? We’re just getting started with Algebra, so how in the world can I review something with “Algebra 2” in the title?).

I’d heard a few grumbles from someone that the lectures were boring, and so when I put the first DVD in I was prepared to zone out–meaning I’d have to keep poking my students to keep them involved in watching, when it came time for them to watch.

However, I was very pleasantly surprised!

The two DVD courses we received were straightforward lectures, yes, but lectures that were aimed at teaching concepts by presenting example after example, solved before your eyes, step by step, with a running commentary.

(Scratching my head here. Boring? Well, perhaps, if one was expecting clowns and bright colors. But the tone of these Math Tutor DVDs was exactly what my distractable children need: matter-of-fact, not droning but conversational in tone.)

As it turned out, the videos were exactly right for where our family is in math study.

The Basic Math Word Problem Tutor

The case is sort of generic-looking, matching the no-nonsense presentation found inside. The DVD consists of a series of lessons presented by a man in front of a white board.

He’s sympathetic to those of us who are just learning. He prefaces the problems in a section with a brief introduction where he empathizes with our confusion. (We wouldn’t be watching the video if we understood these math concepts completely, now would we?)

He reads the first problem, which also appears in printed form in a box on the screen. Now it’s time to get to work.

Talking and drawing pictures, he explains what the numbers in the problems mean. He points out key words in the word problems, clues to whether you’re going to add, subtract, multiply or divide. He often uses concrete examples to illustrate concepts (e.g. adding fractions: pieces of pie). He solves the problems, and in the solving you’re getting basic instruction, not just in reading and understanding word problems, but in manipulating numbers.

Topics covered in this two-DVD set (15 lessons, 8 hours in all): word problems having to do with adding/subtracting/multiplication/division of whole numbers, decimals, and fractions; percents, ratio and proportion.

The Algebra 2 Tutor

I was worried, as I said, at having to review an “Algebra 2” tutor. I am just being re-immersed in Algebra, as a matter of fact, as my students are being introduced to the subject.

What a relief, to watch the first section on “Graphing Equations” and find problems similar to those our middle school daughter is learning how to work!

Again, the lectures are similar to what you might see in a classroom; an instructor drawing on a white board. You don’t get the interruptions of students asking questions, but the instructor does his best to anticipate questions that might be asked.

Topics covered in this six-hour DVD set:

Disk 1
Section 1: Graphing Equations
Section 2: The Slope Of A Line
Section 3: Writing Equations Of Lines
Section 4: Graphing Inequalities
Section 5: Solving Systems Of Equations By Graphing
Section 6: Solving Systems Of Equations By Substitution
Section 7: Solving Systems Of Equations By Addition

Disk 2
Section 8: Solving Systems Of Equations In Three Variables
Section 9: Simplifying Radical Expressions.
Section 10: Add/Subtract Radical Expressions.
Section 11: Multiply/Divide Radical Expressions.
Section 12: Solving Equations With Radicals.
Section 13: Fractional Exponents.
Section 14: Solving Polynomial Equations.
Section 15: The Quadratic Formula.

The Format

Both the DVD sets we received contained 15 sections or lessons. Each section has a brief introduction, followed by lots and lots of examples. The examples start simple and grow more complex as you go. At the end of the lecture, he recaps what was covered in the lecture.

For each DVD set that we received, a CD is also available with companion worksheets (more than 320 pages of problems and solutions) to complement the problems worked on the DVDs. We did not receive either CD for review, but they are strongly recommended by the author for use with the DVD sets.

The Teacher

Who is that man in front of the white board? His name is Jason Gibson, and he has advanced degrees in Electrical Engineering and Physics. He has the credentials that say he knows what he’s talking about. Refreshingly, however, not only does he understand the math he’s teaching, but he also has the skill to explain them clearly. He is an engineer who can communicate in plain English without talking down to his audience. Read his bio for more information.

More math help available

Both these DVD sets and a lot more math courses are available at the Math Tutor DVD website. Both Basic Math Word Problem Tutor and Algebra 2 Tutor are listed at $34.99 but are available at the publisher’s website for $26.99. You can see a full list of courses and topics, along with screen shots, at the Math Tutor website.

To read more opinions from TOS crew members, click here.

Conclusion

We used Math-U-See for a number of years, and found it an excellent program. Two of our girls sort of “hit the wall” in that program, getting frustrated because of their learning differences, and so we had to find a different approach for them.

The thing I really regretted leaving behind in Math-U-See was the set of teaching videos that came with each level. I learned so much, watching them!

The Math Tutor DVDs can be used with any math program, and give you that same sort of patient leading through math concepts, a kind of hand-holding that is both reassuring and helpful.

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