Friday, September 10, 2010

America's Math Teacher - your private math tutor! (TOS Review)

Sometimes as a mom, you wish someone else would explain something to your children - it seems like you've explained it a thousand times, and the kids still don't "get it".  Whether it's grammar rules, why their tone of voice (and not just their words) matters, why it's important not to hit the cat, or why they really do need to keep their room clean - when it comes from mom, sometimes it just doesn't click.

Enter the homeschooling mom trying to explain math.  Where, oh where, is that math teacher that will stand at the white board and explain it all to your child?

As part of the TOS homeschool review crew, I was given a 60-day subscription to (a website currently being developed by Rick Fisher).   Mr. Fisher holds a B.A. in Mathematics, and teaches mathematics to fifth and sixth grade students in the San Jose, California.  According to his website, each year approximately half of his students skip the seventh grade math program and move to a high-powered eighth grade algebra program.  Mr. Fisher created the Math Essentials program to help combat appalling math proficiency statistics - is an online program similar to Math Essentials.   Upon reviewing the website, I found very helpful videos that explain math - here was my "someone else" to explain math to my children!   

The videos and other resources are divided into four courses:

Course 1 - Basic Math Skills
Course 2 - Advanced Math Skills
Course 3 - Pre-Algebra
Course 4 - Algebra I

You can see a general description of what each course includes here.  Note that the website indicates that Algebra II is coming soon, and hopefully other high-level courses will follow.

To give you an idea of what is covered, in Course 1 (Basic Math Skills) there are 85 videos ranging in length from one minute 44 seconds to almost 11 minutes, covering a wide range of topics: whole numbers; fractions; decimals; ratios, proportions, and percents; geometry; number theory and algebra; integers; charts and graphs; probability and statistics; and word problems. Each of these topics is then further broken down into individual component videos. The course is self-paced - the student can view the video as many times as necessary to master the concept.  

For more details on what specifically is covered, click here and then click on the course you're interested in.  The courses align with the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, and you can find the NCTM standards here.

My girls are using a math curriculum that I'm fairly happy with, so I used as a supplement and as further explanation and reinforcement.  My girls loved it.  I had absolutely no issues with getting them to sit still (an accomplishment in our household!) and watch the videos.  You can view sample videos (and see why my girls call them the "virtual whiteboard" videos) here.  The videos are designed so that the student works along with the video - kind of like an individual tutoring session.

In addition to the videos, worksheets that correspond with each topic are available, and there are online quizzes and evaluations that can be taken for assessment/review purposes.  

For this review, I had my girls focus on watching the videos and using the worksheets rather than accessing the quizzes/evaluations.  I personally did some of the quizzes and encountered some technical issues.  Also, as of this posting, there are no evaluations/quizzes or written exercises available for Algebra I - it's my understanding these are in process and will be available soon. However, this website is a new product for Mr. Fisher and is a work in progress.  He assured the TOS review crew that he and his staff are actively working on all the issues and should have them resolved soon.  I think with any new website technical issues can be expected, especially in a website with such a large volume of information - so that wasn't a big deal to me.  I'm confident that all will be working properly soon.  Note that some of the technical issues may be a result of the entire TOS review crew having been assigned the same login information.  

I was surprised that the girls liked the written exercises so much, as the worksheets include a lot of problems/information.  For example, the worksheets for the Whole Numbers section of Course 1 include 16 pages, covering a review of all whole number operations.  One thing I really liked on the worksheets is that "hints" are included for the students - the hints are basically what was explained on the video.   

You can access some free written exercise samples here.  

We also really liked the speed drills - you can try them out here

For ease of navigation, the website is divided into areas such as Learning Center (videos), Evaluation Center (quizzes and evaluations), and Resource Center (printed worksheets, NCTM standards, speed drills, etc.). 

A one-year homeschool subscription to is $195. This subscription provides you with 24/7 access to all of the courses and other resources for all family members.

Despite the technical problems associated with establishing a new website,  we really liked this product and, once a few more of the technical issues are resolved, I plan to subscribe.  

I encourage you to read other reviews of this product, which can be found here

For giveaways, other product reviews and other fun things, follow the 2010-2011 TOS Homeschool Crew blog at:

Disclaimer: As part of the 2010-2011 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I received a complimentary 60-day subscription of the product in this review in exchange for my fair, honest and unbiased (and not necessarily positive) review. No other compensation was received.

1 comment:

  1. Kudos to you for homeschooling! It always looks like so much work for the very reason of having to teach math! :-) I am following you now from blog frog. Feel free to jump on over and see my blog too if you'd like! Nice to meet you!! ~Kimberly