TOS Review: VideoText Interactive

Oh upper level math, you will be the death of me….Well, not really, but sometimes it feels that way. I managed to scrape my way through algebra in high school, but honestly, geometry felt like trying to learn Chinese. I swear my friend and I passed because we were in a class full of trouble makers at the time and we kept our mouths shut and the teacher was grateful. So, this year, I was trying to figure out what to do with my 10th grade son for geometry. Thankfully, I was offered a chance to review VideoText Interactive, which provided the answer to my question.

With Geometry:A Complete Course I was given online access to the course for a three year time period. The geometry course includes six modules with a total of 176 lessons. Once the course has been completed, students can claim credits for geometry, trigonometry, and pre-calculus. It is recommended that students complete the Geometry course after finishing VideoText Algebra. Depending on where your child is in their math sequence, this could be used for grades 9 and up.

In general, lessons follow the same format. In some cases, there will be a quiz on the previous material before students can start the next lesson. In that case, the parent administers the quiz and then reviews it with the students. There are two versions of each quiz, so if my son did not perform well on the first quiz, he and I would review it together, and I would have him take quiz two before moving on. From there, students watch the video lesson. As the video plays, the objective for the lesson is displayed to the right of the screen, reminding students of the focus of the lesson.

The lessons themselves were not long, and my son found them easy to watch. I usually watched the videos with him, mainly because if he had a question I needed to know what to do as well. Occasionally if I was busy, he could watch a video on his own, and then I could rewind and review it if he needed help, but I found it best to just watch them together. We also found it helpful to print out the course notes page prior to the lesson. This is a page that includes important information that your student can refer to when working on the problems. My son liked to use this page to take notes.

After watching the lesson, students complete the worktext page, which is basically practice problems. You can choose to print these out if you want, but in the interest of saving ink, my son completed the work in a notebook. The worktext is simply a textbook PDF and some of the assignments were lengthy, so I usually had my son complete the odd or even problems. One of the things I really LOVE about VideoText is the complete solutions manual. You get all the answers to every problem, which makes it easy to figure out mistakes. I found this VERY helpful.

Now, as the parent, you receive a separate login from your kids. As the parent, you have access to complete PDF’s of all of the course notes, solutions manuals, tests, and answer keys. You also have full access to all of the same lessons your child does. I found this convenient because if there was something I wanted to print out I could find it easily. The only drawback I really found to this program is the fact that there is no automatic grading. You have to record your own grades. It would be great if there were a scoring option, but other than that, I think this is a really solid program.

My son didn’t “hate” it (and he loathes math, so that says a lot). It was easy to accomplish in the sense that the program is well set up and easy to use. You just log in and complete each days lesson in order, so it takes very little prep on the part of the parent. The instruction is very clear and precise, and the length of the videos make them easy to watch.

The cost, however, could be prohibitive for many families. At $299, VideoText Interactive is not cheap. Honestly, if it weren’t for the fact that I got this as a review, it would definitely NOT have been in our budget for this year. However, that cost does include pricing for two students for three years worth of material, so when you think about it that way, it really isn’t bad. At any rate, I would say that it is worth a look.

To see what other members of the crew had to say about this Geometry course, as well as the VideoText Algebra course, click here:

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Too Much to Do, Not Enough Time

The topic of our blog cruise this week is “sneaking school into the busy days.” You know those days, we all have them. There may be two (or three) doctors appointments scheduled. Perhaps you need to visit a sick friend, drop something off to your husband at work, and go to the grocery store and the bank. You look at your planner and say “How are we going to get anything done?”

Well, the good thing about homeschooling is the flexibility. And this is how we squeeze in some school time on those days. First, I look at my plans and ask myself what absolutely needs to be done. For example, if we have a science experiment that day, I may move that to another day of the week. Completing an experiment in the car or on the go is difficult and will only stress me out, so its better to wait until I don’t have so much to do. If there are any time consuming hands on projects going on, I will also move those. Completing a lapbook in the doctor’s office waiting room isn’t going to happen.

Next, I decide what can be easily transported and pack that in a backpack. We have some textbook/workbook subjects like math (CLE) and grammar (ACE) which can be done pretty much anywhere. So we throw those in the backpack with some pencils and bring them with us. In general, my kids can bring their math, grammar, and science books with them. They then work on those while we sit in the waiting room.

The car is a great place for reading or discussion. Sometimes we will use the drive to review spelling words, discuss history projects, listen to a book on tape, or my kids will do their individual reading. They do have Nooks which they bring with them. These can also be used for reading and other school activities. If I know we are going to have a remarkably long wait, I will bring my laptop so my son can watch his math DVD.When in the grocery store, or running other errands, I try to use that time to review math facts and other things that can be done while walking and talking.

Now look, there are some days that are so crazy that all we actually get done is reading and some math, but that’s okay. The next day, when things calm down, we just pick up where we left off. I try not to stress too much on busy days. When I first started homeschooling it would really bother me if we didn’t get everything done, and it turned me into a crazy person. Life is messy, and I have learned to go with the flow. I know we will get done with what we need to by the end of the year. And I sometimes think that God allows interruptions to my schedule for a reason.

How do you school on busy days? Leave me a comment and let me know. To see what other crew members have to say on this topic, click here:

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TOS Review: Math Mammoth

I was pretty happy with our math program this year, but there are always some areas that need some extra practice. That’s why I was happy to find out I was going to get to review some products from Math Mammoth. I have used Math Mammoth’s complete curriculum in the past, and I really liked it. For this review, we got to try some titles from their supplemental Blue Series.

Each Blue Series worktext focuses on a specific topic. We got to use the Geometry 1, Geometry 2, and Fractions & Decimals 3 worktexts.

The Geometry 1 worktext is intended for grades 4-5, but I used it with my 6th grade son who needed some help with angles and shapes. The worktext provided him the opportunity to practice drawing and measuring angles, triangles and other shapes, as well as extra practice in measuring area, volume, and perimeter. I appreciated the really clear drawings and directions Maria Miller includes in this book. Geometry was probably one of my least favorite parts of math, and I was having a very hard time explaining the concepts to my son. After working through this book with him, we both understood the topics a little more! Lesson length varied, but there is always plenty of practice. Some days we broke the lessons in half, and others, we completed a full lesson. The Geometry 1 worktext is available for download for $7.00, and as a hard copy for $12.70. I like using the PDF download because you can easily choose and print the lessons you want.

Geometry 2 gets deeper into the geometry concepts of measuring circumference, quadrilaterals, ratios and proportions, and using a compass. It is intended for use with grades 6-7. Again, the explanations are very clear and detailed and we found them easy to follow. The section on congruent and similar figures was particularly well-explained for my son. We did break some of these lessons into smaller chunks, as the questions required a little more work. We will continue to use this book over the summer, and I think my son will have a very solid understanding of geometry by the time we start school again next year. The PDF download for Geometry 2 costs $5.80 and the hard copy is available for $10.40.

Fractions and Decimals 3 is for use with 6th grade students. This worktext covers all major operations using decimals up to six digits. It was very good extra practice for my son in this area. Even though he understood how to do the problems, he often “lost” his decimal along the way and ended up with the wrong answer. After the additional practice using Fractions and Decimals 3, he learned how important it is to keep track of where the decimal belongs! The worktext also includes instructions for using mental math to compute decimal problems.

Fractions have given us a bit of a headache as we have gotten into using bigger numbers and mixed numbers etc. The fraction practice in this book gave my son new ways to solve fraction problems, particularly with multiplication and division, where he was struggling. He also got a lot of practice simplifying fractions, which was another concept he was struggling with. Fractions and Decimals 3 also addresses the metric system and scientific notation. This worktext is available as a PDF download for $7.00, and as a hard copy for $12.70

All three of these Blue Series books include links to useful websites that provide additional practice and information. I think they would make a great supplement to any math curriculum. Blue Series books come in a wide range of topics, from addition and subtraction to place value, integers, and measurement. If you have a child that just needs some more help on one particular topic, I would highly recommend you check out the Blue Series books. They are very affordable and do a great job of giving your child a new way to look at a topic.

To see what other members of the crew had to say about the Blue Series and all of the other Math Mammoth products we got to try, click here:

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Lonestar Learning–Target the Question

Lone Star Learning is a Texas based company that creates learning materials and products for kids in the areas of math, reading, science and vocabulary. For this review, we got to use one of their online products, Target the Question Digital Edition.

This program provides short, daily practice in math problem solving for kids in grades 1-7 (they also have a Spanish version of the program for kids in grades 1-5). Bascially, your child will log in every day and complete a problem related to the weekly story, scenario, or data set. The idea came from a similar program for teachers to use on their bulletin boards, where they would post a “scenario” or “data set” for the week and then have the children use that to solve a short word problem each day. (i.e., they might post a chart showing the populations of 5 major cities, then, on Monday, ask students to solve a problem related to the size of the biggest city vs. the smallest city, on Tuesday, they might ask the students to find the average population etc. etc.)

When you gain access to the Target the Question program, you also get to download a file that goes along with the program. The download includes weekly problem solving worksheets, which you can print and use for you child to record their work and then file in a binder, as well as reference sheets and answer keys. I found the download to be a nice addition to the program, and we printed the reference sheets and the weekly worksheets.

I used this program with my 6th grade son, and while he is good at math, he could use some extra practice with word problems. He liked that Target the Question did not take up a lot of time. He could complete each day’s problem in about 10 minutes. This meant that there was no arguing about getting it done!! He liked to use a white board to work the problem, and then transfer his answer to his weekly problem solving sheet. I felt the problems were appropriate for his age, and good practice for him. There were a variety to the types of problems he did. In the first week, he worked with a data table showing the amounts of rainfall for different cities. In the following weeks, he worked with a “sign” from a local restaurant showing prices, discounts, specials etc. He also had scenarios regarding distances travelled in a week, numbers of books read etc. etc. I would usually let him log on and work the problem himself every day and then check his answer. If it was correct, we logged out and moved on, if it was wrong, then we would work the problem together to figure it out.

Some of the problems were easier than others, but I found he did have to really THINK when working on them. This was good practice in finding important information, deciding what operation to use etc. All of these are things he needs to work on. I know that as he gets older (and in real life) most of the math he is going to really use will involve word problems, and I have been looking for ways to add daily practice in this area for us, and Target the Question definitely filled that need for us.

A one-year subscription to Target the Question will cost you $59.99 (they also have other options for a two year or more subscription as well). When you think about it, that’s not a lot for an entire year of math practice. If you have a child who needs to work on problem-solving, and you want a program that is effective AND easy to implement AND won’t cause a lot of stress, I think this is worth it. To find out about all the subscriptions available click here:

http://store.lonestarlearning.com/shop/targetthequestiondigital/

To see what other members of the crew had to say about Target the Question and the other products from Lone Star that we got to check out, click here:

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**Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

Math 911

Math 911 is a program created by Professor Martin Weissman, a former New York City math teacher. The program is designed to teach upper-level math using a mastery approach. Students work through each section of the program (including exams) on the computer. Math 911 does not include games or graphics, it is a straightforward tutorial math program designed to help students master upper-level math. I used the algebra program with my son for this review.

This program doesn’t include instruction in the form of lessons or videos. When the student accesses Math 911 they are given a list of topics. Once they click on a topic (i.e. “equations”), they immediately begin to work problems related to that topic. If they get a question correct, they move on to the next one, if it is wrong, it is not counted in their score. Students can click on “see solution” and then go through the problem step by step to “see” how to solve it. They then work more problems of the same kind.

Dr. Weissman believes that the mastery approach is very effective, especially for struggling learners. I tend to agree, because it eliminates the feeling of always getting the answer “wrong”, which leads to frustration. Math 911 provided a good source of extra practice for my son. Math is not one of his strong points, and while we are using another algebra program, I find that he sometimes needs extra practice on certain types of problems sometimes, and this is a good resource for this practice. I had him go through those sections that he struggled with in his daily math for review before we moved on to another topic.

Because it doesn’t provide step by step “instruction” in the form of lessons or videos, I don’t think I could use this as a complete math program for my 9th grader. However, it could easily be used along with another program for practice, or perhaps with something like Khan Academy (a free math video website).

The Math 911 Algebra I course can be downloaded for free at the website. To upgrade to the Premier Version, which includes several other courses like College Algebra, Statistics and Trig, the cost is $49.95. With this subscription, you also get free technical support! Math 911 is currently running a special where you can upgrade to the Premier version for $9.95, which is a great deal. Scroll to the bottom of the page on the website for the coupon code. For more information about this product check out the website here:

http://www.math911.com/

To see what other members of the crew had to say about this product, click here:
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**Disclaimer: I was given free access to this product for the purpose of writing this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Math Essentials

Math Essentials, founded by math teacher Rick Fisher, strives to make teaching math easy and practical for parents. His award-winning series includes middle school and high school level math products. For this review, I got to use the No-Nonsense Algebra and the Mastering Essential Math Skills Geometry books with my boys.

First, let me say (as I have mentioned before), upper level math is one of the areas that stresses me out. I did okay in high school algebra, but it wasn’t easy, and geometry might as well have been an alien language!! Therefore, I am always looking for math programs that are clear and easy to understand, and hopefully offer some type of supplemental support when necessary.

No-Nonsense Algebra meets these criteria. The workbooks are very well done, with clear, concise instruction and helpful examples. The lessons are (mercifully) short, with about 10-20 practice problems, depending on the lesson, and a few review problems as well. At the end of each chapter there is a chapter review. I found these helpful, because if I found my son (a 9th grader) struggled with remembering how to do a certain type of problem, I could simply review that section with him, and then use another source to provide him with additional practice problems. The solutions are also located in the back of the book, which is great because you don’t have to buy a teachers guide to get the answers!

However, the best thing about this program, to me at least, is the fact that when you buy the books, you are given access to a website that has video lessons for each chapter!! Seriously, I have looked at DVD and online based math programs before, and most of them are very expensive! I am so grateful to Rick Fisher for creating an affordable program that allows parents access to this kind of support. We found the videos easy to watch, and very clear in their instruction. Most of the time, my son would watch the video on his own and complete the lesson without any problem. If he struggled with a particular concept, I would watch the video too, and then go over a few problems with him. This method has worked for us very well, and my son really seems to be “getting” algebra, and not hating it at the same time!! No Nonsense Algebra is an excellent math program for use with your high schooler.

The Mastering Essential Math Skills Geometry book is a great supplemental or introductory Geometry tool for middle school students. Again, the instruction is clear and concise, and includes daily review, instruction (in the “Helpful Hints” section) and a short number of practice problems. This would not be a complete Geometry program for a high schooler, but it would be great for review or practice. Alas, there are no videos for this one, but perhaps Mr. Fisher would be willing to create some (or just make a high school Geometry course similar to No Nonsense Algebra 🙂 ). I used this book with my middle school son as some extra practice. I appreciated the clear instruction, which made it easier for me to explain concepts to him, he liked the short lessons!!

Now, for the best part about Math Essentials: the price!! No Nonsense Algebra costs $27.95. Period. That’s it. I’m serious!! $27.95 is all you pay for the book (which includes the answers) and access to the videos!! I have yet to see another program that offers ALL of that for anywhere close to that price!! The supplemental Geometry book will cost you $11.95 (again, very reasonable!) and Math Essentials also has supplemental books for other areas, like problem-solving, whole numbers, etc.

To check out all the Math Essentials has to offer, click here:
http://www.mathessentials.net/index.html

To see what other members of the crew had to say about this program, click here:
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** Disclaimer: I was given free access to this program for the purpose of writing this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

IXL Math

IXL is an online math program used around the world to help kids practice their math skills. The program for each grade level is aligned to state standards, and offers practice on various math concepts. As a parent, you have access to mulitple reports on your childs progress, including how they are progressing on those standards. IXL is used in schools, and homeschools, around the world.

I used this program as additional practice for my 5th and 8th grade sons, and they enjoyed it (well, my youngest “enjoyed” it, my oldest “didn’t hate it” but for him, when it comes to math, I consider that a success!). As the parent, you set up accounts for you and your children. You log in from the main page with the general account info, but then you are prompted to “choose” who you are (i.e. “mom”, “child 1”, “child 2” etc.) and enter your password. As the parent, I can look up my kids reports, or I can play on IXL myself, which I did!

I practiced a little from each of my boys grade levels, as well as some others. I will say this isn’t really a math “instruction” program, as much as it is a math “practice” program. If your child is not familiar with a particular math concept (like “create frequency tables”) they would need to learn how to do that concept first, then practice it on IXL. There are no videos showing you how to do the problems, however, if you get a problem wrong, you can click on “explanation” and it does tell you how to solve the problem.

You can choose which topics you want to practice, which is nice, because I chose to focus on those things my boys really needed to work on. For my younger son, this was multiplying and dividing fractions. His first lesson, didn’t go so well, but as time went on, he did get better. As your child works through problems, a timer keeps track of how long it is taking, and their score goes up and down, depending on if they got the problem correct or not. As their score goes up they earn award “ribbons” which they can use on the rewards board. Basically, they earn “pictures” of items (like a fruit stand) on a checkerboard as they master certain concepts. My youngest thought this was cool, my oldest kind of rolled his eyes, but 8th graders are like that!! My youngest did need to use scratch paper to solve some of the problems, as he couldn’t do them all in his head.

My oldest son needed practice in polynomials, so that’s what I had him do. Now, this boy does NOT like math, so getting him to do anything is a chore. IXL wasn’t as bad, because the lessons can be as long or short as you choose. Since this was additional practice, I asked both of my boys for 15 minutes each time they logged on. My older son did pretty well with this program, although he would get frustrated because he would sometimes hit a wrong button on the computer and his answer would be wrong, which caused his score to go down. I told him he needed to slow down and pay attention to what he was doing! It’s funny how someone can be a perfectionist, but still not want to pay attention to details!!

I liked the fact that I would get a weekly email report of my kids activities and progress, in addition to being able to log on and look at these reports anytime I wanted. There is a LOT of information included in the reports, like how long your child spent working, what they worked on, how they did, etc. etc. This makes if very easy for me to track what my kids are doing, without having to be over their shoulder every second. The IXL program also adapts to your child’s level, increasing the difficulty in the questions as your child improves.

IXL costs $9.99 per month or $79.00 for a one year membership. That is for one child, for addtional children you would need to add $2.00/month or $20.00 per year. That means this program would cost me $99.00 per year to use with both my kids. While I do like the program, that is quite costly, and I’m not sure I would find room for it in my budget, especially since it is just for extra practice. However, I would definitely consider a monthly membership for the summer, just so my kids could have an easy way to practice their math skills while we aren’t formally doing school.

To learn more about IXL visit the website here:
IXL Math

To see what other crew members had to say about IXL, click here:
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*Disclaimer: I was given free access to this program in exchange for writing this review. All opinions expressed are my own.