Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Review of Math Tutor

As an engineering major, I had plenty of required math courses. Math was not my favorite subject but I was usually capable with a little work. However, one semester I found myself in a predicament with a falling grade. I was one student of hundreds for the lecture portion of the class. In the smaller working session, I had difficulty even understanding the teaching assistant because of a thick accent, let alone the foreign material. Many of my classmates were just as lost. As I was grasping on to a C, I decided to hire a tutor. After a few sessions with the tutor, I earned an A on my next exam. No magic was to be found in the tutor. He just explained to me how to do the problems in a language I could understand, both literally and figuratively. The tutor took what seemed like a complicated problem and broke it down into steps. I felt like going to my instructor and asking, “Why are you making this so complicated?”.

Have you or your student ever been in need of a good tutor to move you forward in a subject? Jason Gibson, Math Tutor founder and teacher, started offering his DVD math courses at the request of the many satisfied students and friends he tutored. What started out as a small eBay venture soon turned into a full course line with thousands of happy customers.

I pride myself on providing quality educational content at affordable prices, and I have a passion for making "complex" subjects easy to understand. "

Not only does Gibson have the passion for teaching the subject, his educational and professional background is impressive, including his current employment with NASA as a fully certified space shuttle flight controller. When reading his credentials, there may be a worry that he may talk over the student's head. However, Jason Gibson knows that it takes to deliver his knowledge effectively to the student.

Now, I am the first to admit that none of this amounts to a hill of beans when teaching a lesson. What really matters if the instructor take a complex topic and assume the student knows absolutely nothing about the task at hand and take him/her from zero knowledge to expert in step-by-step chunks.

It is important that the instructor and his approach be understood because of the simplicity of these courses. There are no bells and whistles, no amazing graphics, no cartoon characters doing dances or even a change of scenery. This courses are simply Gibson, a white board and math. The philosophy of Math Tutor is that the best way to learn is through examples. Each section of the course includes numerous fully-narrated example worked out step-by-step.

I received two Math Tutor course for review, Basic Math Word Problems and Algebra 2.

The Basic Math Word Problems is 8 hours worth of instruction, cover the following areas:

Disc 1
  • Adding Whole Numbers
  • Subtracting Whole Numbers
  • Multiplying Whole Numbers
  • Dividing Whole Numbers
  • Adding Decimals
  • Subtracting Decimals
  • Multiplying Decimals
  • Dividing Decimals
Disc 2
  • Adding Fractions
  • Subtracting Fractions
  • Multiplying Fractions
  • Dividing Fractions
  • Percents, Part 1
  • Percents, Part 2
  • Ratio and Proportion
The Algebra 2 course is 6 hours long and includes the following topics:

Disc 1
  • Graphing Equations
  • The Slope of a Line
  • Writing Equations of Lines
  • Graphing Inequalities
  • Solving Systems of Equations by Graphing
  • Solving Systems of Equations by Substitution
  • Solving Systems of Equations by Addition
Disc 2
  • Solving Systems of Equations in Three Variables
  • Simplifying Radical Expressions
  • Add/Subtract Radical Expressions
  • Multiply/Divide Radical Expressions
  • Solving Equations with Radicals
  • Fractional Exponents
  • Solving Polynomial Equations
  • The Quadratic Formula
I have to admit, I was initially unimpressed upon my first viewing. As I said earlier, these DVDs are simply a casually-dressed Jason Gibson standing at a white board going through problem after problem. The presentation is rather drab and the tone is very conversational, with many an "um", "okay", and nervous gestures. Some may be bothered that fingers are used to illustrate simple math and may contradict your teaching, though I personally allow it in my home. In fact, when my son was younger he actually developed a rather complicated base-ten system using his fingers.

However, the purpose of the course isn't to entertain nor for public speaking instruction, it is math. What is important is Jason Gibson's ease in explaining the math problems in the way that the student can understand. The lack of bells and whistles is an advantage because there is nothing to detract from the work at hand. Below you can view a sample video from the Algebra 2 course. You may view samples from other courses here.

I had my 9-year-old son view some of the Basic Math Word Problem course. He said the course was very “plain” though explained well. This is something I would use in small doses with him as he had trouble keeping focused after the first couple examples. I'm not sure if that is a reflection of my son or his age. However, I can see this DVD course being a useful tool to have on hand when extra explanation or practice is needed.

My daughter reviewed the Algebra 2 course. The mention of math has her immediately building a mental wall. It isn't a favorite subject, though she is actually fairly capable. To ease her in, I had her start with a session with material she's previous worked through, but was still a bit rusty, Graphing Inequalities. I watched in awe as her math-phobic attitude dissolved as she worked out problems with the DVD. Then it slipped out,

“I actually like this!”

followed by...

“Wait...did I just say that?”

I'm not sure who was more surprised, my daughter or me. My daughter further explained.

“It's just math...no fluff. There is no long, round-about explanations. He just works problems and shows you how to work them without any other confusing stuff. I like that.”

While I can typically explain my daughter's math, I'm probably not as thorough as the Math Tutor course. I actually learned a great deal about how to teach math better by watching them with my daughter. These courses are also tools that the student can use on their own, whenever they need a little extra help, encouraging independent learning. I will definitely be checking out more Math Tutor courses to put on our shelves.

Math Tutor would be excellent for struggling students or teachers or just as an extra math resource in your home. Prices range from $21.99 - $49.99, with some courses containing as much as 14 hours of instruction. In our area, one-hour of math tutoring goes for over $50. If you are not completely satisfied with your Math Tutor course, there is a 30-day full refund guarantee.
LIMITED TIME FREE BONUS: Each new Math Tutor DVD customer receives 60 minutes of FREE live online tutoring available 24/7 through Tutor.com! A $35.00 Value!
Facebook users can also get a $10 off coupon good for any single DVD. Details here.
I've found an unexpected gem in Math Tutor. Head over to their website to view all the different titles available.
Read reviews of this product by other TOS Crew members here.

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