Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Review: Math Tutor DVD Pre-Algebra and TI-84 Tutor

Math Tutor DVD has become a familiar product since my first exposure to it two years ago. Since then, I have recommended it to both homeschoolers and traditional schoolers wanting to provide extra math instruction to their students.  I've previously reviewed the Basic Math Word Problems,  Algebra 2, and Young Minds Numbers and Counting titles. You can read complete reviews on these products here and here. I've also purchased additional titles to add to our homeschooling math resources.

This time, I happily received two more titles to add to our collection: Pre-Algebra Tutor Volume 1 and The Texas Instruments TI-83 / TI-84 Calculator Tutor.

Before I go into the specifics of these titles, let me first give a brief overview of Math Tutor DVD.  More background information is also included in my previous two reviews.  Math Tutor DVD is a provider of DVD and online math tutorials.  The levels covered are primarily Algebra through Calculus (and beyond!), but even some preschool and elementary level titles are available. The instructor, Jason Gibson, who has a BS and two Masters in Engineering and Physics, previously worked at NASA before focusing on his DVD offerings.

While his credentials are certainly impressive (we are talking a rocket scientist, folks!), Gibson is quite humble and believes that you don't need to be a genius to truly understand math and other subjects that tend to intimidate students, and perhaps parents too.
Folks like Beethoven who could compose music while deaf, or Einstein who made incredible leaps of insight in physics - are the true geniuses.  Everyone else, like you and me, just need to be introduced to the right instructor early on to break the process down and make the topics understandable.  With understanding comes confidence, and confidence is 100% the name of the game in math and science.
Gibson has a true knack for taking the complex and breaking it down into understandable steps.  Not only is he a rocket scientist, he has true talent in teaching as well.

Now, on to the products that I received.  First up is The Pre-Algebra Tutor Volume 1. This 5-hour DVD teaches the fundamentals of Pre-Algebra.


Topics included are:

Disk 1
  • Real Numbers
  • The Number Line
  • Greater Than, Less Than, Equal To
  • Absolute Value and Adding Integers
  • Subtracting Integers

Disk 2
  • Multiplying Integers
  • Dividing Integers
  • Powers and Exponents
  • Order of Operations
As I stated earlier, the explanations are very detailed and concise for all topics. Click below to view a sample lesson.

The Texas Instruments TI-83 / TI-84 Calculator Tutor is a new product for Math Tutor DVD.While our current algebra curriculum does not require use of this calculator, this is *the* graphing calculator to have and one that is in our near future of must-have tools.  Gone are the days of simple calculators (Does anyone else remember when 4-function calculators hit the general public market at around $100?).  Many schools are telling parents that they not only need to purchase this calculator for their students, but the student must be proficient at using it before the start of class.

Rather than being stuck with a boring instructional manual, this 8-hour DVD covers all the major functions of the calculator in a step-by-step manor through working out problems. 


Topics covered are:

Disk 1
  • Overview of the Calculator 
  • The Mode Menu
  • Basic Arithmetic and Exponents
  • Logarithms and Square Roots
  • Sin, Cos, Tan
  • Scientific Notation and Storing Variables
  • The Math Menu and Catalog Menu
  • Convert between Fractions and Decimals
  • Finding the Min and Max of a Function
  • Calculating Derivatives and Integrals
  • Absolute Value, Rounding, and Integers
  • Converting between Degrees and Radians 
  • Working with Complex Numbers
Disk 2
  • Using the Equation Solver 
  • Graphing and Tracing Functions
  • Using Tables and Split Screen Modes
  • Find the Exact Value of a Function Using Graphing
  • Finding the Zeros of a Function using Graphing 
  • Finding the Max and Min of a Function using Graphing 
  • Finding Intersections of Functions using Graphing
  • Finding the Derivative of a Function by Graphing
  • Calculating the Definite Integral by Graphing
  • Drawing on a Graph 
  • Graphing and Tracing Sequences
Disk 3
  • Graphing and Tracing Parametric Equations 
  • Converting between Rectangular and Polar Coordinates
  • Graphing and Tracing Polar Equations
  • Permutations, Combinations, and Factorial
  • Working with Histograms and Box Plots 
  • Graphing Statistical Scatter Plots 
  • Calculating Mean, Median, Standard Deviation, and more
  • Performing Statistical Regression
  • Calculating with Matrices
  • Solving Systems of Equations with Matrices
  • Calculating Interest Rates
  • Calculating Mortgages and Loans 
  • Calculating Savings and Investments
You can see a 18-minute sample video at the website here.

I had both of my kids separately watch the portion of the Pre-Algebra DVD that covered exponents, which was very appropriate topic for both of them.  My son, 6th grade, just learned about exponents this week with his normal math curriculum.  While my daughter, 8th grade, had already covered exponents, she found herself in need of a review upon opening up her chemistry book this fall.

This section alone is 40 minutes long, starting at a very basic explanation of exponents and continuing through multiplication, division, and use of variables with exponents.  Though it covered well beyond what my son had learned that week in his math lessons, he quickly picked up the new concepts that built upon the basics with the explanations and examples.  This was all review for my daughter, though much needed.  What I thought ironic, is that both kids, who learn math very differently and started with a completely different knowledge base on exponents, said almost the identical thing when asked what they thought of the lesson:

"Exponents are now ingrained into my brain."

Yes, it is quite thorough. No, there are no bells, whistles, or any other distractions that might take away from learning the material.  Both of my kids felt like he couldn't have been more clear.  Sure, it wasn't exactly entertaining, but anything that "ingrains" useful information into their brains is a winner with me.

These DVDs are not meant to be stand-alone courses but as additional help in various topic areas. I have found them to be an excellent resource when my students aren't quite grasping a particular concept.  I'm sure we'll get much more use out of them and continue to take fuzzy understanding to ingrained.
Both the Pre-Algebra Tutor Volume 1 and The Texas Instruments TI-83 / TI-84 Calculator Tutor sell for $26.99 and can be purchased at Math Tutor DVD.  All DVDs are guaranteed to raise grades, our your money back! Quite a guarantee! In addition to many DVD titles, Math Tutor DVD also offers an online membership giving access to all tutorials 24/7. 

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