Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Math Tutor DVDs - Product Review

List price: $34.99
Vendor's Website Price: $26.99

I'll be straight up with you -- I put off preparing for this review of The Pre-Algebra Tutor Volume 1 because, well, watching someone teach pre-algebra on video was not high on my list of ways to end my summer vacation -- nor could I imagine putting my children through that on these last, lingering days of sunny freedom.

I'm here to tell you, though, that it wasn't so bad ;) No, I didn't sit through every minute of every lesson -- I viewed bits and pieces of a variety of lessons so that I could get a sense of the content, style, and method of teaching. The end result is that I intend to use this program with DS11 when he's ready for pre-algebra. It's not a super intensive program (it's designed to prepare students for a full pre-algebra course), but it provides clear, easy-to-understand instructions and examples so that even the most challenged learner can gain confidence in his or her math skills. And, according to the author and teacher of the program, that's what it's all about.

"With understanding comes confidence, and confidence is 100% the name of the game in math and science."
                        - Jason Gibson,

One of the things that impressed me is that Jason Gibson is a modest, down-to-earth guy who wants to help students learn what they need to know to be successful. He doesn't claim to be any major math whiz, though his credentials, which include being a space shuttle flight controller for NASA, are nothing to sneeze at -- but rather, he presents as an ordinary guy who would like to help people understand concepts that are sometimes intimidating. And the proof is in the pudding, so to speak. Being more partial to words than numbers, I was a bit intimidated by the topic of the DVDs, and actually remember praying silently that my name would not be on the list of reviewers! But as I listened to him teach, I found myself thinking, "Ya, I get that. And I think DS11 would, too." Jason is very encouraging in his lessons, and assures the viewer that they actually already know a lot of what he's teaching them because of how they've grown up using math -- and he even suggests that it can all be rather fun. (OK, I admit that his demeanor doesn't particularly convey that sense of fun and frivolity ;) While a student might not actually be convinced of the fun math can be by the videos, they will certainly be more enlightened about how to apply the math concepts that are taught because Jason repeatedly explains and defines things so that they can be thoroughly grasped.

Rather than lecturing, Jason's approach is to work through problems on a white board, so students can see what he is verbally describing. There are no fancy graphics or animated features to visually enhance or distract -- just Jason, a white board, and some coloured markers. While this might be considered boring, there is an attractive simplicity to it. Because I found that I could listen and understand while doing another simple task, looking up at the screen when I needed to see what he was talking about, I imagined that my son might be able to enjoy drawing or building with lego as he listened and learned, satisfying his need to manipulate something with his hands as he learns. While Jason was quite clear that students should not try to take notes while listening, I think he might approve of allowing hands to be busy while minds are engaged with what he's teaching. (If you'd like, you can watch a clip of one of his videos below to get a flavour of his style and strategy.)

Now, if I was dreading the pre-algebra DVDs, I was really not looking forward to The Texas Instruments T1-83/T184 Calculator Tutor! I mean, is it really possible to create an 8-hour video about how to use a calculator???? Apparently it is, and the MathTutor did it!


List Price: $31.99
Vendor's Website Price: $26.99

This DVD set had a little more glitz than the pre-algebra one did -- with some introductory music and flashy graphic squiggles, and a computerized visual of the calculator with a moving pointer. It was dry, but I think that is to be expected given the subject matter. While I don't actually own a fancy TI calculator, if I did, I would certainly appreciate Jason's thorough explanation of every function of that calculator! The three disc, 37-section series of lessons is very informative, and would help any individual learn the potentially overwhelming functions of this higher math calculator. I mean, it really is cool what those things can do if you know how to use them!

While I can't say that I am awe-struck by the amazing qualities of the MathTutor DVDs, I do fully recognize the value of Jason Gibson's work in providing students with support as they strive to learn math. His approach is clear and direct, and I believe students can truly benefit from his lessons. The subtitle of the MathTutor website says it all:

"Press Play for Success"

It's also worth noting that all MathTutor courses are available online for a membership fee of $19.95 per month. This means multiple students can have access to whatever courses are relevant to their studies.

If you'd like to explore these products further, The MathTutor website provides the following contact information:

You may call us toll-free at:

Or Email us At: support (at)
Our Mailing Address is:
PO Box 1165
Seabrook, TX, 77586


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1 comment:

  1. Oh how I remember those home schooling days. There were joys and there were frustrations, but I thank the Lord I had my children home with me and our family influence instead of the public school's.


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