Thursday, January 7, 2010


I have mentioned before that my little Schnickelfritz loves his math.  During his free time it's not unusual for him to ask to watch his "math movies."  He drags the whiteboard and manipulatives upstairs pretends to be Steve Demme.  He's already seen all the lessons for this year and next, so when two videos arrived from it was like Christmas had come early  for my son (I seriously thought about wrapping them and putting them under the tree).

The first video was more for the age level of his two year old cousin-- Young Minds: Numbers and Counting.  I'm not one to buy into the "we can make our baby a genius by exposing him to classical music" trend.  In this case the music provides a soothing background while still pictures worthy of National Geographic slowly zoom in and out or pan side to side (and a  few video clips).  I couldn't find a listing of the music anywhere, but I recognized Pachabel's Canon in D,  Vivaldi's Four Seasons, and  pieces by Bach and Beethoven.

 A child's voice counts the objects on the screen and there's often more information for a toddler to learn:  the sounds made by animals, colors, the names of fruit, etc.  It's mostly the pictures that capture your attention--even Fritz  stopped his energizer bunny routine long enough to watch all the counting to four's.

There are also a few bonus games on the DVD--very simplistic to accommodate the target audience.  You can watch jigsaw puzzle pieces being assembled into a landscape,  a connect the dots puzzle, and a name the animal game.

Young Minds--Numbers and Counting is on sale for $19.99 at the vendor's website.  (You can also see a sample video clip here).

The second video was actually two discs--eight hours of math problems. 

These DVDs do not teach math, they teach how to use the math you already know to solve word problems.  Specifically, they teach how to identify key words in the problem to know whether you need to add, subtract, multiply or divide to solve.   The presenter solved 5-6 problems in each subject, first using whole numbers, then with decimals, fractions and percentages. 

I had assumed that this DVD was geared towards helping students improve their scores on the SAT's or other standardized tests and was expecting the problems to be well over my son's head.  But the first problem was very basic:  "If Bob put 7 pencils in a box and Penny put 5 pencils in a box, how many pencils would there be?"   Not only wasn't it over Fritz's head, he actually got bored during the 4 minute explanation in solving the problem.  The problem was read twice, it was acted out, the presenter even drew a box and pencils on the white board.  

A second pet peeve in the whole number section at least was the constant use of counting on fingers to add or subtract.  Our regular math curriculum emphasizes that students need to memorize basic math facts rather than rely on counting. 

 On the positive side, I was pleased to see the presenter always label the units while writing down the problem.  By this I mean in our example of adding 7 + 5 he also wrote the word "pencils."  This may seem unimportant at this level math but when you get to the multiplying and dividing of things like "feet per second" or "miles per gallon"  those units  become really important.

The Basic Math Word Problem Tutor is available here for $26.99 .   You can also see a sample video clip.  

I would  consider giving the Young Minds DVD as a gift if you don't have toddler's of your own.  The Word Problem Tutor may be helpful if you student knows how to solve straight math problems  but struggles when they're written in story form.

You can read what the rest of the Crewmates thought of the products by clicking here.

 I received free copies of Young Minds: Numbers and Counting and The Basic Math Word Problem Tutor dvds for the purposes of completing this review.  I received no other compensation. 

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