Sunday, July 29, 2012

TOS Review: Math Essentials

When I count my blessings, I'm always thankful that math comes easy in our household.  It was one of my best subjects (up through Calculus II) and it's my son's best and favorite subject as well.  So it may seem a stretch for a 9 year old to be using an algebra text, but he's really ready and able.  Rather than suggest an age level, I'll just say No-Nonsense Algebra is upper level math and you'll know if your kids are ready for it.

The opening chapter is really helpful in that regard.  It's titled Necessary Tools for Algebra and it has 22 lessons just to make sure your student is ready for the rest of the course.  Because everyone may be coming from a different curriculum with a different scope and sequence, I appreciated this chapter to fill in all the gaps (for example, we'd never covered scientific notation).  Other lessons were just helpful reminders, like the correct order of operations--solving within parentheses first, then multiplying, and adding last.

The ten chapters (with multiple lessons in each) are:

  1. Necessary Tools for Algebra
  2. Solving Equations
  3. Graphing and Analyzing Linear Equations
  4. Solving and Graphing Inequalities
  5. Systems of Linear Equations & Inequalities
  6. Polynomials
  7. Rational Expressions (Algebraic Fractions)
  8. Radical Expressions and Geometry
  9. Quadratic Equations
  10. Algebra Word Problems

Each lesson is contained on a two-page spread.  You'll find an introduction to the topic, some example problems,  exercises for the student, and some cumulative review problems.  There's not room in the book to work out the problems so the student will need to copy them to another sheet of paper.  The author suggests writing out the example problems and the steps for solving them as well.  He suggests that it makes the learning process more effective. 

The key to this program is the online video lessons.  The back of the book provides the website and access code.  For those with several kids, permission is given for each new user of the book to log in with the same access code at no charge.  These videos are presented as a virtual white board and you can hear and see the instructor work through the example problems in the book.

Video Lesson Screen Shot
I think this program would work well with students that a mature enough to learn on their own.  There is no fluff or games to keep the students interest in learning.  While the answers are in the back of the book, there is no explanation on how those answers were obtained.  You can of course rewatch the lesson video, but there's really no other opportunities to learn the information or help the student see the problem in a new way if they didn't get it the first time around.   Because we have dial-up internet and a 5G download limit, this video driven course is not a good fit for our family.

No-Nonsense Algebra is published by Math Essentials for $27.95.   This price includes free online video lessons.  Math Essentials offers a no risk guarantee.  If you try No_Nonsense Algebra for 20 minutes a day as directed and don't see dramatic improvements in math skills they will refund your money no questions asked.


Disclaimer: I received a free copy of No-Nonsense Algebra for the purpose of completing this review.  There was no other compensation for my honest opinion.

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