Monday, September 30, 2013

TOS Review: Videotext

I knew I had a math whiz on my hands when my five year old son started telling me how many miles were left on car trips because he subtracted the mile markers from our exit number (3 digit numbers IN HIS HEAD).  That was five years ago and things haven’t changed.  He’s been tearing through math books like Grant Took Richmond.  He loves math and for that I am grateful, but I’ve been searching for something to challenge him.   Then we learned about  VideoText Interactive and I thought “maybe this is it.”  Their Algebra: A Complete Course covers all the material traditionally taught in Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1, and Algebra 2.  The pacing of the course can range from 1 to 3 years (progress is based on mastery).  Schnickelfritz is younger than the suggested grade level (Gr. 8 and up)  but he was more than ready.  You may be surprised to learn your kids are ready too!  VideoText offers these guidelines…

We selected the 2-year pace although we’re prepared to slow down if things do finally get challenging.  Under this plan a lesson would take two days.  Here are the details.

I began each day by printing out the Course Notes and WorkText for the lesson.   Fritz  would watch a 5-10 video lesson.

Because Fritz cannot interact with the teacher on the screen, VideoText recommends that  I, as the parent, watch with him and pause the video “every 15-20 seconds” to engage him in discussion.  That interval of time was so short as to be annoying but we did try to pause and talk 2-3 times per lesson.  Fritz had the Course Notes in front of him as students are not supposed to take their own notes during the lesson.  This program is clearly meant for students ready to buckle down and be serious about math—there are no jokes, cartoons, games, or rewards for completion, just a teacher and power point presentation.

After the video we left the computer for the dining table where we could read through the WorkTest – more thorough than the notes and often with completed problems to study.  When he was comfortable he could proceed to answer the 5-10 problems included in the lesson.  Then he returned to the computer where he checked his own answers.  If he found any errors he would compare his work to the solution to see where he’d erred and he had to explain the mistake to me (error analysis being part of mastering the concept). 

The following day I would print out and give him the quiz on the prior day’s lesson.  (We did run into several instances where two or more lessons had been grouped together so he watched videos several days in a row before taking a combined quiz.)  This delay before testing meant he couldn’t just rely on short term memory to solve his work.   I would grade the quiz and we would do the error analysis together if necessary.  If he had done really poorly we could have repeated the lesson and done a B version of the quiz.


I have to say as a math whiz myself, I was impressed that Fritz was learning math theory—not just how to solve problems.   In the first 3 lessons he learned to see the different symbols of math as a components of a language:  numbers were nouns,  operation symbols were verbs,  the x’s and y’s common in algebra were the pronouns.  They could be combined to form phrases and sentences (sentences have a relationship symbol like the = sign).   And we translated problems from English to Math language.  Since then we’ve been working through lessons to further investigate number, operation, and relational symbols.  As I look ahead, we’ll go nearly the first quarter without a lesson “this is how you solve for X” which is basically what I recall algebra lessons to be about.

We’ve been using the online lessons for five weeks now and I asked Schnickelfrtiz if he wanted to continue with it or go back to our old math curriculum.  He picked the VideoText, as sound a recommendation as I can come up with. 

The VideoText site is best supported by Internet Explorer, Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox for PC’s and Safari or Google Chrome for Mac’s.

The lessons are done by streaming video.  Our internet service is via satellite  so our download speeds could vary greatly, but we only had the videos pause once or twice during the review period.  For the month we had slightly over 5G of downloaded data –only a portion were the videos (for those of us concerned with download limitations).

The Pricing for all six modules of the online version of Algebra: A Complete Course is $299.  This gives you a 2 student licenses and each student will have access for 3 years after activation.  The Program is also available on DVD for $529.  If you’re not sure if this will work with your child, you may purchase Module A online for $59.  You may also login as a guest and access some sample lessons and demonstrations.



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