TOS Crew Review: Math 911

A lot of people ask me what I do when my child reaches advanced math. Fortunately, today there are no end to possibilities for helping your child learn math that is beyond your capabilities. The question is which program? Personally, I like math. When I was in high school, I much preferred math to writing. Even now, I still prefer the straightforwardness of numbers to the artistry of the written word (no kidding!). However, it has been---ahem---many years since I have done math so I have found myself in need of a refresher course so that I could help my daughter as she tackles it. Not only that, I want to be somewhat familiar with math topics so that I could be of help to my kids when they encounter them in the future.

So this review of Math 911 was tested out on myself. My intent and hope is that by doing so, I will be able to provide help to my kids, a resource to direct them when they hit trouble spots, or a refresher for the future when they need it (for example, when they study for the SAT).

Company Information: Math911 is tutorial software that provides step by step help in Introductory Algebra, Intermediate Algebra, Statistics, Trigonometry, College Algebra, and Pre-Calculus. Created by Professor Martin Weismann, a math teacher of 49 years, has spent much of his time trying to help students not only overcome their struggles with math but also master the subject.

In this program, Professor Weissman utilizes what is called "Mastery Learning," which means that students only get credit for correct answers. The software generates an unlimited amount of randomly generated problems. What makes the program unique is the step by step help in reaching the correct answer. So if I do a problem and get it wrong, I can find out where I made my error and how to correct it the next time. I then get another opportunity to try a similar type of problem. When I master it, I can move on to another question.

At the time of this writing, Math 911 is a download for XP, Vista, or Windows 7 only. (Sorry Mac users!)

Product Reviewed: Math911 software--I focused on the statistics course, something I know very little about. That way, I could approach this review with as little back knowledge as possible.

Price: $49.95 (originally $149.95). There appears to be a special for homeschoolers going on right now for Algebra in a Flash, which is the same program on a flash drive. Scroll down the page for the special code. I did not note any expiration date on the special, but it may not be there for long.

Age Range: Children ready for pre-algebra, around ages 12 and up.

Parental Preparation: I had to first install the software onto my hard drive, then run the setup. Before I could use it, however, I also needed to email Professor Weissman for the codes I needed to activate the premier features. If you have multiple students using the program, you can set up individual accounts with separate grade reports.

How We Used It: As I mentioned earlier, this was a program that I used for myself. When I opened up the Statistics program I was taken to the home screen for that course. Each class is divided into chapters, which are divided into sections and levels. As you complete each level, it will be marked off on the chart.

So I started with chapter 1, section 1, level 1 (good place to start, right?). I had taken statistics back in college, but to be honest, it was like I didn't even take it. So the first lesson was on Normal Curves and z scores. I am given a problem and then asked to input my answer. If I get it right, it tells me I am correct and I move on to another type of problem.

I did okay with the first level so I moved on to the next one, which involved finding the area under a curve. I didn't really have any idea on how to do it, so I made my best guess...and I got it wrong. On the sidebar, there is a button to click that says "See Solution" which then shows you the correct answer. When you click "Show All Steps" it gives a written explanation, along with the details for that particular problem. I found this helpful because otherwise, there is no other written material on the lesson. When I made several errors, I was then able to figure out what I was supposed to do to solve the problems correctly. After a few errors, checking the step by step instructions and noting the general pattern, I mastered the level and was able to complete the other problems in that level successfully.

What I Liked:

  • You get plenty of practice. Even if you don't get it the first time, you can try again until you learn how to do that type of problem.
  • The levels increase in small increments, covering all aspects of a particular section.
  • The step-by-step instructions really go through steps in detail. I thought they were well explained.
  • As Professor Weissman says, you really are learning math, not playing games.
  • If you are using it for Algebra, the Math911 home page has some excellent PDF modules on the various topics. They are well done and easy to read. (Scroll down and look at the left sidebar. These are free for download, so be sure to check them out!)
  • Professor Weissman is very willing to help when you encounter difficulties in using the program. I talked to him directly and he helped walk me through some confusion I had. So if you cannot figure things out, you get personal guidance.
  • Updates are continually made so the kinks are worked out. But if you let them know about it, he told me that they are corrected quickly and a new update is posted.

What We Didn't Like:

  • My setup procedure was a bit tedious. I don't know if it was just for this review, but it seems like there should be an easier way to do this.
  • The program is not very intuitive. I needed to play around with it to figure out how to use it. I wasn't sure (and still am not sure) if I'm missing an important piece of instruction.
  • I wish there was some introductory material to go along with the problems so I understand what a normal curve is or what a z-score is or why I need to know this. It would be nice to have PDF materials similar to the Algebra ones on the home page.
  • The program is solid, and while Professor Weissman clearly explains that it is not meant to be a game, it does look a bit old-school. Updating the look may make it more appealing to this generation of students. I was able to overlook it, but others may not.
  • You will need to keep checking for updates every few weeks as corrections are made.
  • It would be nice to be able to use it on a Mac.

Overall Summary:

Math911 definitely is a solid program that teaches math, but I think it could use some improvements in registration and presentation so that it is more user-friendly. As it is, unless you have time to really play around with it, it could be difficult to get it to work. I intend to keep using it as a supplement and enrichment to our junior high/high school advanced math program for extra practice problems, but will probably have my children get the core of their instruction from another program.

Disclaimer: I received the Math911 software at no charge in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own. Click on the button below for more reviews on this product.