TOS Review Crew: VideoText Interactive Algebra

Does the thought of teaching Algebra paralyze you with fear? If so, here's a program for you to consider! logo_zps6535dbd7

Company Information: VideoText Interactive is just that--an interactive math program that combines both video and work text problems in a guided format that takes your student step by step through not just algebra, but pre-algebra and algebra II as well! Author Tom Clark is convinced that everyone (and that means you!) can understand math and is committed to making that happen for you and/or your student. In addition to the Algebra program, VideoText Interactive offers a Geometry course that covers Geometry, Trigonometry and Pre-Calculus.

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Product Reviewed: Algebra--A Complete Course, online version. 

This course is divided into six modules covering ten units, starting with basic mathematical concepts and moving through first-, second-, and higher degree equations. Quadratic equations and conic sections are also included, along with many other topics to make this a very thorough course. If you'd like to see exactly what is covered in the course, scroll down on the product page and look for the Algebra Course schematic in PDF form.

Each unit is subdivided into lessons (176 total in all 10 units), which includes a video portion (no longer than 10 minutes each lesson), course notes, practice problems, solutions, and a review quiz. At the completion of the unit, the student then takes a unit exam. Each of the quizzes and unit exams have two versions, so that if a student does not do well on the first attempt, they can study again and try the second version.

Because there is often so much overlap between pre-algebra, Algebra I and Algebra II, Mr. Clark has sought to cut out the repetitive work and combine it all into one. A student who completes this course can claim credit for all three courses. (We like that!)

Price: $299 for a student license, which is good for two student accounts, three years each. This also includes a teacher's account that allows instructors to access quizzes and exams, along with answer keys.

Age Range: students who are ready for pre-algebra on up! In our family, Matthew is in 7th grade, though I have known some advanced 6th graders using this program.

Parental Preparation: After setting up student accounts (which required only email addresses for my students), I took the time to read through the Unit 0 materials, Resources for Instructors. These documents (in PDF form), gave me the program overview, the scope and sequence rationale, course schematic, and quick start guide. This helped me tremendously and took about half an hour.

I decided that since Matthew is in 7th grade, he did not need to finish the program in one year (which I would probably do if he was in high school). As we are taking the two-year route, it was recommended that he take two days to finish a lesson. The first day he would watch the video and do the practice problems I assign. The second day, he would take the quiz and correct his answers. Just to see the difference, we did the first few beginning lessons one day each (starting with the previous day's quiz, then going on to the video and practice problems, all in one sitting).

I also had to take some time printing out the practice problems, course notes and quizzes required. I only did what we needed a little at a time so that I don't use up all our printer ink! I set Matthew up with a binder so he can file his course notes for reference material. All the work in a unit went into the binder---notes, homework sets, and completed quizzes. When he finishes a unit, we will remove all but the course notes, which we will keep in his binder for reference. I will then file away his other work, just to keep things a little less bulky.

How We Used It:

Each day, Matthew would log on to his account and we would watch the video together. We would first get a preview of the lesson and its goals on the video page, which helped to put things into context. As we watched the short video, it was recommended that we pause it when a question was asked. This made the video interactive. Matthew would try to do the problems on his own on scratch paper then watch the solutions to see if he got it right.

After watching the video, he would review the course notes, which was basically what was taught in the video. (Mr. Clark did not want the students to be trying to take notes while watching the video so he had them written out for them so they could devote 100% attention to the lesson material.) I would then select 3-5 problems from each section of the practice problems, which totalled about half the problems on the page. If they were concepts he already knew, we did less. We were given permission NOT to do every problem, which was a novel idea!

After Matthew completed the problems independently, I would check them. As an incentive for doing his best work, the deal was that if he got them all correct, he was done for the day. If he got a problem wrong, he would need to go back and redo or review the material to see if he could find his error. I would then have him do another similar problem to make sure he got the concept. You can bet that he tried to get them right the first time!

On some days, he would have a quiz to take. On those days, he would briefly review his notes and then take the quiz. Again, if he missed the problem, he would be sent back to correct it. If he was able to find his error, and explain what he did wrong, he would get half credit returned to him. The next day, we would begin the process all over again with the next lesson.

What We Liked:

  • The extensive preparation materials for the parents helped me to get a sense of what the whole program was before we jumped into the individual lessons. 
  • The setup online was easy to navigate. It is not hard to find the lesson or quiz I need, and within the lesson, it is easy to progress step by step through the lesson.
  • All learning modalities are utilized. Kids watch (visual) and listen (audio) to the lecture, then do (kinesthetic) problems on their own afterwards.
  • The videos were very clear and focused only on one idea at a time, incrementally building concepts. The practice problems in the video were broken down step by step and were easy to follow. When I asked Matthew what he liked best, he said that the examples really helped him grasp the concept.
  • The videos were short and to the point, and the suggestion to stop and think about your own response before moving on helped keep it from being a one-way conversation.
  • Explanations were given that made a lot of sense. For example, we learned why we cannot divide by zero! In all my years of school, I was just told that couldn't happen. Now I know why! I also learned why we multiply by the reciprocal when dividing fractions! (I know, I'm such a geek.)
  • With the online version, it was nice to be able to print out the quizzes that are available in PDF format. It is especially nice if you have two kids going through it at the same time not to have buy a separate workbook for each!
  • Matthew appreciated not having to do every practice problem and not having to try to take notes while listening to the video lecture.
  • I liked the philosophy about mistakes---learn from them! It was challenging for me to not tell him what he did wrong. But it was worth it to help him learn to see patterns in his errors.
  • I also appreciated that there were two versions of the quizzes. We haven't completed enough lessons to get to the unit test, but I am going to do what Mr. Clark suggests: let Matthew take the first version of the quiz to see what he needs to review, then let him review those areas. He can then take version B for his final unit exam grade.
  • We get credit for all three classes when we complete the course! Even if we take two years to complete it, it is the equivalent of three years of work in other programs or in the school system! Gotta love that!

What We Didn't Like:

  • We ended up just using my teacher's account instead of logging out of the student account and then going back and forth. This was a lot more convenient for me to access the solutions. 
  • The price tag is a bit steep, but you do get three years' access. You can also purchase by module if you would rather break up the cost.
  • If you prefer to have a hard copy of the book for younger children down the line (after the 3 year period), you may wish to consider the "Classic" version of the program instead of the online.
  • Other than that, we have no complaints!

Overall Summary:

I have tried several other programs to teach Algebra, and each of them have the pros and cons. (Maybe that will have to be a post of its own some other time!) What I like about this is that it looks at the big picture and then breaks it down. The student then progresses through this sequence with a minimum of repetitive work, building step by step through more and more advanced concepts. My older daughter used another program which missed one crucial area that was needed for the SAT but was covered here. These videos then allowed her to fill in the gaps, which was great.

All in all, I would highly recommend looking into this program if you have several children who will be eventually using it. Of all the programs we looked at and used, I think this is the most thorough and makes the most sense. I think I will need to start saving my pennies for the Geometry program!

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