Thursday, September 26, 2013

Review: VideoText Interactive, Algebra: A Complete Course (Modules A and B)

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When I investigated VideoText Ineractive for review, I was sure Tyler (my oldest) was in no way ready to begin Algebra. He is in 6th grade, and was doing pretty well with math, but not really advanced in any way. But as I watched this video (below), I became convinced that he could do it. So here we are, doing Algebra: A Complete Course, and really getting into it!

Since Tyler is in 6th grade, I knew this would be a bit of s stretch for him. While researching this curriculum I found that you could customize the pace, so that a younger student could ease into it. I chose to follow the "Three Year Plan" doing a lesson a week. We only move forward when that lesson is mastered. We actually ended up doing about 6 lessons in 4 weeks, so we are catching on faster than I had expected.

Some of the crew reviewed the online program, but we asked for the physical books. Here's what we received, Modules A and B, each composed of:

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  • 3 DVDs
  • Course Notes 
  • Teacher's Guide and Detailed Solutions Manual for Progress Tests
  • Student WorkText
  • Solutions Manual
  • Progress Tests

Each Module can be purchased for $99.95, and there are actually modules from A through F, but we only received these two. This is indicated for any age that is ready for pre-algebra, grades 8 and up. But truly, 6th and up can do it with the flexible pacing. Love that. I plan to use it for grade 6 to 8, and then hope to do the Geometry for after that. Tyler's personality would be a perfect fit for becoming an engineer like his grandpa, but I know how much math that requires. This is why I was looking into a new approach for him. I am thrilled to have found it.

How We Used It:

Using the three year pacing plan, we still used the program as anyone would, but a little more paced with a little more review.  On the first day Tyler would watch the video lesson. Module A has 27 lessons and Module B has 22 lessons. They came on 6 DVDs total (3 for each module).  The lesson is 5-10 minutes long, and takes only a little bit longer to view because they recommend that you use the pause button frequently to stop and discuss the concepts with your student. Because of our slow pacing and repeating of the video, we didn't have to pause much, but we did if there was anything that didn't "click". I imagine as we hit the meatier stuff we will use the pause button more and more.

Here is a sample video lesson:

Another aspect of the video lesson is that they recommend that you don't take notes. There are course notes provided in a book for reference after the video, but they don't want any distraction from the video lesson. The video lessons are simple yet very well done, with an instructor explaining the concepts in simple terms, and lots of on-screen examples. As he talks about a problem, the numbers light up, so you know exactly what he's referring to. It is like a text book comes alive on screen. This really worked well for my son, who is very much an audio oriented learner.

I think that brings up a huge point of this curriculum. This format is very purposefully created to appeal to all kinds of learners: audio, visual, and tactile, with greatest emphasis on the first two. The other main point is that this is a mastery based program, moving forward in a very thorough way, but not spiraling back over the material as some programs do. I'll explain more about how that worked for us.

So after the video lesson, Tyler would take out the Course Notes and the Student WorkText. With the notes open for reference, he would work several problems in the WorkText, on a separate sheet of paper. Although there are about 20 problems, they suggest only doing 5 before checking their work, so we aren't repeating the mistakes over and over. After Tyler checks his work, he finds his mistakes and fixes them, earning back some of his lost points.  It was amazing how much we learned right in this part of the process, sometimes returning to the video lesson for more information.

The next day we did the quiz that corresponded with the lesson, and he would (again) check his work, make corrections, etc. There are 2 versions of each quiz, so if you need to take it again, you have fresh questions.  Basically for the next two days we repeat this process, until we have mastery and can move forward. Sometimes we could do it in a two day cycle, sometimes we would need a repeat and in that case we only accomplished one lesson in that week. If we needed more practice there were extra practice problems on the website. Once we felt we had mastered a concept, he proceeded to take the test and I would record his score and move on (or repeat the lesson again if needed). There are also two versions of each progress test, and detailed answers as well.

Bottom Line:
Having done spiraling style math curriculum for quite some time, we found the mastery approach really refreshing. No shortcuts or memory tricks, just logical and well explained concepts, building one upon another. With the different pacing plans we were able to approach it with a relaxed attitude, and Tyler was really excited to learn that he could understand this perfectly, without lots of repetitive written work. I have seen his understanding of numbers and their relationships (algebra!) increase exponentially, pardon the pun.  We were thrilled with his progress and intend to keep using this for the rest of the year. Also, because of the non-consumable  nature of the program, we plan to use it again and again. I highly recommend VideoText Interactive: Algebra. 

Pricing details: At $529 for the complete Algebra program ($299 for the online) of all 6 modules (A through F), it is a substantial investment. Most of the books can be used again and again. For myself, I can use this for three years of math, repeating for my 4 students, spreading out the cost to less than $45 per year, per student, plus extra test books. The only books intended to be written in are the progress tests, and they can be purchased for $19.95. Other extras can be purchased separately here. 

Be sure you read all the other reviews of this product, it's online version, and also of the online Geography course:


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