When it comes to teaching upper level mathematics, I’m pretty useless. I do fine with elementary-level math and business/consumer math, but the higher maths are just not my thing. Thankfully, there are several great math curriculums out there that don’t require much knowledge on the parent’s part, and are mostly self-guided. We’ve been using one for several years that’s worked well for us.
Over the years, though, I’ve heard absolutely fantastic things about the VideoText Interactive math programs, and recently I had the opportunity to try one of them out. Since the Dancer (15) just wrapped up Algebra, I decided to give VideoText Geometry a try with her. She’s like me – she’d rather read and write – so she’s the perfect candidate for VideoText’s “math as a language” approach.
We opted for the physical rather than online product, since our internet provider has recently imposed limits on our streaming and we always seem to be on the cusp of exceeding them. That way, we have the DVDs and don’t have to worry about it. We received Modules A and B (the entire Geometry course has 6 modules: A-F).
Each module consists of:
- three lessons DVDs
- Student Worktext
- Course Notes book
- Solutions Manual
- Progress Test Booklet
- Instructor’s Guide
VideoText takes a unique approach to teaching mathematics, using both interactive video and thorough work texts and quizzes to explore every mathematical concept incrementally and in detail, with complete mastery as the goal. Author Tom Clark has 46 years of experience teaching math and science, and it’s clear to anyone who’s watched his presentations or videos that he both loves and understands his subject!
The Geometry program is so comprehensive that completion of the entire course is grounds for credits in Geometry, Trigonometry, and Pre-Calculus!
Tom Clark insists that it’s impossible to break these apart into separate “classes” since they are all interrelated, and that the school system does so simply for convenience. The same is true of the VideoText Algebra course, which encompasses Pre-Algebra, Algebra I, and Algebra II.
Here’s how it works:
First, the student watches the short (5-10 minute) video lesson. The instructor is encouraged to watch along with the student, pausing from time to time to discuss and be sure the concept is understood (this didn’t always happen in our house, but it’s the ideal). The student is instructed not to take notes, just to watch. After the video is completed, they can review the course notes if needed, and can refer back to them as needed later too.
Next, the student completes exercises in the worktext to reinforce the concepts (the suggestion is to assign only odd or even problems), and then check them using the solutions manual. It’s suggested to have them check answers only at first, and see if they can figure out what they did wrong before using the solutions to find and correct their mistakes.
For most lessons, there’s a quiz in the progress tests book. There are a few quizzes that cover two lessons combined. The instructor is advised to give the quiz at least one day after the corresponding lesson(s) to ensure student’s aren’t just using their short-term memory to pass the quiz but are truly understanding the concepts. There are two slightly different versions of each quiz to be used however best suits you and your student: the second quiz can be used if the first quiz isn’t passed, or one can be used just for review and one for the actual quiz.
There are also unit tests, with two versions just like the quizzes, but we haven’t made it to the end of the first unit yet.
This is how a typical day looked for the Dancer:
She quickly reviewed the course notes from the previous day’s lesson, then did the quiz for it and had me check it to be sure she was understanding. Next, she watched the video for her currently assigned lesson (I watched with her as I was able), and reviewed the course notes. She completed the exercises I assigned in the work text and checked them against the solutions manual, reporting the results to me.
I realize that we haven’t been doing this with as much instructor involvement as is suggested, but this is what’s working for our schedule, and the Dancer is generally a very independent learner. If she has a question, she brings it to me, but she prefers to work on her own.
The Dancer wasn’t enthusiastic about trying a new program for math at all. She’s comfortable with what we’ve been using and wasn’t interested in switching, but I encouraged her to keep an open mind and give it a try, because I really thought this approach might appeal to her.
Sure enough, the first lesson really intrigued her with it’s analysis of the word “geometry” and introduction of the five mathematical “parts of speech” (number symbols, operation symbols, relation symbols, grouping symbols, and placeholder symbols). After doing the lessons for several weeks, she’s come to really enjoy the video lessons. She said she likes being able to actually see a live instructor presenting the concepts, and she thinks Tom Clark is interesting and makes complex concepts understandable. She doesn’t enjoy having to manually check all her work, but overall she’s really liking the course (as much as she’ll ever like a math course 😉 ), and the quizzes show me that she’s obviously retaining the concepts well.
The bottom line?
I’m incredibly impressed with this course! While it’s a bit more teacher-intensive than I’d prefer, I love the approach! It just makes sense to me to have one all-encompassing Algebra course and one all-encompassing Geometry course rather than dividing them up and having to repeat information and concepts in each one. Doing it this way really allows the relationships between different concepts to be clearly shown.
The ability to approach learning this way is one of the reasons I love homeschooling…we don’t have to separate history from literature, or even science, and parse everything into different classes and stages. Subjects can be fluid and blend into one another. The same is true for math. The mathematical concepts covered in the different typical “classes” are all interrelated and intertwined…why not learn them that way rather than artifically divide them up?
The video lessons are great – Tom Clarke’s enthusiasm is contagious and he’s truly gifted at explaining difficult mathematical concepts – and the printed materials are high quality and well laid out. Based on what I’ve seen, I highly recommend VideoText Geometry or any of the other Videotext Interactive courses! It’s truly a comprehensive solution for upper level mathematics!
Of course, all of this comes at a fairly steep price. The online version of the complete geometry course costs $299, while the print version will set you back $529 (individual modules can also be purchased separately). The online version does come with three years of access, and of course each course is the equivalent of 2 to 3 typical high school courses, so it’s actually not a bad value at all. But, it’s definitely a large chunk to spend at once for most homeschooling families I know, who are generally on fairly tight budgets.
Still, if you have (or will soon have!) a junior high or high school level student ready for upper level math and you’re wondering what your options are, I hope you’ll take some time to explore the VideoText Interactive site and all the information they have on their courses. It may be expensive, but it’s an impressive program that will no doubt give any student a solid mathematical foundation and pay for itself many times over!
Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to read more reviews of both the Algebra and Geometry courses, online and physical versions.