Have you ever considered hiring a math tutor? I haven't ever because I believe that as a homeschool mom and teacher, I can find the necessary resources to help me teach. In fact, there's nothing I can't figure out, with the right resource. Well, I've been using ScienceandMath.com's Algebra 1: Volume 1 (DVD) and Fractions Thru Algebra Companion Worksheet CD (Download), as an Algebra 1 tutor for my older boys, and it has been a helpful resource.
The Algebra 1 Tutor is a 7 hour DVD with step-by-step instruction on ten Algebra 1 topics:
- Real Numbers and their Graphs
- Exponents and Order of Operations [View a sample]
- Adding and Subtracting Real Numbers
- Multiplying and Dividing Real Numbers
- Algebraic Expressions
- Properties of Real Numbers
- Introduction to Equations [View a sample]
- Solving More Equations
- Simplifying Expressions to Solve Equations
- Algebra 1: Volume 1 $26.99 (Download is available for $23.99)
- Fractions Thru Algebra Companion Worksheet CD (Download) $21.99 (CD is also available for $24.99)
While I was waiting for my DVD to come in the mail, I downloaded and organized the Companion Worksheets. I printed the worksheets for the boys and decided to view the answers from my laptop. To do this, it was necessary to rename the files so they are easier to read. Then, I put them in order in a folder on my desktop.
When the DVD arrived, all I had to do was pop it in my Macbook, and choose the worksheets that correspond to the section on the DVD. (This will also play on a DVD player, but we don't have a television in our home).
I also had my boys get their notebook and have their pencil ready to take notes.
Our first lesson on Disk 1 was on Section 1: Real Numbers and their Graphs. It was about 53 minutes long, and I had my boys do the Companion Worksheets for this section after we watched the video. Two boys didn't do well, but my oldest did. I thought the video lesson was great, very straight forward, and easy, but remembering all the differences between natural, real, whole, prime, rational, irrational numbers, etc. can be hard. This is one lesson that we should have watched over right away, because each lesson builds on the previous lesson, as I learned.
I also think that what we did in one day, we should have divided into 3 days. For longer lessons, we started watching the video in segments and working on the Companion Worksheets accordingly. Sometimes, we paused the video and did the problems covered up to that point, before moving on.
The instructions were: "Please watch Section 1 of the DVD before working these problems." That is what we did - watched the section, then worked the problems.
Some sections on the DVD have three sections of problems in the corresponding Companion Worksheets CD, so it would be ideal if the DVD had natural breaks in the video, signaling when the next set of worksheets should be practiced. But, we found it relatively easy to determine when the material was covered by matching up the type of problems on the DVD with the problems on the Companion Worksheets.
Working Into a Rhythm
Next lesson, I suggested my boys take good notes, study them, rewatch the video if they needed to, and then work the problems, and section 2 went much better! My boys breezed through fractions. Fractions is Pre-Algebra material, of course, but essential to know for Algebra 1, so I'm glad that the DVD covers the very basics to prepare your student for Algebra.
It has looked a little different each week for us, since some of the lessons are longer and divided into "parts." One week, we watched the whole lesson, and then I had my boys do one section of worksheets per day the rest of that week for a total of 4 days.
If I am following along, I can tell when the material on the DVD matches up with the problems on the worksheets, and I can pause the DVD to have the boys work the first section of problems. Our last lesson had three sections of worksheets for one video. I just looked to see the problem he was working on and matched it up with the worksheets.
The worksheets do reflect the order of the lesson, though, in that they go from easy to harder, or as I like to put it, from less information to more information.
I find the program well organized by lesson. I like that the worksheets are broken up into smaller sections, as smaller sections are less intimidating, but we've done all three in one sitting. And not every section has that many.
I didn't try to match it up with our current math program, as I have three boys doing Algebra and all are at different places in their program. So I used it as a review and (introduction) to make sure they know basic Algebra concepts.
We finished up through Disc 3: Lesson 7, and feel like we are just getting into Algebra 1 concepts. My 8th grader who is just starting Algebra 1 hasn't had any trouble grasping most of the material, and says that much of the material has been covered in his math program already. But, I sometimes get a comment that "we didn't learn it that way."
What does a day look like using the Algebra 1 Tutor?
I insert the Math Tutor DVD into my laptop and pull out the Companion Worksheets that correspond to the lesson we are on.
I have the boys grab their math notebook and get ready to take notes.
Then, I click play and the DVD does the work for me.
I really like that my boys are getting experience with a lecture style of teaching and taking notes.
I don't ever lecture for math. If my boys don't understand a concept, I have them re-read the chapter. If they still need help, I read the chapter with them, until we find the answer.
So, listening to the problems being worked step-by-step, and taking notes on what they are learning has been a good experience. I think this method is especially ideal for visual learners.
The video is not very exciting. We watch a hand move a board maker across a whiteboard, and often see the back or side of a head. The information, the process, and how tutor Jason Gibson teaches is what makes this a good program. It explains problems in a gentle, step-by-step format, and we are encouraged to rewind and listen again, if we don't understand it.
The lesson today on Algebraic Expressions was only about 20 minutes long, so we worked the problems from the Companion Worksheets right after.
When they are done, we grade them together.
To make it fun, we have a contest to see who can do better and I offer a small prize to the winner. A little competition with boys is often a good incentive to try hard. :D
I'm anxious to finish Disk 3 this week! It looks like we dive right into the heart of Algebra! I do plan to continue using the DVD and Companion Worksheets, and think it is a valuable resource to have on our shelf. It has been a nice change of pace around here, and because I'm not very hands on with math, I feel good using the program to make sure my boys understand basic Algebra concepts. However, to get a real grasp of Algebra 1 concepts, I think we would need Volume 2, as well.