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DVD Review: The Basic Math Word Problem Tutor and The Algebra 2 Tutor

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Math has never been a particularly strong suit of mine. Everything started going downhill after long division, and I was well lost by the time multiplying and dividing fractions rolled around, let alone algebra. It was with some fear and trembling that I found The Algebra 2 Tutor – 6 Hour Video Course from MathTutorDVD in the mail. The Basic Math Word Problem Tutor – 8 Hour Video Course I felt confident in my ability to conquer, but the algebra — it scared me. It wasn’t even Algebra 1, but an advanced level!

Thankfully instructor/owner Jason Gibson’s highly visual, common sense approach to math made algebra seem within even my limited grasp. In each video course Gibson breaks down mathematical concepts by dividing and conquering. Each math topic, whether it be algebra, word problems or his other DVDs on calculus, physics, etc. divides the topic into sub-topics, each of which is worked through in an ascending level of complexity through abundant problems drawn out on a white board. Avoiding lengthy lectures, Gibson gets down to basics and explores the necessary connections while working out problems at the board. In fact, most of what you’ll see is the back of his head; he turns to instruct and give detail, but most of his explanations are interwoven with real problems.

His thorough breakdown of concepts is best demonstrated by sharing the outline of the courses.

The Basic Math Word Problem Tutor includes the following segments:

Disc 1
Section 1: Adding Whole Numbers
Section 2: Subtracting Whole Numbers
Section 3: Multiplying Whole Numbers
Section 4: Dividing Whole Numbers
Section 5: Adding Decimals
Section 6: Subtracting Decimals
Section 7: Multiplying Decimals
Section 8: Dividing Decimals

Disc 2
Section 9: Adding Fractions
Section 10: Subtracting Fractions
Section 11: Multiplying Fractions
Section 12: Dividing Fractions
Section 13: Percents, Part 1
Section 14: Percents, Part 2
Section 15: Ratio and Proportion 

While The Algebra 2 Tutor includes:

Disc 1

Section 1: Graphing Equations
Section 2: The Slope Of A Line
Section 3: Writing Equations Of Lines
Section 4: Graphing Inequalities
Section 5: Solving Systems Of Equations By Graphing
Section 6: Solving Systems Of Equations By Substitution
Section 7: Solving Systems Of Equations By Addition

Disc 2

Section 8: Solving Systems Of Equations In Three Variables
Section 9: Simplifying Radical Expressions
Section 10: Add/Subtract Radical Expressions
Section 11: Multiply/Divide Radical Expressions
Section 12: Solving Equations With Radicals
Section 13: Fractional Exponents
Section 14: Solving Polynomial Equations
Section 15: The Quadratic Formula

There is nothing flashy about the discs, they consist simply of Gibson at the whiteboard as he instructs. Gibson is not only the star of the show, but he’s in fact a one-man show – providing direction, production etc. As a result, the production quality is nothing to write home about, but let’s be honest; this is about math, not about entertainment.

I was so strongly reminded of my own experiences in math class that I was surprised to find that Gibson is not himself a math teacher, but a physicist working with NASA. Hey, that works for me, we all know physicists need to know a lot of math – I’m just surprised that Gibson is able to make it so real. Even when relating the most basic concepts of word problems he’s never condescending, and always patient and thorough. With his extensive personal understanding of mathematics he’s able to take students from basic math problems through to advanced courses of study.

Algebra 2 can be supplemented with a CD containing a complete set of worksheets, making for a complete course of study. A good understanding of basic mathematical facts, pre-algebra and Algebra 1 (or equivalent) is necessary before embarking on this DVD course. Basic Math Word Problems does not have any supplementary worksheets, and is better suited to a student who has mastered basic mathematical operations and needs review, remediation, test preparation or just a different angle or explanation for approaching word problems.

Gibson’s low-key yet thorough approach to mathematical concepts are rapidly placing him as a favourite in the realm of live-action math instruction and at an average price of $27/course there is absolutely no comparison to an in-person tutor. The Math Tutor DVDs are an economical option for adults who need to brush up on their math, homeschooled students who have surpassed their parents' math knowledge, and students from late elementary through college who are struggling with understanding their math courses.

For a complete listing of course DVDs and supplementary worksheet CDs visit the MathTutorDVD website.

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