Wednesday, September 25, 2013

VideoText Interactive - Algebra: A Complete Course {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

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Algebra is like a terrible disease - I want to stay as far away from it as possible. If I hadn't decided to become a homeschool mom, I'd truly be one of those people who could say, "See, I told you I'd never have to use Algebra in real life!"

Anyway, I've experienced a little deja vu as I've watched my oldest struggle in math a little ever since he started algebra. He definitely doesn't struggle as much as I did, but I know he's not completely mastering it. I usually don't like to divert from our math curriculum, however, I asked my son if he'd like to try something new when VideoText Interactive offered Schoolhouse Review Crew members the opportunity to review two of their online courses, Algebra: A Complete Course or Geometry: A Complete Course.

My son said he did want to try something new, so here we are reviewing Algebra: A Complete Course. It's a complete course because when your child finishes the program, he can claim credits for Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1, and Algebra 2.  Even though my son is in 9th grade, has already taken Pre-Algebra, and is actually almost finished with Algebra I, he is starting at he beginning of this program. While tempting to try and jump ahead, we both feel that it wouldn't be wise.

The method of teaching in this course is not the method traditionally taught in school. In this course, your child will start at the beginning of Algebra and finish at the end of Algebra. There won't be any gaps in between what is commonly referred to as Algebra 1 and Algebra 2, so there won't be any need for lots of review and overlapping. This program teaches Algebra analytically, and its goal is MASTERY! Click to watch a video explaining what makes this program unique.

The complete online course includes:
  • 176 Video Lessons - Each lesson takes about 5-10 minutes.
  • 360 pages of Course Notes - These notes repeat what was shown in the video lesson allowing your child to review the development of a concept.
  • 590 pages of Student Work Text - Examples and exercises are provided here for review of what was taught in each lesson.
  • Solutions Manuals - These give step-by-step answers to all problems in Student Work Text.
  • Progress Tests - These tests are given at the end of one or more lessons to determine understanding of concepts.

While Algebra is not my thing and reading all of the resources for instructors just about gave me a full-on headache, I will say that once you get started on the lessons this course is extremely user-friendly. You and your child will have separate log in information. Your child can access the videos, course notes, student work text, and solutions to the work text. You will have access to all of that plus tests and solutions to tests. It is also important that you look at all of the resources which are provided for the instructor before your child begins the course. These resources include: Program Overview, Scope and Sequence Rationale, Course Schematic, Quick Reference Guide, Progress Checklists, Course Outline, Student Reference Tables, and Graph Paper Templates.

*To see a detailed program overview and a few of the resources mentioned above, please visit the website. There is no way I can completely and effectively describe the details of the program, what is taught, and how it is taught because, frankly, I don't understand all of it myself.

What I do understand is how to use the program, so that is what I am going to show you! It really is easy. First, I log in. After that, I click on Algebra: A Complete Course shown below.

As you can see, this Algebra course is divided into 10 different units. Once you've finished reading through all of the resources for instructors, your child will begin with Unit I - The Structure of Mathematics.

Each unit is broken down further into parts and lessons. This screen shot is from my page so it's showing quizzes and solutions (instructors guide). Your child will be able to click on Part A - Lesson 1 - Mathematical Parts of Speech to begin the course.

Once your child clicks on the lesson, he will watch the video for that lesson. It is recommended that you, the teacher, watch the videos with your child for at least the first few lessons. After the presentation, your child can print off the Course Notes to review concepts taught. It is NOT recommended that your child follow along with the notes or take notes while he watches the videos so that he can be completely focused on what is being taught. Next, he can print the Student Work Text and work through the problems. Finally, you can use the Solutions Manual to check answers, but then you should let your child find and correct his own mistakes which will help him to establish his own error analysis skills.

My son's first lesson went like this:
  • Watched video
  • Printed Course Notes
  • Printed worksheet and completed 20 problems
  • Checked work
  • Took a quiz the next day
I watched the first several lessons with my son and found that the lessons are clearly presented by an instructor and include computer generated visual aids. Examples are given on the screen while the instructor continues to teach. Videos seem to follow the same format for each lesson: Title, Objective, and Video Presentation.

After each lesson, my son prints the Course Notes and worksheets. He works through all of the problems and grades his own work. He waits until the next day to take the quiz. I print off the quiz he needs, and I grade the quiz.

A note about quizzes: there are two versions of each quiz, and they can be used several different ways. Form A could be used as extra practice while Form B could be the graded quiz, or Form A could be used as a graded quiz. Form B could be used as a retest if your child didn't score well on Form A. We choose to do the latter of the two. I've made my son take the second quiz a couple of times just to make sure he'd mastered the concept. He's never failed a quiz, but even if he misses a couple of problems, I usually make him take the second quiz. Sometimes more than one lesson is covered before there is a quiz.

Unit tests are treated the same way. There are two versions, and they can be used in the same manner as the quizzes.

We are currently following the Two-Year Plan for this Algebra course. So, that means my son is basically doing a lesson every other day. Hopefully, by the beginning of his junior year in high school he will be ready to start Geometry!

My son says he wants to continue using VideoText Interactive for Algebra. He likes the simplicity of the lessons, and so far he is doing well. It's kind of hard to tell, though, since most of what he is learning right now is familiar to him. I am hoping as he delves deeper into more difficult Algebra concepts, it will finally click!

If your child is ready for Pre-Algebra, then you might want to consider starting out on the right track with this not-traditional Algebra program. I don't think I can give a specific age range for this course since children will be ready at different ages. For instance, my middle son who is in sixth grade started Pre-Algebra this year, but my oldest son didn't begin Pre-Algebra until he was in seventh grade. You can watch the short video below to help you determine if your child is ready for this course.

Algebra: A Complete Course (the online version) can be purchased on the website for $299. This price includes licensing for 2 students, and remember, the course includes Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1, and Algebra 2. An additional student in your family can be added for $49. The license expires three years from the activation date. In the event that you are not satisfied, the online program offers a 30-day money back guarantee.

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Alexa Claven said...

Good luck in your teaching. :)
I am a homeschooler too, but I participate in a public school program for homescoolers. I teach my first and fifth grader. They all go to school twice a week. The school provides the curriculum. They have also taken over all the schooling for my middle school child. That is good because I would struggle to teach the math. The only bad part is you are provided secular materials. If you want Christian material you have to pay for it. Oh and my middle school daughter goes twice a week and does online learning. It's not a program of choice for everyone though. Wish you all the best in your efforts.

Brandi said...

Thanks, Alexa. I always appreciate your comments. :)

Chris Engelsma said...

About how many actual problems does the student work every day?

Brandi said...

Hi Chris,

It's been a while since my son used this program, but from the review it looks like there are 20 problems per lesson. I'm not 100% sure, though, if that is true for every single lesson. Hope that helps. :)


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