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Friday, September 10, 2010

America's Math Teacher Review

There's a reason the TV show "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader" was so amazingly popular, and anyone who has tried to teach their child complex math skills decades after they last used them for themselves knows it- if you don't use it, you lose it. And I for one have lost A LOT (of math skills that is ;-) ).

Enter America's Math Teacher, a new online site that offers 24/7 instruction on all math topics ranging from 4-5th grade math up to Algebra 1. Each subject (currently Basic Math Skills, Advanced Math Skills, Pre-Algebra Concepts, and Algebra 1) is further broken down into bite sized tutorials covering the topics recommended by the President’s Math Advisory Panel and the standards set forth by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Most of these step-by-step tutorials are less than 10 minutes long, and in the end, they cover a full year's worth of math topics for each subject. The man behind America's Math Teacher is Rick Fisher, a math teacher from California with decades of experience. The tutorial videos you view on the site feature his voice, but not his face. What you watch is a computerized "white board" where you see him write the math equations or formulas, and then explain them using a different color pen to highlight the processes, making the presentations clean and uncluttered. Beyond the videos, site membership also includes printable exercises that tie in to each lesson, evaluations to see what level a student is at before beginning, as sell as quizzes and tests to take during each "course", and a resource area with tables of math facts, and speed drills that play like a game and time students to complete a wheel of math equations as fast as possible.

The pros: The speed drills are great at building speed and accuracy with basic math facts for addition, multiplication, and subtraction. And they are quick and fun to do. And I think Mr. Fisher has a VERY conversational, easy-to-understand way of explaining math facts- even complicated ones. That he can break complicated ideas down into bite sized, easy to grasp ideas speaks to his years of experience, and clearly indicates that he knows his stuff and is one of a rare breed of really effective math teachers :-).

The cons: While my son is YEARS behind in math, it was still difficult for us to use this because our math's scope and sequence is very different, and because, while Mr. Fisher's teaching is great, the main purpose of this is to provide tutoring, not all-inclusive instruction, so it was hard to just "jump in" and use it to help my son out. And he found it boring. So did my younger son (who, as a 3rd grader, is really too young, but I had him do some math drills and watch the very first video of the Basic Math Skills). Surprisingly, my daughter didn't think it was boring, but she too couldn't really glean much from it as it doesn't line up with our math curriculum's approach. (They did all enjoyed the speed drills.) Another con is that the site is still under construction right now, so some things worked (the videos), and some things didn't (most of the evaluations), and some of the "answers" on the speed drills weren't right (9 + 6 IS 15- even if the computer says it isn't), so that is exceedingly frustrating, especially to children. But the biggest con is the price and the terms- it's $195 for ONE year and you pay that in one lump sum!!! And it's not a curriculum-it's an online tutor. A good one, but still! $195 is more than any math curriculum I know of, and at least when you buy a curriculum,you have something tangible at the end of that year of use that you can use again or re-sell.

The bottom line: I have a close personal friend who is a math tutor. I know she's good at what she does, and I believe $200 would cover about 10 hours of one on one tutoring. So the cost effectiveness of this site is something you have to figure out for yourself. If your student will need help at every step of the way, and if they are using a more traditional math curriculum (or go to a "building school" and use one of those curriculums), then America's Math Teacher is something I'd look into. You can view several lessons for free HERE to help you make your decision. If your child just needs occasional help, or will have questions that they need a living, breathing person to answer, then I don't think America's Math Teacher is the way to go, at least it wouldn't be for my family. I do know some other members of the TOS Crew LOVED it though, so be sure to go HERE to check out their reviews of America's Math Teacher too.

One last thing. America's Math Teacher has a companion site called Math Essentials. On that site, you can purchase on DVD each of the "courses" available on America's Math Teacher, except Algebra, for significantly less money and you'd own the DVD to use with future children. I'd highly recommend checking that out, and also the other resources he has available on that site.

Legal Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received a two month free trial of America's Math Teacher for the purpose of this review. That website access was the only compensation I received.

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Tiffany said...

Sounds very cool! And, actually $200 would only get you 8 hours. I'm sure a lot of kids would benefit from a site like this.

Guiding Light said...

Great review - lots of good useful info! Thanks!

Michelle said...

Good, good job on pointing out the pros and cons of the site.