Monday, February 1, 2010

Math Tutor...Affordable and Specialized Math Help!

Ahhh, Math! Just the sound of the me hives and sends me into a panic-- especially if I am supposed to teach it!!! Thankfully, there are more and more homeschooling math products available to help those mathematically challenged mother’s like myself!
I would say, that beyond being intimidated by math in general, I find word problems especially troubling, particularly when they get just a wee bit complex. It is rather humbling to help your child through a problem only to arrive at the wrong answer! 
Recently Math Tutor sent me a couple of DVD’s to review and one of them just happened to be “The Basic Math Word Problem Tutor.” In this set of 2 DVD’s, Jason Gibson walks math students through 8 hours of word problem instruction. (Oh glee! Pop some popcorn and put that baby in the player! LOL) From the most basic of word problems (addition) through much more complex calculations such as dividing fractions or decimals, Mr. Gibson leads the students step by step through each word problem. 
Since the DVD is divided into chapters for word problems using a certain math function, the DVD can easily be used as a resource that is specific to a problem (“I don’t understand when I am supposed to subtract...”) or can be used systematically to build in complexity through the course of a school year. (In other words, it isn’t intended to be used all at once! Put the popcorn back...).
This video is definitely not a high-tech media blitz. However, such graphics really aren’t needed. It is a lot like being in a classroom, with the teacher at the front of the room explaining things on the white board. (Ok, in my day, it would have been a chalk board!). No bells and whistles here, just straightforward explanations from an easy to listen to math teacher. 
After a short explanation of the terms and what hints within a problem to look for, Mr. Gibson jumps in, reading a word problem (which is also shown on the screen), and solving it on the white board. He does a good job of walking students through the different steps and explaining what is necessary to structure the problem correctly. He then solves the problem (with neat handwriting). It would be a good idea to have your child write down and solve the problems along with Jason Gibson. It would have been nice to be able to print out the problems in each section and give kids the choice to try some of them as they go along and become more comfortable with these sort of problems.
The only other suggestions I would have for future DVD’s (assuming that Mr. Gibson will read this, be struck by my genius, and incorporate it next time), is to write the “keywords” on the board, as he calls them out, giving a visual child (like me) an extra advantage by getting to see his hints. For instance, if keywords such as “altogether”, “the sum”, and “how many in all” are clues that the problem is addition, then take a moment to write those on the board as they are explained, letting the visual learner take it in via the best manner possible.
Furthermore, it would be my recommendation to have a small music stand or podium nearby for Mr. Gibson to place his notes and pages of problems that he is working from. I found the way he waved the pages around as he talked a bit distracting (did I mention that I am visual?).
However, those are small items that don’t take much away from the big picture of leading kids through the toil of word problems. Truly, this is a most important concept to be grasped in math, since it parallels the sort of math problems we all use in day to day life.
The other DVD that was sent to me was sweet, delightful and lovely to watch. “Young Minds, Numbers and Counting” is geared toward the preschooler that is just learning their numbers. However, this video was not the parental-torture trap that many DVD’s can be for this age group! Set to beautiful classical music, and using vivid nature photos and video clips, the DVD takes its time exploring the beauty of creation while identifying “how many” things are in the particular photo/video. 
The quality of each image is National Geographic-good. A clear and innocent child’s voice counts and identifies objects for the viewer. The pace is slow and leisurely, giving time to soak up the beauty and concept. No wonder this DVD has won several awards including a DR. TOY award for one of the top 10 Audio/Visual products. There are also some simple games/puzzles included in the bonus material of this DVD that reinforce the concepts, such as dot to dots that are solved while counting from 1 to 10.
“Basic Math Word Problems” sells for $26.99, (Strangely, I cannot find anything on the website about the "Young Minds DVD. I will contact the company and update this blog when I get the info-- sorry!) If there are other math subjects that stump you or your child, there are MANY other Math Tutor videos on a wide range of subjects, including advance math, carried on the Math Tutor website. You can even watch samples of the DVDs to get a feel for how they work. Check out all of the helpful products by clicking here

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At the Intersection of Creation and Evolution: A Dream

The alliterating story below is based on a dream I had several years ago. Please contact me for permission to reproduce.

Darkness devours me.

I am enveloped in emptiness.

Are my eyes open or are they closed? I strain against this shroud of night and still see nothing.

What is this place?

An image illuminates in front of me. A large, leafy tree streaks past and vanishes.

It deserts me to the darkness again.

In a moment, more images appear. A rapid succession of snapshots and thoughts clamor before my eyes and mingle in my mind.

I see seedlings. Several supple shoots have emerged before me and then swiftly stream away.

“The first trees on earth were not seedlings”, my mind observes. “They were not created as small insignificant saplings.”

That thought is rapidly replaced with a vision of a man.

He’s maybe 30; he is muscular and needs to shave.

He fades away.

In his place I see an infant.

A tiny bundle of pink skin upon a soft blanket flickers briefly in my brain.

“Man was created with age,” is the next statement I hear. “Adam did not begin his life as a baby, he began as a grown man.”

The voice seems like my own.

The thoughts do not.

Reeling before me now is a blur of rivers, forests, mountains and even layers of the earth. It is like a movie rushing rapidly before my retina.

The soundtrack of this epic is proclaiming a peculiarly plain concept:

“The earth was created with age. Creation and evolution are not in total opposition. There is a reason that science finds the earth to be quite old: it was made that way.”

Thoughts continue to tumble through my mind; pictures parade before me. I listen in amazement to what seems to be puzzlingly profound and yet rather apparent all at once.

“Adam was created as an adult. Trees and plants were made fully grown.”

I suddenly feel quite certain that, if I were to chop down some of the trees that had been spoken into existence, I would find a range of rings running through their trunks.

“The earth was brought to life with age built into it… just like Adam. He did not begin life as an infant. The earth came into being with what it would need to sustain the life that was created. It was old when it was young. The world was
made with maturity; it was also produced with purpose.”

These thoughts are thrilling. Why had I not seen this before? It seems so simple. Obtusely obvious. Had others not observed this correlation? If they had, why wasn’t it being candidly conveyed?

In the span of thirty seconds I have been ravaged by a radical revelation. I feel the weight of its worth resting on me; it is tantamount to tangible.

I am neither a theologian nor am I a scientist. I don’t claim that the ethics of evolution are completely compatible with the Bible’s account of creation. But certainly Science can come concurrent to creation and affirm our faith with facts.

Of course, the Omnipotent Originator of the Universe is exceedingly elusive to what our mind could ever envision. Above what science could ever extensively elucidate.

Accordingly, creation is confounding too. Each diverse discovery deems it more marvelous to grasp. Many scientists have reluctantly relented to the theory of Intelligent Design.

That’s why, alongside those facts, we also need faith.

Lying inexplicably at the intersection of those two essential elements is an exceptional endowment: the intermittent insight of our dreams.