When I was in school, I was usually at the top of my class and learned new concepts easily; rarely did I come across material that truly challenged me in the regular classroom. But that changed in my sophomore year of high school when I took geometry. My teacher was smart, funny, and engaging. I liked him a lot, but I didn’t always understand what in the world he was talking about and how he got from one point to the next! Geometry was so different from anything I had ever seen before, and I had a hard time wrapping my head around the process of working proofs. Our teacher did a great job of explaining material as long as the students followed what he said. But if you didn’t understand the material as he taught it, he wasn’t able to simplify his explanations or cover the material again in a different way to make it more easily understood. My good friend was a math whiz, and thanks to her much simpler explanations and her taking the time to break down the material for me, it made sense. She even came in early several times to help other classmates with geometry homework, as she was about the only student who understood everything easily. Thanks to her patient peer tutoring, I finally “got it” and ended up doing well in geometry. (Just don’t ask me to work any theorems for you now! ;))

Jason Gibson uses a similar approach in his Math Tutor DVDs to make complex math concepts easy to understand by breaking them down and explaining them step by step. The DVDs cover different topic areas beginning with basic math and moving all the way up to higher-level courses in physics, statistics, and calculus. I received the Basic Math Word Problem Tutor and the Algebra 2 Tutor DVDs to review.

The videos are rather spartan and feature Gibson working problems on a whiteboard and clearly, thoroughly explaining each step of a problem and solution, with no frills, graphics, or potential distractions. A Math Tutor DVD is the Joe Friday of the educational video world—just the facts!

My daughter, who loves math and enjoys word problems, thought the section of the Word Problems DVD that she watched with me was dry and uninteresting, and I agree that there was little about the presentation to engage young learners. However, I can see how this type of format could be helpful to an older student who has gaps in a particular area and needs to see many examples of a particular type of problem worked out in order to grasp the concept and gain confidence. The Geometry Tutor DVD may have been quite helpful to me when I was in high school.

Although I do utilize videos in our homeschooling, I usually avoid videos of someone lecturing or teaching a class, as a video can’t replicate the most beneficial aspect of classroom teaching—the interaction between the teacher and the students (both verbal and nonverbal). Tutoring is by definition interactive and individualized to the learner, so I don’t consider a DVD to be a substitute for a live tutor. Other homeschooling parents and students have no trouble with this type of format, though, and I think the videos would be beneficial to students who are struggling with a particular math concept. They aren’t meant to completely replace a math curriculum but rather to supplement what you’re using and help students gain additional practice working problems.

You can see a sample of the Word Problem Math Tutor DVD here. Many users have provided glowing testimonials on the Math Tutor site about how well the programs have worked for them, and you can read and hear their personal experiences here. You can find more reviews of Math Tutor DVDs on the TOS Crew blog.

Most Math Tutor DVDs cost $26.99. Companion CDs are available for certain titles and include worksheets and step-by-step solutions. For a limited time, “Each new Math Tutor DVD customer receives 60 minutes of FREE live online tutoring available 24/7 through Tutor.com!”