Friday, September 10, 2010

Review: America's Math Teacher

Sample worksheet for Fractions
I'm really thankful that I've had a chance now to review multiple math programs.  Often times I'll hear other homeschool moms say they are afraid to teach math.  This is not the case with me. I like math.  I like to teach it.  What I am often afraid of is using the wrong program for my child.  Having the opportunity to try so many different types of programs has given me more clues into my children's learning styles and preferences.

America's Math Teacher is an honest-to-goodness online math program covering math concepts appropriate for 4th grade through algebra.  The instructor, Rick Fischer, is a math teacher who has the credentials many parents want in a math teacher:  a math major in college!  According to the website, half of his 6th grade students skip 7th grade math and move right to 8th grade algebra.

The Basics. The website link is here.  They've posted samples of online lessons (which can be viewed with 24/7 access) and corresponding worksheets for each lesson.  Here's a sample of an algebra lesson teaching multiplication of integers.  There is a set or corresponding worksheets (and answers) for each topic except for Algebra.

You could really make this your mail math curriculum for those late grammar/ early middle school years.  Each worksheet has a math fact drill in a unique concentric circle format;  you can also use it free online.

 Purchase price is $195.00 for a 12 month subscription.  There does not appear to be any month-to-month purchase options at this time.

My impressions. The first lesson I watched taught division of fractions. Now, a lot of my friends and I prefer to use programs for math that teach the "why" behinds algorithms and techniques for solving math problems.  We can all remember following our teacher's model but not really understanding why we were doing what we were doing.  Think of division with fractions -- do you know why we "invert and multiply?"  Well, I did not until this spring! So, I was curious to know if Mr. Fischer's program was a "why"-based program.  It is not.  At least for fraction division.  He does a thorough job of teaching and explaining what a reciprocal is and how to do a variety of problems, but he doesn't explain why we do what we do with fractions.  I'm not saying this is a negative of the program, but I do want you to be aware of this.

I like that the lessons are short (11 minutes is the longest I've noticed) and the instructor encourages the students to grab their paper and pencil and work alongside him as he completes the problem.

I think that the worksheets do an admirable job of including all the basics that your middler student is going to need:  fact review, a couple questions about previously learned material, practice with new concepts and word problems.  With all that in each lesson, I'd have to characterize this program as a spiral learning approach versus mastery-based program.

I'm not sure if it is a website mistake, but the Algebra Learning Center page does note that the student should complete "the written exercises after each and every lesson," but I could not find them in the Resource Center.

My son enjoyed doing the lessons online -- he likes just about anyone else besides me as a math instructor!  I think he especially liked the calm demeanor of the instructor.

My only hurdle to signing up on the spot for a year's worth of lessons is the price.  $195 is a big chunk of change for us to lay out for one subject -- especially something that has an expiration date.  Since I have only one student in the skill range this program is targeted for, it is a bit pricey.  If you had more students in the 4th through 8th grade range, however, it could be a fantastic deal to get a high quality, national math standards driven curriculum. However, the credentials of the instructor make me want to think about it more.

If you'd like to read more reviews about America's Math Tutor you can visit The Review Crew here.

FCC disclaimer: I was given a 60-day trial membership in exchange for reviewing this product or my honest feedback.


Jen U. said...

Hi Alane! Great review! I hope you have a wonderful weekend.
~Jen Unsell

Michelle Smith said...

Good job with this review! I am so glad you explained what type of math approach this program uses. It would not be a good fit for our own family, yet I would not have known that had you not gone into the detail you did. Yet even though I would not use it for my own children it could be a really good program for many families and many children. Your specific information about the program helps your readers to know whether this math program is worth further investigation.

Elizabeth said...

Hi Alane,

Great review on this! Well done. I really enjoyed doing this with my kids and they just loved the speed drills.