There’s always a lot to learning math. New ideas. Funny symbols. Last year’s concepts, almost forgotten, but suddenly important again. And, above all, radically new ways of thinking, especially for high school math. Because it takes many exposures to these new ideas to really understand them, your teens will benefit from supplementary math resources no matter how good your curriculum is.
The resource we’ve been using lately is Math on DVDs Pre-Calculus by college professor Steven Gottlieb. This series is Steven’s tutoring sessions recorded on DVD. In 15 hours of whiteboard lectures, 22 pre-calculus concepts are explained—for the price of half an hour’s worth of standard tutoring. Topics include Completing the Square, Polynomials and their Graphs, Complex Numbers, Logarithmic Functions, and, most basic of all, What is a Function? For a complete listing of topics covered, visit Steven’s website.
It’s very helpful to review all these topics at the pre-calculus level, partly because they tie together concepts used in pre-calculus, chemistry, and physics. Furthermore, anyone who knows all the topics presented in Math on DVD Pre-Calculus will be very well-prepared for a standard calculus course.
Each of the DVD lessons is thorough and full of explanations, examples, and tips. Steven is obviously a gifted tutor and can organize concepts so that they are clear and memorable. My husband, who has taught calculus for years, points out that presenting math the way Steven Gottlieb does requires years of experience as well as outstanding teaching skills.
How We Use Math on DVD Pre-Calculus
Mr. 17 and I sit down together, me with pen and paper to take notes and he with his Microsoft Surface to take screenshots, and we watch the DVD together. Because I take notes, I can clearly see how well-thought out Steven’s explanations are. Occasionally we stop the DVD at the beginning of an example, and Mr. 17 tries to work through it on his own. Just watching and taking screen shots does not cement the material in his mind, but discussing and trying to do examples works a whole lot better.
Sometimes a lesson seems too slow and detailed, but the slower lessons carefully explain topics that confuse many students even though they may think they understand. The lesson on ‘Functions’ is one example. However, the very next lesson on ‘Domain and Range’ prompted Mr. 17 to exclaim, “Hey, I never knew that. Or if I did, I didn’t know I knew it.”
Not all lessons are clear, though. Lesson 8 on ‘Completing the Square (something Mr. 17 first learned 4 years ago but had thoroughly forgotten) could not seem to get through to him, and the explanations were a bit fuzzy. I’m not convinced that it was only the DVD however; I think my son had too much on his mind while watching it. Like any other resource, Math on DVD Pre-Calculus won’t work unless the student does.
We came to the conclusion that some of these pre-calculus lessons would have been helpful earlier on in his math studies. I know kids (mine) studying algebra who get confused about functions and who study domain and range. So I’m planning to watch some of these lessons with Miss 15 this year even though she is a few years from pre-calculus.
An unexpected fringe benefit: If mom needs a refresher course in pre-calculus to help her explain concepts to her kids, this one is ideal. It is concise and very well organized so she can focus on forgotten topics or skip ahead as needed. If you’ve known pre-calculus well before, this will get you back up to speed.
While I recommend these DVD’s as a cost-effective way to improve your teen’s understanding of pre-calculus, three aspects bothered us. First of all, the speaker has a strong and unusual accent. Secondly, these DVD’s are not professionally produced. It frustrated Mr. 17 immensely to watch the eraser cursor bounce around and to hear the sounds of the pen writing and trains whistling. On the other hand, he took great delight in examining Steven’s desktop, which shows up occasionally at the end or beginning of a lecture, and in trying to determine which version of Windows he used. Finally, and very occasionally, Steven would make a tiny error and sometimes he would not catch it and correct it. It was never anything major, just enough to make us stop the dvd, scratch our heads, and go over what he was doing.
Mr. 17 came to accept these glitches and told me philosophically that the quality of the DVD’s was probably like that of a real lecture. Thinking back to my university classes, he’s right: The Math on DVD Pre-Calculus lessons are like real lectures put onto DVD. They are not glitzy entertainment or top-quality recordings, but they teach the math and teach it well.
In conclusion, for the price of half an hour of standard tutoring, you get 15 hours of an experienced tutor’s well-planned lessons. There’s no way you can go wrong with this. We highly recommend Math on DVD Pre-Calculus for any teen doing pre-calculus.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this resource from Steven Gottlieb for the purposes of this review. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.
-Written by Annie Kate, a Christian homeschooling mom of five, who reviews and blogs at Tea Time with Annie Kate.