Review of MathHelp.com
I have seen and reviewed several video-based math teaching lesson systems in the past, and MathHelp.com (formerly YourTeacher) stands out among them. It is not that they have invented something totally new, but the totality of the package supersedes what the competition has to offer.
- in the comprehensiveness and clarity of the lessons,
- in the ease of use, and
- in functionality.
In each lesson, you will get
- several video and audio clips in which a teacher explains the concept on whiteboard or goes through examples
- seven or eight practice problems with increasing difficulty!
- partial work shown for each practice problem
- answers to each practice problem
- step-by-step explanations for many practice problems
- a challenging Deep Thought question (the author must be a fan of Hitchiker's Guide to Galaxy...: )), plus an answer and solution to it.
- a multiple-choice self-test
- a printable extra worksheet
- a printable notes page
It is almost easier to just view the free sample lesson on their homeschool math curriculum page than to list it all.
I listed all those items so you realize what all this facilitates. The student can proceed at his own pace, skipping examples and doing only the most difficult problems if he finds it easy – OR he can go slowly, repeat the video clips, work through problems, check his work, and learn from the provided step-by-step solutions.
As a teacher, I wish to give my students time to work on a problem, and also be there to guide, explain, review, reinforce, and encourage each student if there are difficulties. Yet, this is hard to do in a classroom with many students. Or, if you are a homeschooling parent, you might be very busy, too, with multitudes of other tasks to take care of.
And of course differentiated instruction has always been a major headache for teachers.
MathHelp can solve this problem: it is a self-teaching system. The student listens to the teacher, works problems, and gets help from the system itself.
Ease of use
I also want to emphasize how easy this system is to use. I logged in and rushed to my first lesson totally green, without checking the "help" or instruction pages first.
I just clicked to start watching a video. Then, I noticed all the little buttons and wondered what they'd do. After trying a few, I DID click "help". Up popped this image:
...and it made the whole system crystal clear in NO TIME.
You can pause, fast forward, or rewind the video lessons. You can jump from a lesson to a practice problem or to a Deep Thought question, or back, without having to wait for one thing to finish.
You can stop one problem and go to the next. No need to go through anything in any given order. This, of course, promotes self-disciplined learning.
I really liked the fact that all this is shown within the same screen. It means I have no chance of getting lost within multitudes of windows or links. Also, I could see in one glance what all there is to do.
The programmers have really done a fine job!
MathHelp offers thousands of math lessons from 5th grade math all the way to college-level algebra. You can search for lessons by keyword, by popular textbooks, or just browse the lesson library. Please visit their math homework help page to search by keyword or browse the lessons by grade level.
I personally didn't like to hear a music clip after the Deep Thought question. It was distracting to me.
I saw several different teachers. All spoke very clearly and fairly slowly. The only thing I was wishing for was some smiles... : ) They all kept a pretty straight face.
The system keeps track of the self-test scores, but does not give other tools for evaluation or for tracking student progress.
You will not know if your solution (I don't mean the answer) is right, would it happen to differ from the given solution path. So in that sense, nothing can totally replace a human teacher who can check if your way of solving a problem was correct.
Not every problem is solved in a way that would inspire the most efficient problem solving. While everything is very clear, it is also fairly "legalized", as if stuck into one mode of thinking – that of the lesson at hand. This is, again, where an automated system reaches its limits. For example, to write 4/5 as a decimal, I would not use long division, but simply use equivalent fractions: 4/5 = 8/10 = 0.8.
A good teacher knows his or her tools, and uses them appropriately. MathHelp does not totally replace a good knowledgeable teacher, mathematical investigations, group discussions, or open-ended problems. But it is able to replace a lot.
MathHelp.com subscription service. Price: $49.99 a month, $199.99 for a year.
Review by Maria Miller