Spotlight Review of MATH-TEACHER Plus

by Anne Wegener

From Practical Homeschooling November/December 2003

Grade 7-adult. $99 each title. Win95/NT4.0 or newer.

Courses available: Algebra 1, Algebra 2, Word Problems and Probability, Analytical Geometry and Trigonometry, and Calculus and Linear Programming.

4:20 Communications, Inc, Minneapolis, MN, (888) 628-4525, www.mathkalusa.com.

Imagine a teacher patiently instructing your high schooler in those tough math courses. After presenting a new concept the teacher then guides your child through practice problems in an interactive tutorial. If he solves the problems easily the teacher gives more difficult ones, but if he struggles, the teacher gives hints and repeats similar problems. When your child has completed enough problems with an acceptable score (default is 80 percent, but this can be changed) he takes a timed test. MATH-TEACHER Plus, an Israeli computer program used worldwide, provides you with just this type of teacher!

In addition to the tutorial, where your student will spend most of his time, there is also a powerful graphic "exploration environment," sort of a souped-up graphing calculator. Here he can study functions and even translate a graph into its equation by dragging the graph across the page. Beyond this you can view animated demonstrations of concepts such as limits and convexity and concavity.

Some computer math courses merely offer camouflaged multiple-choice problems. With MATH-TEACHER Plus this is not the case, as this program allows problems to be solved in a way similar to the way you would do them on paper. You can enter freeform answers, and the computer will take all acceptable ways to solve a problem, giving you step-by-step guidance or hints if you need them.

Each of the courses has four units which are designed to cover material that would normally take 2-4 months in a classroom. A Teacher's Toolkit allows for customization, provides timed on-screen tests and a test generator for printed tests or homework, and creates detailed individual reports. To maximize the program you will need to spend time monitoring your student's work and creating tests from a cross-section of units. Since there are no solutions manuals, even with all the help options available, this may not be a good program for a parent who is not strong in math. [

Though some of the content is quite challenging, the problems in a given section are often repetitive. Grading is generous, giving partial credit for second and third attempts, even on tests.

You will miss some topics taught in traditional courses, such as geometric constructions and two-column proofs. Another drawback is the lack of "search" capabilities, making it hard to find a section dealing with a specific term or subject. [

Nonetheless, here's what sold me on this program. While doing PSAT
preparation we learned that my oldest (and math resistant) daughter
was weak on probability, so I had her work with the Word
Problems/Probability CD. Initially she had some trouble. Now,
normally this would mean waiting till the regular math tutor (me)
was available, but because of the immediate and untiring ability of
this program to provide help (lessons, an infinite number of sample
problems, general guidance in how to start and hints for specific
problems) she was able to understand the new concepts on her own!

Copyright 2034 Home Life, Inc., PO Box 1190, Fenton, MO 63026-1190, (800) 346-6322, www.home-school.com. Originally published in Practical Homeschooling November/December 2003. A Practical Homeschooling subscription is $19.95 for six issues. Used by permission.