MathTacular® is a series of four DVD-ROMs with short, entertaining segments of creative math instruction. The DVDs feature an engaging young man named Justin who serves as the math “professor.” Justin’s friends occasionally join in, especially on MathTacular4®.
Justin teaches concepts with visual aids and objects, with great enthusiasm and occasional silliness. For example, on MathTacular3®, to teach about reducing fractions Justin uses the “Fraction Reducer 2000” which looks suspiciously like a salad spinner. He puts in pieces of paper plates cut into fractions such as two 1/6 fractional sections. They come out of the Fraction Reducer as a single piece that is 1/3 of the plate. He runs into trouble when he puts in fifteen 1/16 pieces and discovers that the machine starts to go into “melt down” when confronted by fractions that cannot be reduced. While all segments are not this entertaining, the presentation is still very engaging since he always uses objects, role-playing, games, and dramatizations.
Justin often presents activities or games that children should try on their own. This means parents need to pay attention to the videos enough to provide the support activities. These generally use household items or others that you can easily create yourself.
The first MathTacular has no other designation. It was created by taking all of the concepts covered in kindergarten math in Singapore, Horizon, and Saxon math programs, then coming up with creative ways to present them. Since some of these math programs are advanced, concepts covered stretch from number recognition and counting up through the introduction of fractions, bar graphs, measuring objects, and telling time. While ideal for kindergartners using one of the three math programs, you might use this level with children from preschool level up through about second grade. The video runs about four hours in all but you won’t want to watch it through all at once. This DVD includes printable PDF files with color name cards, days of the week and weather cards, a geometry concentration game, money value flashcards, months of the year cards, number names, shape names, shape pages, and time dominoes. The time dominoes are unique. They have the written time (e.g. 10:00) on one end and a clock face with another time on the other end. Children play with them as they would regular dominoes. You will probably want to print these on heavy card stock and use them over and over.
MathTacular2® runs about two hours and is recommended for grades 2 through 4. It teaches topics such as addition, subtraction, carrying and borrowing, estimation, money, time, place value, measurement, the concepts of similarity and congruence, perimeter, area, and time telling. On this DVD Justin shares tricks for memorizing math facts.
MathTacular3®, recommended for grades 3 through 5, covers more than 50 concepts and runs about four hours. Concepts are covered under the headings of multiplication, division, mathematical properties, equations, number theory, lines and space, time, money concepts, measurement, fractions, and decimals/percents/ratios.
MathTacular4® changes the format as it focuses on word problems through a mystery adventure. It has a companion workbook and an answer key. The DVD might be used with children fourth grade and up, but the workbook is suitable for sixth grade and up. Detectives Justin and Amber set out to find Amber’s precious, prize pig who has been “porknapped.” They have to solve word problems to make any progress. The DVD stops each time a problem needs to be solved so students can try to tackle the problems on their own. This is where the workbook comes in; each problem is written out with plenty of space to solve it. (The workbook includes five similar word problems for students to solve along with those that are key to solving the mystery to help them cement their skills.) When the DVD resumes, students watch Justin and Amber work through the problem. The full-color workbook includes a “Tool Kit” at the back with the clues needed to solve some of the problems, steps required, conversion formulas for units of measurement, and common math formulas they will need. The answer key includes complete solutions, sometimes presenting more than one way a problem might be solved.
The entire series is very creative and entertaining while it also offers solid teaching. However, the DVDs are supplements that will support a core program rather than a standalone curriculum.
Sample clips are available on the website. MathTacular is an exclusive Sonlight product.