LIVE Online Math offers three delivery options for math courses for junior high and high school. They have “live” courses where students meet three times a week online and Video-Plus courses where students watch video lessons online and also meet once a week online with a class group. The third option is video-only delivery. I am reviewing only the video-only “static” version of Bovey’s course since the live courses can change with each class group. I reviewed the Pre-Algebra course for this review, but other video courses are available for Pre-Pre-Algebra through Algebra.
Video courses provide the instruction while a standard textbook provides the practice problems. In the case of Pre-Algebra, the text used is Passport to Algebra and Geometry published by McDougal Littel . While you can purchase your own text, LIVE Math Online has textbooks available for checkout for the duration of a course. Purchasing a course gives you access to the online course and textbook for one full year.
Students also need a binder or notebook for taking notes during the course, graph paper, a protractor, a compass, a ruler or straightedge, and a scientific calculator.
The Pre-Algebra course has 13 units, with each unit broken down into a number of chapters for a total of 82 lessons. Some lessons might take more than a day to complete between the video lesson and the problems to be solved. The lessons combined with quizzes, tests, and unit thirteen’s “End of Unit Project” comprise a solid pre-algebra course that should thoroughly prepare students for algebra. Scheduling tips under “Pacing” highlight lessons that might require extra time as well as some at the end that might be used out of order.
Bovey uses an electronic white board as he teaches each lesson. He has the whiteboard pre-set with already typed in problems, terms, and illustrations. He then uses a marker to highlight and do some of the math, and he also inserts additional prepared graphics as he works through each lesson. So lessons are presented efficiently and are easy to follow.
After each brief lesson presentation, the screen presents a few comprehension questions for students to answer such as, “Enter the name of the answer to a subtraction problem.” Students type in or select their answer, and the computer immediately tells them if they are correct.
The program automatically shifts from video to a screen when students need to answer a question online. Sometimes students need to pause to try solving a problem on their own. Rather than telling students to pause the video at such points, the course automatically pauses, and the student must hit the play button to begin again.
Assignments for each video lesson are visible on the same course screen from which students access the video lessons. Problems from the text are assigned selectively. Answers are provided in the form of printable “correction sheets.” I can see where some students might be tempted to access these correction sheets before trying to solve problems on their own. If they do, their deficiencies will show up on mid-unit quizzes and end-of-unit tests. Quizzes are taken on the computer and graded immediately by the program. Tests are printable rather than taken on the computer. Students can access the tests themselves, but only parents will have access to the answer keys. Printable test answer sheets provide room for students to show their work for each problem along with their answers.
The combination of computer-based questions, questions from the textbook, and printed tests gives students a broad range of practice with the different formats. It also gives parents an opportunity to really see how students are doing on each unit test as students answer questions and show their work.
At the end of Unit 13, an “End of Unit Project” has students create a survey with Survey Monkey, then use the data they collect to display and interpret it in various ways. Bovey walks students through the survey creation and explains how to frame questions for the most accurate results. This is a great exercise in the practical application of math and the use of statistical data.
The platform for LIVE Online Math video courses is more sophisticated than that used by many other online or DVD-ROM math courses. Interrupting video lessons frequently with interactive assignments helps keep students engaged with course material. I think that combining various learning methods also makes the course more interesting. While some students might not appreciate having to show their work for their tests, this component is extremely helpful for keeping parents abreast of how the student is progressing, a problem with many computer-based courses.
If students taking the video courses are struggling, they can sign up for personal tutoring services through LIVE Online Math. Another option from LIVE Online Math, Infinite Math, provides a supplemental practice system. The Infinite Math program can generate an almost infinite number of math problems that correlate with LIVE Online Math courses. Its online practice problems have step-by-step explanations, and students are able to target very specific types of problems for review. Infinite Math seems most useful as a sort of do-it-yourself tutorial service. Students can subscribe to Infinite Math for one month, three months, a school year, or a full year. (See the website for prices for Infinite Math.)
While there are a growing number of options for computer-delivered math courses, LIVE Online Math seems to have come up with an effective compromise solution with their video courses that uses the computer in a sophisticated manner while also providing more traditional paper-and-pencil problem solving activity. A two-week free trial allows you to check it out before buying.