Nexbooks offers online courses under the headings of Business, Hands-on (e.g., Tools 101 and Intro to Photography), Science, Tech, and Math for fifth grade, middle school, and high school. This review focuses on the math courses for grades 5 through 11, the only complete courses for core curricula.
The math courses are all divided into Part A and Part B, each a one-semester course. Nevertheless, students can move through the courses at their own pace. The math courses listed below all have Part A and Part B.
Integrated Math 1
Integrated Math 2
Integrated Math courses cover both algebra and geometry. Geometry is concentrated into Integrated Math 1B and Integrated Math 2A, which is helpful if students need to tackle courses equivalent to algebra 2 and geometry separately.
The sequence includes both Math 8 and Pre-algebra courses, but these courses cover much of the same material. Pre-algebra is included among the high school courses and should be used only by students who lack the math skills to begin Algebra 1 in ninth grade. Otherwise, that course can be skipped.
There’s no worry about signing up for the correct course since subscribers can access all courses. There is also a seven-day free trial period.
How the Courses Work
Students work independently through these courses. There is no need for a separate teacher or parent account, although it can be set up for one teacher working with multiple students. The dashboard and layout of the courses are straightforward and easy to use. Students can jump around in a course if they wish, which is helpful for review. Students can see the percentage of each course completed and a cumulative course grade on their dashboard, and they (as well as parents or teachers) can view and print reports showing progress and scores for individual quizzes and tests.
Courses are divided into chapters—five to seven chapters per course (for either Part A or Part B), with four to ten lessons per chapter. Within each lesson, the essential elements are an instructional video and a quiz.
Each lesson has a five- to eight-minute instructional video presented by instructor Ryan Teves via voiceover teaching and a "whiteboard.” He talks in a friendly, casual manner that students should find engaging. Some lessons begin with an “in person” introduction by Teves so students get a sense of what he looks like—a more personal touch.
Most lessons include a link to an optional (free) video from Khan Academy, Math Antics, The Organic Chemistry Tutor, or another source. Each of these videos teaches the same topic that Teves has just taught but in a different style. In addition, one or more links under “Extra Reading” lead to websites with written explanations of the lesson’s topic. The optional resources should be most helpful when students are not sure they clearly understand a topic and different styles of presentation might clarify their understanding.
As I was reviewing these courses, I spotted a lesson in pre-algebra titled “Quadratic Functions & Parabolas” and immediately thought the topic sounded too advanced for this level. However, the video does an excellent job of introducing functions and parabolas in a way that demystifies both concepts and better prepares students for lessons on those topics that appear in upcoming courses. Teves also does this occasionally with other topics such as when he introduces sines, cosines, and tangents in this same pre-algebra course. Teves is particularly good at identifying skills students typically struggle with and teaching them in ways that make them less overwhelming. An example of this is his handling of quadratic equations in Lesson 4.5 of Integrated Math 2B, where he explains how identifying the discriminant can quickly let students know whether there are two, one, or no solutions to a problem.
The quiz for each lesson serves as the source for practice problems and is based solely on the content of Teves’ video instruction. There are usually 15 questions in each quiz. Students can retake online quizzes as many times as they want until they click “Submit all and finish.” The problems don’t change when they retake quizzes.
Sometimes, students can find more practice problems on one of the Extra Reading websites, but otherwise, the quiz problems are all students have for practice. If students need more, Khan Academy, IXL, and Math10.com are just a few websites where you can find free practice problems.
Teves sometimes teaches new concepts within real-life scenarios, such as when teaching about interest paid or received, but this is the exception. And the quizzes have few or no word problems. However, each chapter concludes with a “Real Life Assignment” that often functions like word problems to help students think about how to apply math concepts in real life. (Some Real Life Assignments have students apply critical thinking skills to abstract problems rather than real-life situations.) Students answer these problems offline, and the program does not record or check answers, instead relying on a parent or teacher to do so. It might be a hassle for some parents to grade these since there are no answer keys. Some answers are not predictable, so answer keys, if they were available, would only be moderately helpful. The Real Life Assignments are not mandatory, but I recommend that students answer them since they offer both practical applications and critical thinking practice.
Chapter tests are available only after students have completed all quizzes in a chapter, and they can be taken only once. There’s a practice final exam that students can take as many times as they wish before taking the final exam.
Students should be able to complete Nexbook courses in less time than many other math courses covering the same topics because there are fewer practice problems. This should be great for students who grasp concepts easily and don’t need a lot of practice. Other students can supplement with the optional videos and more practice on the quiz problems they miss and with practice problems for other websites.