John Zimmerman teaches online math courses for middle and high school via TabletClass Math Academy. They offer homeschool versions of their courses for pre-algebra, algebra, algebra 2, geometry, and pre-calculus. Homeschooling parents should also purchase access to the optional parent portal for their student’s course, using a different email address for that subscription to keep it secure. (Many test-prep courses are also available from TabletClass Math Academy, but they are not the focus of my review.)
The courses are taught online and track the completion of lessons but not student scores. The courses begin with review, then launch into new topics. Each course is divided into 11 to 16 chapters, and each chapter has several lessons, extra practice problems, chapter review notes, a quiz, and a quiz answer key. The geometry course has fewer lessons than the other courses and might be completed in less than nine months. (If a student finishes geometry early, you might have him or her begin the more-challenging algebra 2 course, allowing a little extra time for its completion.
Each lesson has one primary video—averaging about 15 minutes—in which Zimmerman teaches new topics. He provides easy-to-understand, voice-over instruction while demonstrating on screen. Students should take notes as they watch, but extensive notes are available to download.
A downloadable set of practice problems is at the bottom of the page. Students need to try to work these out on their own. Answers follow directly below the unsolved problems so that students can check themselves.
Above the practice problems are two or more videos where Zimmerman walks students through the solutions to the practice problems. This does seem out of order, and the instructions for each lesson remind students to work the problems before watching the solution videos. Zimmerman emphasizes that even if students answer the practice problems correctly, they still need to watch the solution videos, most likely because he emphasizes and clarifies key points. There is more explanation and problem-solving demonstration than I see in some other online courses because of the primary video lessons and solution videos. On the other hand, there are fewer practice problems for each lesson than one might expect at these levels, particularly for geometry. However, some problems are complex and will take quite a while to solve. It is crucial that students try to work out all of the practice problems on their own before watching the solutions.
Chapter review notes can be downloaded and used for convenient review. One set of extra practice problems is presented for each entire chapter, and this is where students will practice solving problems covering all chapter topics. Answer keys follow beneath the extra practice problems, so students need to be disciplined not to look ahead to the answers. Each chapter concludes with a 10-question, multiple-choice quiz. The quiz should be printed out since students will generally need to work through steps to solve problems. Students enter answers on the screen, and each problem is immediately scored. The chapter quiz is the only point at which students cannot preview answers.
Since the program does not record student scores, parents or teachers need to record chapter quiz results immediately after a student finishes.
Students are told not to move ahead unless they understand the material taught thus far. Self-motivated students should do fine, but parents should check on other students periodically to ensure they aren’t looking at the answers and working through an entire chapter without truly understanding the material.
I noticed that there is no cumulative review in these courses since it takes a mastery approach rather than a spiral approach. Students can certainly review their notes, but without problems requiring them to review, I expect they will not do so. However, it is important to note that concepts often build upon those taught previously, a built-in form of review.
Optional Parent Portal
The optional parent portal for homeschoolers provides teacher support materials, the most significant of which are tests. The downloadable chapter and final tests are to be completed offline. The chapter tests address only topics taught in each chapter. The final exam is the only cumulative test on topics taught throughout a course.
The teacher has other printable resources including answer keys for the tests, course pacing options, and recordkeeping forms.
While the parent portal is optional, I think homeschooling parents should use it since the tests provide an essential tool for accountability, and the recordkeeping forms are very helpful.
TabletClass Math Academy courses are easy to use, and the instruction is excellent.