VideoText Interactive has begun release of their muchanticipated Geometry: A Complete Course. Modules A and B are available now, and Module C is due soon. Module D should be ready by the end of July, Module E by the end of November, and Module F by March 2007. Please note that the company does not guarantee these projected dates.
Upper level mathematics, indeed all mathematics, are of great interest to me. While I do not have a degree in mathematics, I feel strongly that one must understand the concept in order to teach it well, and have endeavored to do this in my own home. The focus of this review will be what the program is and how it is used. My opinion is based on ease of use and clarity of instruction; specifically in our homeschool, and my previous study of various mathematics courses. If you need more information, you will have to view the sample materials or talk directly with the author.
Algebra (complete) is a prerequisite for Geometry: A Complete Course. This program covers the structure of geometry (fundamental terms and theorems), its essential elements, simple closed plane curves (triangles, other polygons, and circles), loci and constructions, and trigonometric relations. It comprises 176 lessons in eight units. I reviewed Modules A and B, which include the following:
Module A: Unit IThe Structure of Geometry
Part AWhat is Geometry?
Part BThe Scope of Our Geometry
Part CMeasurement
Part DInductive Reasoning
Part EDeductive Reasoning
Part FLogic
Module B: Unit IIFundamental Terms
Part AUndefined Terms
Part BDefined Terms
Part CPostulates (or Axioms)
Unit I is a preparatory unit. After exploring various geometries and settling on Euclidean, or Plane, geometry for the study, students review the five mathematical parts of speech and their relationship to geometry. Next a thorough reteaching of the building and measuring of shapes is undertaken. Excellent graphics show how various formulas are derived for measuring perimeter, area, and volume of rectangles, parallelograms, triangles, trapezoids, regular polygons, circles, prisms, pyramids, and spheres. My husband and I watched most of these lessons together and found the presentation exceptionally clear. If you've never seen the development of the formula for the area of a circle, you've been missing out! These graphics will leave you wondering where VideoText was when you studied geometry in high school. Some of the lessons, such as finding the area of a triangle, would be appropriate for younger siblings studying these topics in whatever arithmetic program you are using. Finally, parts D through F develop the principles of inductive and deductive reasoning as preparation for formal proofs.
Unit II moves into the "rules of the game." First, it deals with undefined terms, or those terms that are accepted without definition, such as point, line, and plane. Then, formally defined terms are developed using those undefined terms and inductive reasoning. Finally, attention is given to postulates or axioms, statements that are accepted as valid without proof. Mr. Clark teaches these lessons clearly and in what appears a very logical sequence. The incremental lessons are extremely precise, and I can just hear my daughter saying, "Why do I have to learn this? I already know what a line is!" Anticipating these comments, Mr. Clark offers frequent words of encouragement such as, "So, how are you doing? Sometimes it does seem to get rather technical, doesn't it? That's all right! Just stay with me and concentrate on the real meaning of these definitions." An understanding of these fundamental terms will be necessary in Module C, where students will meet formal deductive proofs.
My husband and I both feel that Tom Clark is a true teacher, not just a knowledgeable mathematician. I had a brilliant geometry teacher in high school who had absolutely no talent in passing on his knowledge to his students. In contrast, I just finished reading aloud Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, in which brilliant young Nathaniel Bowditch teaches his fellow sailors the science of navigation, explaining a concept repeatedly until the simplest sailor finally understands it. Similarly, in Modules A and B, Tom Clark teaches like one who has had many years of experience making mathematics understandable.
If you are new to the VideoText Interactive method, you should request the free training DVD. This information is described in the books, but it is helpful to hear it explained and see it demonstrated. To sum it up, Geometry: A Complete Course is based on a simple fivestep method:
 Watch the DVD lesson.
 Look over the course notes.
 Read the worktext and work the problems, showing all work.
 Check your answers and solutions with the solution manual.
 Take quizzes (at least one day after the lesson) to check mastery.
Now for further information about each step: Step One is watching the DVD lesson. Your student should not take notes at this time. This is where the interactive part comes in. Your student should pause the video whenever a question is asked. My experience leads me to recommend that you model this method by sitting with your student through at least Module A to make sure he develops this important habit. The answers quickly follow the questions, so your student needs to be attentive and have the remote control ready to pause.
Step Two is looking over the course notes. These have all the main information from the lesson neatly organized for quick reference. These are the "notes" your student did not take while watching the lesson carefully.
Step Three is studying the worktext and doing the problems. The worktext defines all terms, gives additional examples, and provides student exercises. You may choose to work through the worktext examples with your student or let him study alone. These problems provide a good bridge from watching someone doing a procedure to doing it alone in the exercise set. Unlike their algebra course, your student should complete all the exercises in a lesson.
Step Four is checking answers and solutions. Students should correct their own work, with supervision. They should find and correct any errors and be able to explain where they went wrong and why.
Step Five is taking frequent quizzes. Sometimes a single lesson has a quiz, and other times a quiz covers several lessons. Allow at least one day between a lesson and a quiz so that your student does not simply employ his shortterm memory. Two forms are provided for each quiz; you may choose to use Quiz A as practice and Quiz B for a grade, or you may give Quiz A to evaluate mastery and administer Quiz B only when needed after review. There are also two test forms for each module. The VideoText Interactive website provides printable progress checklists for easy record keeping.
It is important to understand the difference between the mastery approach and the spiral approach. If you are used to Saxon math, with its concepts spread throughout the book and constant repetition, you will need to alter your way of thinking. According to my old Saxon books, you should not worry if your child does not a get a concept initially, but rather move on and rest assured that your child will meet the concept over and over again. Not so with VideoText Interactive. You should use the quizzes to evaluate your student's readiness to move on. If a concept has not been mastered, you should review the video lesson, and then if your student still does not understand, call the helpline. VideoText Interactive offers unlimited, tollfree telephone support for original purchasers of the program. If you buy your program secondhand, you must pay a $99 fee for this service, which covers your entire family.
There are several reasons I would recommend VideoText Geometry to homeschoolers. First and most important, Tom Clark teaches for conceptual understanding and not just shortterm memory. He means it when he says, "...each incremental concept is explored in detail, using no shortcuts, tricks, rules, or formulas, and no step in the process is ignored." Secondly, the DVD format allows for repeated lessons from an infinitely patient teacher. Thirdly, the solutions manual (not simply an answer key) is an essential tool that is not available for every geometry program. Fourthly, a free helpline is an invaluable resource. Finally, the program is 100% reusable for all your children. If cost is a deterrent, you may feel better if you compare the cost to hourly tutoring or private school tuition. With five children to homeschool, I consider the cost of this program to be quite reasonable for all it offers.
As for the potential negatives of this program, I think the greatest danger is a parent thinking this is a completely selfteaching program. It would take a highly motivated student for it to work that way. I know many smart, mature young adults, but I would not necessarily leave their math education in their own hands. According to VideoText Interactive, "...it is not the intent of the program to let the VideoText lesson completely take the place of personal instruction or interaction." Another danger is thinking 176 lessons translate into 176 days. Keep in mind that quizzes, tests, and review will take additional time. A final potential downside is that there are several components to juggle, and it is sometimes cumbersome setting up the DVD and finding the necessary course notes, worktext pages, and solutions key for each lesson. However, this does seem to develop into a routine over time. The company does provide convenient storage containers for both CD's and books.
I asked the author, Tom Clark, at what mathematical level a student would be upon completion of Geometry: A Complete Course. Apparently, what is commonly called "precalculus" in high school is just all the leftover algebra and geometry that was not covered in those classes. What VideoText Interactive has developed are two complete algebra and geometry programs, with all the typical "precalculus" material in its proper place. Therefore, in order to give your student credit for geometry (including trigonometry) and precalculus, you need to complete both Algebra: A Complete Course and Geometry: A Complete Course. Upon successful completion of both programs, your student should be ready for collegelevel calculus.
Visit http://www.videotext.com/sampler.htm to request a free DVD sampler of VideoText Interactive Algebra and Geometry. This review will be continued as further modules become available.
Product Review by Heather Jackowitz, Contributing Writer, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, LLC, May, 2006
