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Algebra: A Complete Course – from VideoText Review by Debra Brinkman and Kate Kessler

Tom Clark
VideoText Interactive Online

One thing that really frustrated me when I was a kid was how much review happened in my math classes. It always seemed that we spent the first six weeks or longer re-learning concepts we had studied before. That got even worse with algebra. I took Algebra I in 8th grade, then Geometry in 9th. When we started Algebra II, we seemed to spend the entire first semester reviewing what we had studied before.

I wanted to move on. “But that’s just the way it is,” I was told.

VideoText Algebra is different. It is designed to take you all the way through Algebra in one shot, starting with pre-algebra concepts and working through Algebra I and Algebra II. You don’t have to spend months reviewing when you just work through it all.

With the online program, available for $299, you receive access to all 176 lessons for two students. Additional students can be added for only $49. This gives you access to all the video lessons, pdfs of all the worktexts, course notes, solutions’ manuals, progress tests, and instructor’s guides.

When you purchase this course, to be delivered electronically, you receive access for two students for three years. You do not need to start the clock ticking for both students at the same time. As an example, my son started using the materials a couple months back, so his license will end April of 2020. I will probably register my youngest son in January, so he has access until January of 2021.

There are a variety of scheduling options provided to you. The regular pace option has the student working through the entire course over two years. An accelerated option works through the material in a single year. A third option, great for a fairly young student, has them working through the more pre-algebra part slowly the first year and then spreading the rest of the program over the next two years. A fourth choice slows it down to cover the materials evenly over three years.

Whichever pace you choose, your student finishes with 2 credits of algebra, plus pre-algebra.

I was first introduced to VideoText Algebra a decade or so ago. I listened to Tom Clark, the creator of the program, talk about his philosophy of upper math education, and I found myself agreeing. He spoke of short lessons that build on each other. You learn one new thing in a lesson, you practice it, and you teach it back to someone. The next day you build another new piece, then another, and another. One new concept at a time.

My oldest son grasped math intuitively. He loved this approach and flew through the modules. The rest of my children are not at all like that. Math is a huge struggle. I never truly considered VideoText for them, as I somehow had the notion that this was math for math-smart people.

I was wrong. This approach works even better for my math-phobic teen. He knows the lesson is fairly short, he knows he only has to figure out one new thing, and he is learning.

My current student needs to complete this course in a bit over a year. That means each day looks something like this:

  1. Take a quiz from the previous lesson. If the lesson has been mastered, we move on.
  2. Watch the new lesson, and teach it to Mom using the Course Notes.
  3. Work half of the exercises from the WorkText. That’s usually 5-10 problems.
  4. I check the work, and he figures out where he went wrong on any he missed.

If the quiz indicates he hasn’t mastered the previous lesson, we instead repeat that lesson, doing the other half of the problems.

With 176 lessons, we don’t have room for too much repetition if we need to complete the course in a standard 36-week schoolyear. Fortunately, we do have a bit more time than that. My goal is to get through four lessons a week here at the start, and then at least three lessons a week as we get closer to the end.

For a student who has two years, you basically complete the above steps over two days.

We have really loved using this. The videos are short—usually just a few minutes—and to the point, written by Mr. Clark, but filmed using actors. When we were discussing this, one that my son pointed out is that he “never feels like skipping chunks of the video or cutting any parts out.” His comment was that they never go off rambling about something, but stay on point.

We think this is one of the best parts of the program. These actors stick to the script, and they deliver the teaching like a good news anchor. They look at the camera, seem comfortable in front of it, you can hear them well, etc. You also see and hear a variety of individuals—male and female and multiple ethnicities. “Math isn’t just some old white guy rambling at you.”

In my family, production quality is a pretty big deal. One son gets so distracted if the details like camera angles and lighting aren’t at least good. These segments are very professional.

After viewing a lesson, my son is easily able to teach it back to me with the notes. He usually has no problem working through the exercises either. We have a choice to print out the exercises, or he can view them online and do his work in a notebook. You can also print an entire unit, or print a day at a time.

What’s not to love? Short lessons that make sense, we can finish Algebra I and Algebra II this year, and I don’t have to do the teaching. My role is to let him re-teach the material to me, and to check answers.

-Product review by Debra Brinkman, Crew Administrator, The Old Schoolhouse® Homeschool Review Crew, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, July 2017

Another Reviewer's Perspective:

Algebra: A Complete Course

VideoText Interactive



P.O. Box 19761

Indianapolis, IN 46219

VideoText Interactive has created a product that is broad in scope, but clearly understandable to those who have struggled with mathematic concepts in the past. The curriculum is a mastery program and it builds upon itself. It is unlike spiral programs and if you have been using a spiral program you will have to change your thinking with VideoText. If you move on without mastering the concept your student will quickly become lost because algebra is a step by step language that must be learned in the same manner as reading. We don't jump into multi-syllabic words when they are only learning blending. One step builds upon the other until the whole scope of algebra is accomplished.

Algebra: A Complete Course is exactly what it says it is: all the algebra you will ever need to know-Algebra Readiness, Algebra 1 as well as Algebra 2. Geometry is a completely different course and is sold separately. The course includes approximately 180 video lessons that are grouped into six Modules. Module A is where we begin. This will most likely review or re-teach your student every arithmetic concept that is essential to the understanding of algebra and equip them with the "why" of these concepts-all in an algebraic manner. Each lesson is taught by Tom Clark, the author, or another quality teacher. They are 5-10 minutes long and cover a single concept. He encourages you to watch and then pause to answer the questions that he asks. This is the "Interactive" portion of the program. It is important to interact with the program so that your student grasps the concept. As the parent, I highly encourage you to watch with your student so that you can help in the process of learning with anything that may come up.

Each Module comes with the following books: that Module's Course Notes, Student Worktext, Solutions Manual, Progress Tests, Instructor's Guide, and the necessary DVDs that coincide with that Module's work. I will list the complete scope and sequence of the entire course and detail every Module at the end of the review. It is very complete!

The Course Notes are the notes your student might have taken or may need for every lesson taught by the teacher, all placed in to a reference notebook for your student. They did this so that your student could concentrate on the teaching portion of the lesson and not worry about taking the notes and getting lost in the process. (This is something I remember struggling with in school myself so I can really appreciate this book!) Every example and all the important information from each lesson is reproduced in hardcopy format in the Course Notes.

The Student Worktext is the non-consumable text for your student. Important terms are reviewed and more examples of the lesson are explained as well as the student exercises are included in this text. It is not a workbook so your child will need a separate binder or notebook paper to do the exercises. This is a positive in my mind because the entire course can be used for multiple children. Mr. Clark strongly suggests that you have your child do half of the problems and then check their work to see if they truly did understand the lesson for that day. If they do then they can move on to other problems. He also suggests that you not use up all the problems in one day so that if there is a problem on the following day with a quiz they will have some new examples to work through for mastery. Review will happen every day because algebra builds upon itself.

The Solutions Manual has every problem worked out in step by step detail. Even the easiest steps are shown for clarity of understanding. There are usually several approaches for solving the problems, but Mr. Clark has solved each problem using a straightforward and logical approach. Your child may veer from this approach and that is alright. He wants to make sure that the steps are clearly correct and that your child truly understands it. If they reach the right conclusion and they understand how they got to it then that is the goal.

The Progress Tests book comes with a detailed Table of Contents section that lists every quiz and comprehensive unit test included. As much as was possible, Mr. Clark included a quiz for each lesson. Sometimes more than one lesson is combined in a quiz-depending upon the content. For every quiz there is also a second optional quiz so your student is sure to understand the lesson. They have also included a second comprehensive unit test as well. Depending upon your philosophy of schooling and testing, you can use these in a variety of ways. Mr. Clark tells us, "Use these as you see fit." I appreciate that he considers us capable of deciding for our own families in these areas and that he sees us all as individuals. It is refreshing!

He does recommend that you don't give a quiz on the same day a lesson is learned because sometimes our minds will remember the information only long enough for the quiz. He recommends waiting until the next day to give an accurate reading of your child's grasp of the concept. All tests and quizzes are available to copy for your family's use. There is room on the page to work out the problems and he shares, "Don't hesitate to adapt these to your style of instruction."

The Instructor's Guide is a valuable tool for you as the teacher. It includes all the test and quiz solutions, the important concepts for you to read through and understand, and a detailed Table of Contents. It also includes a letter from the author that explains what your child will be learning in that Module as well as a schematic of the entire course so you know where you are in your student's learning. He also mentions that these pages might be helpful for those working with an umbrella school of some kind that needs to understand how the program compares to other algebra programs.

The author emphasizes that he will not be using any tricks or shortcuts. This is not a "math-made-simple" type of course and Mr. Clark shares, "To be successful, you don't really need them. In fact, you don't really want them if you are trying to understand the concepts. You just need clear and detailed explanations." You will find them in this program. The idea behind VideoText Algebra is that you can sometimes succeed in math if you use your common sense and intuition, but you can always succeed by learning how to analyze problems and work through them systematically. Sometimes this can be frustrating to the student because some of the examples will use easier number combinations that a child may be able to work through in his head. However if they don't learn the process or grow impatient and wish to skip an example because they "already know this" they may be stymied when they reach the more complicated problems.

Each of the Modules contains approximately three month's worth of learning material. At the conclusion of the course, your child will have learned all of algebra 1 and 2 in the span of two years. As mentioned above geometry is separate and to be completed after the algebra program. This is important to remember if you are planning ahead for college-prep testing.

VideoText offers help over the phone at their numbers above. There are few companies that offer phone help for algebra. Their word of the day, every day, is "Why?" Their goal is to answer the "why" of math for their students and this is one of the many ways they make themselves available to help you. I find that very impressive.

The cost of the program may be a deterrent for some families, but before you give it up altogether let me share that it is available for purchase per Module, that it is completely reusable for every student, and that it covers a full two years of algebra (and pre-algebra is not needed as well because of Module A.) So, if you look at it that way you can see the cost benefits might outweigh the negatives.

Here is the complete scope and sequence of the program taken from each of the Modules:

Teaching Disc #1
Unit I: The Structure of Mathematics

Part A - Mathematics as a Language

  • Mathematical Parts of Speech
  • Mathematical Expressions
  • Translations of Mathematical Symbols

Part B - Further Investigation of Number Symbols

  • The Development of Our Number System
  • Fraction Forms and Decimal Forms
  • Changing Fraction Forms to Decimal Forms
  • Changing Decimal Forms to Fraction Forms
  • Percent
  • Primes, Composites, and Factoring
  • Least Common Multiple
  • Greatest Common Factor

Teaching Disc #2
(Unit I Continued)

Part C - Further Investigation of Operation Symbols

  • Order of Operations
  • Properties of Operations
  • Properties of Operations with Special Numbers
  • Operations with Fractions - Multiplication
  • Operations with Fractions - Addition and Subtraction
  • Operations with Fractions - Division
  • Operations with Decimals
  • Operations with Signed Numbers - Vectors and Absolute Value
  • Operations with Signed Numbers - Addition
  • Operations with Signed Numbers - Subtraction
  • Operations with Signed Numbers - Multiplication and Division

Teaching Disc #3
(Unit I Continued)

Part D - Further Investigation of Relation Symbols

  • Order of Numbers and the Number Line
  • Properties of Equality
  • Properties of Inequality

Part E - Mathematical Models

  • The Mathematics of Sets
  • The Mathematics of Functions

Teaching Disc #4
Unit II: First Degree Relations with One Placeholder

Part A - Basic Equations and Inequalities

  • Solution Statements and Solution Sets
  • First Type - Making Zeros
  • Second Type - Making Ones
  • Combinations

Part B - Complications on Equations and Inequalities

  • Grouping Symbols
  • Like Terms on the Same Side
  • Placeholders on Both Sides
  • Combinations

Part C - Special Cases of Equations and Inequalities

  • No Solution
  • Infinite Number of Solutions

Part D - Systems of Equations and Inequalities

  • Compound Sentences with "and"
  • Compound Sentences with "or"
  • Absolute Value Equal to a Positive Number (or)
  • Absolute Value Less Than a Positive Number (and)
  • Absolute Value Greater Than a Non-Negative Number (or)

Teaching Disc #5
(Unit II Continued)
Part E - Problem Solving Using One Placeholder

  • General Strategy and Set Up
  • "Number" Problems
  • "Consecutive Integer" Problems
  • "Age" Problems
  • "Geometric Figure" Problems
  • "Motion" Problems
  • "Percent" Problems

Teaching Disc #6
Unit III: First Degree Relations with Two Placeholders

Part A - Solution Set for One Open Sentence
Solution Sets for Equations

  • Solution Sets for Inequalities
  • Graphing Terminology
  • Graphing Techniques for y = mx
  • Graphing Techniques for y = mx + b
  • Graphing Techniques - Intercepts

Part B - Special Cases of Solution Sets

  • y = a, y < a, y > a
  • x = a, x < a, x > a
  • Absolute Value

Teaching Disc #7
Unit III: First Degree Relations with Two Placeholders

Part C - Finding Relations For Given Solution Sets

  • Given the Slope and y-Intercept
  • Given the Slope and One Solution
  • Given Two Solutions
  • Special Cases - Given Parallel or Perpendicular Lines

Part D - Solution Sets for Systems of Two Open Sentences

  • Graphic Solution for Equations
  • Graphic Solution for Inequalities
  • Algebraic Solution for Equations - Elimination by Addition
  • Algebraic Solution for Equations - Elimination by Substitution

Teaching Disc #8
(Unit III Continued)

Part E - Special Cases of Solution Sets for Systems

  • No Solution - Inconsistent
  • Infinite Number of Solutions - Dependent

Part F - Problem Solving Using Two Placeholders

  • General Strategy and Set Up
  • "Number" Problems
  • "Age" Problems
  • "Geometric Figure" Problems
  • "Motion" Problems
  • "Percent" Problems
  • "Value" or "Mixture" Problems

Teaching Disc #9
Unit IV: First Degree Relations with Three or More Placeholders
Part A - Solutions Sets

  • One Open Sentence
  • Two Open Sentences
  • Systems of Three or More Open Sentences (Algebraic Solutions)

Part B - Special Cases

  • No Solution - Inconsistent
  • Infinite Number of Solutions - Dependent

Part C - Problem Solving Using Three or More Placeholders

  • "Number" Problems
  • "Age" Problems
  • "Geometric Figure" Problems
  • "Value" or "Mixture" Problems

Teaching Disc #10
Unit V: Second Degree Relations and Higher - Polynomials
Part A - Exponent Notation

  • Definitions and Terminology
  • Operations with Powers
  • Extensions of Operations with Powers
  • Special Cases of Powers
  • Scientific Notation

Part B - Polynomials

  • Algebraic Expressions
  • Definition and Terminology
  • Operations - Addition and Subtraction
  • Operations - Multiplication
  • Operations - Division

Teaching Disc #11
(Unit V Continued)
Part C - Solving Equations and Inequalities by Factoring

  • Principle of Zero-Products
  • Special Products - Common Factor
  • Special Products - Difference of Squares
  • Special Products - Perfect Square Trinomial
  • Special Products - General Trinomial
  • Special Products - Four-Term Polynomial
  • Special Products - Sum or Difference of Cubes
  • General Factoring Strategy
  • Synthetic Division
  • Literal Equations

Teaching Disc #12
(Unit V Continued)
Part D - Problem Solving with Higher-Order Relations

  • "Number" Problems
  • "Consecutive Integer" Problems
  • "Geometric Figure" Problems
  • "Formula" Problems

Teaching Disc #13
(Unit VI): Second Degree Relations and Higher Algebraic Fractions
Part A - Operations

  • Simplifying
  • Multiplication
  • Division
  • Addition and Subtraction
  • Complex Forms

Part B - Solving Open Sentences

  • Equations - Arithmetic Case
  • Equations - Algebraic Case
  • Inequalities - Algebraic Case
  • Literal Equations

Part C - Problem Solving with Algebraic Fractions

  • "Fraction" Problems
  • "Work" Problems
  • "Motion" Problems
  • "Direct Variation" Problems
  • "Inverse Variation" Problems
  • "Mixed Variation" Problems

Teaching Disc #14
Unit VII: Relations of Rational Number Degree
Part A - Rational Numbers as Exponents

  • Fractions as Exponents
  • Odd and Even "kth" Roots

Part B - Operations with Radical Expressions

  • Multiplication
  • Simplifying with Perfect Powers
  • Division and Simplifying
  • Addition and Subtraction
  • Radical Expressions in Polynomials
  • Rationalizing Denominators

Part C - Solving Radical Equations

  • Equations with One Radical Expression
  • Equations with Two Radicals or More

Part D - Problem-Solving with Relations Containing Radicals

  • The "Distance" Relation
  • "Formula" Problems

Part E - The Complex Numbers as a Mathematical System

  • Imaginary and Complex Numbers
  • Addition and Subtraction
  • Multiplication
  • Division

Teaching Disc #15
Unit VIII: Quadratic Equations
Part A - Solving Quadratic Equations of the Form ax� + bx + c = 0

  • Suppose a = 0, b = 0, or c = 0
  • Suppose a, b, c ? 0
  • The Quadratic Formula
  • Checking Solutions
  • Quadratic Inequalities

Part B - Equations That Are Quadratic in Form

  • Higher Integer Order
  • Lower Rational Order, Greater Than Zero
  • Integer Order, Less Than Zero

Part C - Problem Solving With Quadratic Relations

  • "Geometric Figure" Problems
  • "Pythagorean Theorem" Problems
  • "Work" Problems
  • "Motion" Problems

Teaching Disc #16
Unit IX: The Conic Sections

Part A - Parabolas - The Quadratic Function

  • Origins
  • The Graph of y = ax�
  • The Graph of y = (x - h)�
  • The Graph of y = x� + k
  • The Graph of y = a(x - h)� + k
  • Intercepts

Part B - Circles

  • Standard Form
  • Not Standard Form

Part C - Ellipses

  • Standard Form
  • Not Standard Form

Part D - Hyperbolas

  • Standard Form
  • Not Standard Form

Part E - Solving Systems of Relations

  • One First-Degree and One Second-Degree
  • Two Second-Degree

Part F - Problem Solving with Non-Linear Systems

  • "Number" Problems
  • "Geometric Figures" Problems

Teaching Disc #17
Unit X: Literal Degree Relations
Part A - Exponential Functions

  • Graphs of Solution Sets for f(x) = a x
  • Graphs of Solution Sets for f(y) = a y

Part B - Logarithmic Functions

  • Logarithmic Functions as Inverses of Exponential Functions
  • Graphs of Solution Sets for f(x) = log a(x)

Part C - Operations with Logarithms

  • Properties of Logarithms
  • Finding Logarithms
  • Computation

Part D - Solving Open Sentences

  • Exponential Equations
  • Logarithmic Equations

As you can see if you read through all of the above, the program is very comprehensive. I have not seen a more complete program available that teaches for true mastery, does not teach by tricks, gimmicks or rote memorization, and that accomplishes what it sets out to do via honest academic instruction. If this fits the goals you have for your child regarding algebra, you will find all the help and information you need to do it with VideoText Interactive.

-Product Review by Kate Kessler, Product Reviews Manager, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, September, 2006