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Math Rescue Review by Becky Voytek

Paul Ziegler
Systematic Mathematics
N7558 Boulder Dr.
Portage, WI 53901
1-866-LEARN IT (toll-free)

This product is a 52-lesson course for the middle to late teen years and up. Its goal is first to lay a foundation for understanding math that will enable the student to approach math with more confidence in daily life. The second goal is to give the student a foundation that will enable him or her to continue on into algebra and pursue higher education.

The author is a retired math teacher who believes that the present way of teaching math in schools has produced many mathematically illiterate students. He offers an old approach that was used successfully for more than 100 years but has not been used for over 40 years in this country.

Math Rescue comes in a three-ring binder with eight instructional DVDs and a data CD for manual and printed material. This material includes study sheets and worksheets for each lesson on the DVDs. The study sheets are what the instructor goes over on the DVD. The worksheets are completed by the student independently. There are answer keys to check your work. Some lessons also have data sheets with math tables and rules. Forty-seven of the lessons are taught on the DVDs. The five supplementary lessons, which are interspersed throughout the other lessons, are not taught on the video. They are more like extra worksheets with answer keys, although one of the supplemental lessons didn't include an answer key.

The first lessons of Math Rescue stress the importance of making sure you are adding or subtracting units that are the same, such as gallons to gallons and fractions that have the same denominator. Multiplication and division of different types of numbers and units are also included in these first lessons.

Subsequent lessons teach the student how to scale recipes, how to find the common denominator through cross-multiplying, and how to work word problems involving ratios and proportions. There are two lessons on prime factoring, which is taught by a different method than the factoring tree used in many math textbooks. The topic of percentages is covered next. And the author concludes the course with a series of lessons on geometry.

There are no instructions on how to use the curriculum. By printing out the sheets on the CD and watching the DVDs, you can easily learn how to use it. Generally, the instructor does not go over the problems on the worksheets unless a student from the class on the DVD has a question. A toll-free number is provided for anyone who has a specific question to ask the instructor.

A homeschool student could use this course independently, or the parent could watch the DVDs along with the student and be available to help with any questions that come up. A calculator is not mandatory but would be very helpful.

My children are younger than the target audience, so I haven't used this course with them. However, after going through the whole course on my own, I can see how many of the lessons would be helpful for my fifth and sixth graders.

In general, I did find the course helpful. I like the frequent applications to real-life situations. As a speaker, Mr. Ziegler is not the most engaging, but he does have a lot of math knowledge and insights. Sometimes he gets confused or is confusing when he has what I call "senior moments." But he is humble enough to receive correction from his students on the DVD, which helps bring clarity back to the teaching.

As the title suggests, this course can be a helpful tool in rescuing those who have had past struggles with math and need help in building their confidence in mathematical knowledge and understanding. I have only two complaints with this course. First, I wish Mr. Ziegler had included a scope and sequence so that I could have seen where the lessons were going ahead of time. Second, I think the listed price of $66.50 is a bit pricey. But the course is reusable, so it could be cost-effective if you use it for multiple students. There is also a product guarantee. If you don't like the product, you can return it within 30 days for a refund of the cost of the course (but not shipping and handling).

Product review by Becky Voytek, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November 2006