The Old Schoolhouse® Product & Curriculum Reviews

With so many products available we often need a little help in making our curriculum choices. The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine family understands because we are in the same boat! Do you need more information on a product before you buy? With over 5,500 products listed in 52 easy-to-use categories, much of the information you need to know is only a click away! Let our reviewer-families help yours.
Do you want to get the word out about your product or service to the homeschool community? Email Jenny Higgins and share a little about what you´d like showcased, and we can help with that!

Algebra 1 Solved! Review by Dawn Oaks

Bagatrix, Inc.
P.O. Box 248
Coopersburg, PA 18036

What do you do when your child brings you an Algebra problem that he just can't solve? The book has the answer key, but how did they get to that point. "Ugh," you exclaim as you realize that it is well over 20 years since you even did Algebra. Now what? 

Algebra 1 Solved!, published by Bagatrix, may be just the medicine that the doctor ordered. This is not a curriculum but an amazing software tool that will help your student successfully get through his curriculum when trouble points hit. 

The software was designed as a homework helper. Its major point that is marketed is that your child can enter in her Algebra problems and see actual step by step solutions. Each of the topics that are covered in Algebra 1 curricula is contained within the software by topic. No need to just start at the beginning. The user interface allows the student to select the topic that they are struggling with and go directly to it. Your son or daughter can even have the computer generate example problems associated with the topic being reviewd. There is also a built in glossary that better explains the definition and concept of the topics selected. 

Upon beginning the application, the user creates a notebook that will hold his work or opens a notebook that work was already begun in. Because the user is creating the notebook, each notebook can be labeled to correspond to the number of the lesson in the student's math curriculum, the date that the work is being done, or one notebook can be created for the full year's worth of problems. It is completely up to the student. The notebook categorizes work into four folders: problems, graphs, tests, and documents. 

Upon needing help solving a problem, the student would click on the problem button on the toolbar or on the problem folder. A toolbox of algebraic symbols appears making it easy to enter those problems with proper nomenclature. Once the problem is entered, the student clicks on the answer button and then sees how the problem is solved step by step. The computer may prompt the student to specify which variable to solve for. If enough information was entered within the equations provided to solve for the variables, the graphing function of the program becomes enabled. Buttons on the toolbars are only enabled as they apply within the context of the student's work. If the user goes to Tools-Options, he can also set whether to see step by step solutions, explanations, or just the answer. 

The application is very valuable in its graphing capabilities. The student may enter more than ten equations into the user interface to have plotted on the graph paper in the center of the screen. Color coding of each equation makes interpreting the graph very user friendly. 

In addition to the software's usefulness as a problem set assistant, it also auto-generates tests on any of the algebraic topics contained in the database. Within the test generator, the user can specify the number of problems and level of difficulty. This can then be printed as a paper copy or be answered on screen using a multiple choice selection. If the multiple choice, on-screen test format is chosen the computer will grade the student's work when he is finished. 

The document folder can be used to generate custom assignments, quizzes, tests, handouts, or for the student to make notes to himself. The quick insert tool is available so that proper math notation and symbols can be used in creating these documents. 

This mom would give this product a thumbs up, especially if one of your concerns in homeschooling through high school is the fear in teaching higher level math. Bagatrix, Inc. continues this product line through Algebra 2, Trigonometry, and Calculus. The CD case that the software ships with states that it is compatible with Windows 2000/XP/2003. We have a Windows Vista, 64-bit system and did not run into any installation issues, except for the optional loading of a particular version of the .NET framework which is not compatible with our version of windows. This did not affect the functionality of the software at all.  

Product review by Dawn Oaks, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, February, 2009