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Systematic Mathematics Review by Heidi Shaw

Video Mathematics
Creative Products
20790 175th St.
Cornell, Wisconsin 54732
1-866-Learn it

Paul Ziegler has produced, in his Systematic Mathematics, exactly what many Homeschooling families have been looking for. Individual, modular units of math instruction, each based only on one topic. Now you can get right to the heart of the matter without having to search through topic lists or text book indexes. Paul Ziegler was a math teacher for over 25 years and has developed this program after witnessing the dramatic down slide of math comprehension skills amongst middle to high school students. A systematic approach makes sense. The skills are studied in such a way that they are understood, not just memorized. The results bear witness to his belief that children can grasp complex thoughts and do well at math. Introducing concepts systematically and moving on when ready makes such good sense. The children are always building on what they already know and the positive reinforcement shows. The prices are so reasonable, with most modules available for less than 30$, that you can purchase as many as you will need. Mr. Ziegler also gives permission to resell the modules when you are done with them. Since they are non-consumable and reusable this makes them very economical.

These modules are different from any I have ever seen before. Mr. Ziegler has a unique way of approaching topics and bringing about an understanding that many parents and children have been lacking. I will list the modules I have seen and then you can checkout his website for info as well. Paul is very approachable and happy to communicate and answer questions. Something this math challenged mom found very comforting. Units I reviewed were on Prime Factoring, Introduction to Algebra, Word Problems, Integers and Order of Operations, and Geometry. I particularly enjoyed the module on Geometry-"What's your Angle?" I learned some things I thought I already knew! The prices vary according to the length of the unit. Some are 20 lessons, on up to 27 or 30 lessons; all the prices are very reasonable. These kits are like a math tutor in a box. Very helpful for when a student is struggling to master a particular topic.

This is a video math program. It also has the neat feature of including all the study sheets, data sheets, and worksheets on a CD ROM. The files are all PDF so they are compatible with both Mac's and PC's. This allows multiple uses for all the kids in the home or reprinting of any assignments you would like to do again. An invaluable asset for many Homeschooling families- but you will need access to a computer and a printer to make full use of these modules. You will also need Adobe Acrobat 3.0 or higher. My free download worked fine for this. The T.V. and VCR should be located in an area where you can interact with your student yet will not be too distracting for others in the home.

Each module includes 2 to 4 videotapes and the pre-mentioned computer CDs. All instruction is on the videotapes and it is very thorough. At first glance my kids found it a bit dry to listen to but that attitude changed as they realized they were learning skills they could use right away. We used these modules as enhancement for our main math texts but I see no reason why you shouldn't use them for your primary program. The modules are very sequential and you can order any or all that you feel your child needs to cover his year. Each module leads the student step by step through the concepts and many can stand-alone. There are currently 17 modules available and they begin at approximately the 6th grade level. There is also a 'Getting Started' module for parents of early learners. This is designed to help you plan out a course of study, evaluate your program, and generally get your head in the right space for math education. Paul has also produced a diagnostic disc for helping pinpoint trouble areas in subtraction. I think I will be ordering this disc for myself. You can take the diagnostic review and then learn where your students trouble zones are, and what to do to combat and correct them. For most of the modules you simply access the CD on the computer and print out any study sheets and data sheets recommended. Depending on the lesson there may or may not be a need for anything but the worksheets. Most of the study sheets leave room for taking notes as you progress through the video lessons. I found this very helpful, as did my son. It made reviewing the material before a quiz very helpful. The data sheets were extremely helpful as well. They contain charts, data, or rules that are introduced and referred to in the lessons. There are even some supplementary worksheets included for extra practice. I liked the fact that if you tend to print off worksheets all at once at the beginning, Paul has noted on the top of the sheets telling you when you need a data or study sheet. It makes progression of study easy and seamless. I would like to see extra quizzes included in future versions but for now, the worksheets were ample. I just used the final sheets for review quizzes. There is a final exam included in each module's CD. Oh yes, answers are provided in a separate folder on the computer CD-you decide how to handle corrections; if a redo is necessary, and the pace at which your child covers the material.

For many students, including a few of mine, making the leap from elementary math to algebra can be daunting. Paul's module on Integers and Order of Operations was a great source of comfort at this time. The first in his series of Algebra modules, Mr. Ziegler explains what this pkg. contains-" this 15-lesson module covers the meaning of positive and negative numbers and their relationship to one another. We cover opposites and inverses. We do all four operations with positive and negative numbers and the rules and rationale behind them. We deal with exponents, both positive and negative. We also cover absolute value, parentheses, brackets, and braces. We cover adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing exponential numbers." My son studied these topics in his regular text but it just didn't 'jell' for him until we went through this module. A very thorough, step-by-step explanation and walking through the process made it possible for my son to understand and be successful with his other lessons. The module on Introduction to Algebra is also very helpful. If you or your student is threatened by the sheer size of an algebra textbook, I highly recommend Mr. Ziegler's approach. Combining his Intro to Algebra with the rest of the algebra modules, you will cover all your child should need right through advanced algebra. Responses back from parents have been extremely encouraging and one college professor has remarked that there is info on these CD's that he tackles with his college students. The basic, not confusing, and very complete instruction on these video tapes should enable even the most severely 'math phobic' kids out there to succeed. I can see where making use of computer abilities like QuickTime movies and using illustrated examples on the videos would make the process more appealing to many students.

I did find the unit on Prime Factoring took a little longer to get through. Not because it was difficult, I just had to relearn the concept in a new fashion. Mr. Ziegler approached factoring in a way different from any texts I have seen and it was very effective. I enjoyed the process of learning and I did find myself wishing I had thought about factoring in this way when I had first learned it!

The module on Word Problems actually scared me at first because I have such bad memories associated with my own education in this area. I had a good teacher for math in my early years and later in high school. But somehow the ability to take a problem presented in words and form a math 'picture' with them was always difficult for me. I was glad to see how Mr. Ziegler approached the issue and I was very pleased to see my sons' ability to grasp the concept and think it through. No worries that he will be as frustrated as I was.

Each of these modules comes in it's own sturdy little box. A small thing, perhaps, yet I appreciated it because I was able to store them right on my shelf, each module complete and ready for when I next may need it.

I believe Mr. Ziegler has got a good product here. It works well and is comprehensive. I can only see it improving in future versions and I am excited to recommend it to you. You definitely should checkout the web site and check it out for yourself. The contents of each module are thoroughly listed and you can even download the final exams, with answers, right from the web site. There is a 30-day guarantee, if you don't like it Mr. Ziegler will refund your purchase price less shipping & handling. I don't think you can get a much better offer than that. And keep your eyes open for new products including a 'refresher course' for those of us who would like to know the math we should have learned in high school. I can't wait for that one!

-- Product Review by: Heidi Shaw, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine