Welcome to my third and final post of Math Madness Week. Today I will share the best of the best in math media, including online instruction and play-at-home videos. So grab your popcorn and fuzzy slippers (at least I will; it’s -25 with the wind chill here currently), and let’s just jump in, shall we?
Vi Hart. Because she’s so extremely fun and makes math look like the most Super Cool Thing one could ever take part in. The only way to adequately explain the magic that is Vi Hart is to simply let you experience her. So here she is:
Didn’t you just love it?? She has a youtube channel that you can visit or subscribe to. Or you can visit her on her website. Most recently, she’s teamed up with the Khan Academy, and this makes me very excited! Why? Because next up is….
The Khan Academy. Pop that into a google search engine, and you’ll quickly find that Salman Khan and his free online academy has been garnering quite a bit of national attention over the last year or so. We discovered him three years back, just before the big explosion (so we can say we knew him when). Khan offers 10ish minute lectures on various topics, talking over an interactive black screen where he draws out educational illustrations. He has produced more than 2,700 of these videos.
Though he talks on many different subjects, he has an interactive exercise component for his K-12 math lessons. The kids listen to a lecture, solve problems, and earn those sparkly badges I spoke of earlier this week. Moon badges, earth badges, meteorite badges, energy points. It’s pretty fabulous. The lessons start with 1+1 and move up through calculus, statistics, etc. One of the nice aspects of this program is that kids can choose from a variety of appropriately leveled maths. Sick of decimals? Then open up the charts and graphs exercise.
Here’s a sample lecture video:
Since Sal currently gives all of the lectures himself, you feel like you’re really getting to know him. It makes online learning feel more personal. Like Vi, Khan has his own youtube channel. But to take full advantage of the academy, create a free account on the Khan Academy website.
Oh, and here’s a screenshot of the star chart where you earn your sparkly badges:
Alcumus. This is another wonderful sparkly-badge option offered by The Art of Problem Solving (AoPS). Alcumus currently starts with pre-algebra and moves up from there, so this isn’t for the younger kids (I’ll get back to them in a minute). One of the nice things Alcumus offers is a thorough explanation of how to work each problem after you solve it. They provide this explanation whether or not you got the answer correct; this allows the student to see a variety of ways to reach the answer.
Alcumus links up with AoPS’s hefty textbooks instead of online lectures (although they do have a quite few of those too, hosted by the charming and witty Richard Rusczyk). If you’re stuck on a concept, you simply cross-reference the book for a complete explanation. Though the online program is free, the books are not. But really, we’ve done a lot of these problems without the backup textbooks. We are currently using their Algebra I text as our main math curriculum, but we enjoy Alcumus problems from their counting and probability topics too.
Like Khan, the problems get harder or easier depending on your progress. And there are special quests and sparkly badges.
Here’s a sample lecture:
And here’s a screen shot of the sparkly badge earning center.
It’s important to note that the Alcumus problems and sparkly badges are not linked up to the videos – those are on a separate tab, and of course on their own youtube channel. He also does short videos called “MATHCOUNTS Minis” that are fun self-contained challenges. Be sure to check out their webpage.
DreamBox. And now for the K-3 crowd. I used this program with Eva last year, and she loooooooved it. She loved it so much that she still asks every month whether DreamBox has expanded their program to include grades higher than 3. In my research for this blog entry, I have joyfully discovered that in fact they will be expanding next month to include 4th and 5th grades.
DreamBox is very cute, offering peppy cartoon graphics that are admittedly geared to appeal to established gender stereotypes (you get four theme choices: pixies, pets, pirates, or dinosaurs). Still, Eva enjoyed playing all four areas, and to work your way through the curriculum, at some point you’ll have to play them all. When she worked with DreamBox, she begged for math class. And I was amazed to see how solid her understanding was of the concepts. It’s $60 for one child for 6 months, there are discounts for more children, and of course there are different rates for full classrooms. For us, it’s well worth the price.
Here’s a little video sample of a 2nd grade lesson in the pixie theme:
You can get a free 14 day trial, and play free demos on their website.
I’ll wrap up by offering a few more quick links to videos we’ve enjoyed using.
The Great Courses. College level DVD lectures given by some of the best university professors of our time. Pretty expensive, but I hit up library booksales to find them, and their website slowly rotates their complete collection through crazy good sales. You just have to be a bit patient and keep checking back. In math, we’ve particularly enjoyed the Joy of Mathematics by Arthur Benjamin.
The Story of Math. DVD set that Ian and I checked out from our public library and watched over a couple of weeks, munching mid-morning bagels and apple cider. What we learned: all of the great mathematicians were crazy, and you can’t study history or science without talking about the history of math. Loved the host and the real human stories. Plus the scenery was beautiful.
Bill Nye’s Solving for X. There seem to be only two of these DVDs so far, and I hope he produces more. Nothing deep here, just Bill Nye’s fun, manic way of getting kids to laugh about learning. He has one on pre-algebra, and one on algebra. Not worth purchasing necessarily, but see if your library has it.
Living Math Book List. And finally, I meant to include this on my last post about math books, but I forgot. You can use this blog to find math fiction titles by the concept you want to reinforce. It’s a great tool.