The Sojourner

Friday, September 17, 2010

New Monic Vocabulary Cartoons SAT Word Power

When I received this product in the mail, I had no idea what to expect.  However, the minute I opened the book, I knew this was an incredible tool!  New Monic Vocabulary Cartoons are books full of mnemonic rhymes and cartoon pictures to aid the student in remembering the meaning of vocabulary words.  The SAT Word Power Book 1 that I received, contains 290 of the most common SAT vocabulary words to help increase your student's SAT score.  For a nominal price of $12.95, you can provide your student in 7th to 12th grade with an awesome tool to help them with their preparation for the PSAT and/or SAT.  
"In independent school tests, students with Vocabulary Cartoons learned 72% more words than students with traditional rote memory study materials and had 90% retention."

Here is a sample of how this book works:
The main word is followed by the phonetic pronunciation, part of speech, and a definition.  Then it lists a link word which is a simple word or phrase which rhymes or sounds like the main word.  A caption connects the main word and the link word in a sentence and is illustrated in a bizarre or humorous cartoon which incorporates the main word and the link word into a visual mnemonic.  They then include two or three sample sentences to help with usage of the word.

I absolutely love this book!  I have always tried to come up with little sayings or rhymes to help my kids remember things, so this is right up my alley.  And with the silly cartoons and rhymes, it is very hard to forget the words.  There are also 29 quizzes to help you be able to assess your students knowledge and retention.

My husband and I both have very good vocabulary and my kids have always made comments like, "How do you know so many words?"  So now they have access to a great tool with the SAT Word Power Vocabulary Cartoons to increase their own vocabulary.  My son is going to be taking the PSAT in a month and he is very grateful to have this tool to enable him to feel more prepared.

New Monic also has a Vocabulary Cartoon book for younger children for the same price of $12.95, as well as a second SAT Word Power Vocabulary Cartoon Book 2, with even more common SAT words.

You can read more reviews of this product over at The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew review site, too.

I received this product for free in return for an honest review. I have not received financial reimbursement for my review of New Monic Vocabulary Cartoons.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Math Tutor DVD Review

Math Tutor is a company that has produced DVDs to assist with the learning of higher math concepts, like Algebra, Trigonometry, Physics, Probability & Statistics, Calculus, and more.  The instructor is Jason Gibson, who has worked at Texas Instruments and NASA.  He says,

"I personally get a thrill out of making seemingly complex topics suddenly easy to students.  I have found over the years that the easy way to do this is to learn by working example problems, beginning with the easier ones and gradually progressing to the harder ones."

So he has put together a number of Math DVDs to do just that - tutor students in math.  I received The Pre-Algebra Tutor Volume 1, which is a 5-hour video tutorial covering the following topics:

Disk 1
Sect 1 – Real Numbers
Sect 2 – The Number Line
Sect 3 – Greater Than, Less Than, Equal To
Sect 4 – Absolute Value and Adding Integers
Sect 5 – Subtracting Integers
Disk 2
Sect 6 – Multiplying Integers
Sect 7 – Dividing Integers
Sect 8 – Powers and Exponents
Sect 9 – Order of Operations

The price for this set of DVDs is $26.99 and can be ordered here.

My daughter is currently studying Pre-Algebra Math, so I sat down with her to view these lessons.  After watching, I believe this DVD set would be the perfect review before launching into Algebra 1.  Mr. Gibson goes over every basic concept of Pre-Algebra math in a very thorough and easy to understand manner.  He works a number of problems demonstrating ability in each area.  He breaks down the concepts in easy-to-understand language and obviously enjoys math tremendously!

Although I feel there is still a need for a curriculum that provides written instruction and problems to work out on paper on your own, I think this DVD set would be SO great to use as a review of all the basic concepts before embarking on Algebra 1.  That way, you could be certain that your student was really ready for the more complicated concepts of Algebra.

I also received The Texas Instruments TI-83/TI-84 Calculator Tutor 3 DVD set which includes 8 hours of video tutorial.  Now, I have never used one of these calculators and neither of my students is there yet, so this video was a little over our heads.  However, I believe that Mr Gibson's method of explaining these complex topics in a very easy-to-understand manner would be very helpful for someone needing to learn how to use this calculator.  This DVD set also sells for $26.99.

Here is the list of topics included:
Disk 1
Section 1: Overview of the Calculator
Section 2: The Mode Menu
Section 3: Basic Arithmetic and Exponents
Section 4: Logarithms and Square Roots
Section 5: Sin, Cos, Tan
Section 6: Scientific Notation and Storing Variables
Section 7: The Math Menu and Catalog Menu
Section 8: Convert between Fractions and Decimals
Section 9: Finding the Min and Max of a Function
Section 10: Calculating Derivatives and Integrals
Section 11: Absolute Value, Rounding, and Integers
Section 12: Converting between Degrees and Radians
Section 13: Working with Complex Numbers

Disk 2
Section 14: Using the Equation Solver
Section 15: Graphing and Tracing Functions
Section 16: Using Tables and Split Screen Modes
Section 17: Find the Exact Value of a Function Using Graphing
Section 18: Finding the Zeros of a Function using Graphing
Section 19: Finding the Max and Min of a Function using Graphing
Section 20: Finding Intersections of Functions using Graphing
Section 21: Finding the Derivative of a Function by Graphing
Section 22: Calculating the Definite Integral by Graphing
Section 23: Drawing on a Graph
Section 24: Graphing and Tracing Sequences

Disk 3
Section 25: Graphing and Tracing Parametric Equations
Section 26: Converting between Rectangular and Polar Coordinates
Section 27: Graphing and Tracing Polar Equations
Section 28: Permutations, Combinations, and Factorial
Section 29: Working with Histograms and Box Plots
Section 30: Graphing Statistical Scatter Plots
Section 31: Calculating Mean, Median, Standard Deviation, and more
Section 32: Performing Statistical Regression
Section 33: Calculating with Matrices
Section 34: Solving Systems of Equations with Matrices
Section 35: Calculating Interest Rates
Section 36: Calculating Mortgages and Loans
Section 37: Calculating Savings and Investments

"This 8 Hour comprehensive 3-DVD course teaches you how to use all of the major functions of the TI-84 / TI-83 graphing calculator by working example problems.  In this way, the student "learns-by-doing" rather than a long dry lecture or with the "aid" of a dry printed manual."

I received this product for free in return for an honest review. I have not received financial reimbursement for my review of Math Tutor DVDs.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

My Access! by Vantage Learning Review

My Access! Home Edition is an online writing program by Vantage Learning. I have to admit I was very skeptical at first, especially not wanting to add more writing to my teen's already full academic schedule. However, I cannot adequately express how impressed I have been with this program. But more than that, my daughter is LOVING it! I have to tell her to "stop writing" and do something else. Let me try to explain what this program does and why it is so wonderful.

First of all, when you purchase My Access!, you can go online and set up your accounts - one for you, the parent, and one for each of your children. Then you can select writing assignments in different age groups for each of your children. And they have very interesting topics like "Adopting a Zoo Animal" as a Persuasive Essay in the 8-10 year old group or "What If You Never Slept?" as an Informative Essay in the 22-14 year old group. There's also the thought-provoking "The Value of Sacrifice" as a Narrative Essay in the 15-18 year old group. But not only do they give you a large number of essay ideas to start with, you can create any other topics/assignments that you wish to go along with whatever you are studying in other subjects.

Now, not only can you assign different topics to each student, but you can set goals and rewards for when they reach those goals. Just to start out, I decided to reward my kids with a ticket to a movie when they reached a certain number of points. But the possibilities for rewards are as many as you can possibly imagine!

When your child logs on to My Access! website to being the writing process, they can take a Guided Tour which shows them all the aspects of the program. They will have a Writing Dashboard which gives them a quick view of their overall writing progress, or they can view a Progress page which shows them each writing assignment and it's progress. On the Writing Topics page, they can start a new assignment, resume an assignment in progress, or start a revision of an essay previously submitted.

When they begin a new assignment, they will get a few paragraphs that describe exactly what the assignment entails. Then they can take a interactive Writing Course which walks them step-by-step through the process of writing this particular type of essay. It is set up like a job at a newspaper, where they are training to become a reporter. It is very detailed and takes the student through all the steps to effective writing, including planning, organizing, writing first draft, revising, editing and publishing. It helps them learn how this program works, how to effectively write, edit and revise their writing and how to evaluate the work they have done.

My Access! will take their work when they submit it and evaluate it, grading it according to the rubrics that apply. They then have the opportunity to improve their work and increase their points, by resubmitting the assignment after more revision and editing.

I am sure, like me, you are wondering just how a computer can effectively evaluate writing, which is such a subjective thing. Well, here is how they explain it at Vantage Learning:

At the center of MY Access!® is IntelliMetric™, an artificial intelligence scoring tool. This tool instantly evaluates student writing against a standard rubric and provides students with suggestions to improve their writing. All of its feedback is aligned to the core traits of writing: Focus, Organization, Content Development, Language Use, and Grammar.

Around this intelligent core, MY Access!® incorporates instructional courses for each genre at each age range, an in-depth writing manual, organizational resources, and a host of word-processing tools.

Although I thought the price rather steep at first, after using the program and seeing how much my daughter enjoys writing using My Access!, I have changed my mind! $99.95 for this program that can support up to 6 different students is a bargain! And it does almost all the work for YOU, the teacher! Think how much easier your job would be if someone else would evaluate and grade your child's writing! And the stress that comes from having to go over your child's work with them and point out things that need worked on or changed is now not a burden for you. The program objectively evaluates their work and gives them feedback on how to improve it.

Vantage Learning has some other products that might interest you, too.  They have a College Edition of My Access! that will help your college students with their writing assignments for $89.95, as well as some Add-On Packs to go with your My Access! Home Edition.  These include an SAT Prep Pack for $49.95, a Picture Prompt Pack for $29.95, a Faith and Values Writing Prompt Pack for $29.95 and a Business Writing Prep Pack for $49.95.

If you would like to read more reviews about this product, check out the TOS Review Crew's reviews HERE.

I received this product for free in return for an honest review. I have not received financial reimbursement for my review of My Access! Home Edition.