Jean Herman: My son has used the Thinkwell Beginning Algebra, and is currently using their Intermediate Algebra course. We LOVE Thinkwell! The math videos are presented by a wonderful teacher, Ed Berger. He is very entertaining and explains things both verbally and visually extremely well. If you remember Bill Nye - the Science Guy who used to be on PBS, he is a lot like that, but very thorough. My child really enjoys watching the videos. There is a video for each sub-topic covered.
The lectures are detailed, and while the teacher is speaking, the terms appear on the screen in a side bar, and you can actually see him working the problems out. The textbook that goes along with the course has the exact lecture script in it, and several sample problems worked out. The sample problems are really good for a child who has difficulty knowing how "to show their work". They can use the same format as is shown in the book. There are also practice problem sets and answers provided in the book.
After you watch the videos (each are about 10 minutes long), the Thinkwell system generates about 12 problems on that particular topic. We usually print out those problems and my son works on them at his desk. Later, he inputs the answers into the computer. After each individual answer is submitted, you get immediate feedback. The computer not only tells you if you got it right or not, it also shows how you should have solved the problem. In addition, when you look at the problems on the screen initially, you can get "hints" on how to go about solving it.
After you submit all of the answers for one of the lectures, a grade report is generated. So you, as a parent can see how your child is doing with each topic. Your child can also retake any of these quizzes because the computer will randomly generate another 12 problems for the same lecture.
Our family absolutely is thrilled with the Thinkwell products. We plan to homeschool our gifted child through high school and will definitely use them. They offer many AP level courses, and are also planning to offer a geometry course within the next year or so.
Julie Brennan, San Diego: We just started using this program this
year, as my 2nd child is very auditory, so AV format programs work well
for him. We liked Math U See until we hit the pre-algebra level, it
became a bit dry for us. The strength of this by far is the quality teaching,
Mr. Burger is a gifted instructor. There are high quality visuals and
graphics that go along with the lessons. We have not identified any negative features at this point.
The pre-algebra level at the beginning is presented simply enough that
my 8 y/old can enjoy watching and working through them (topics such as
place value and addition). You can stop the lesson and work the problem
through, comparing your answer to the instructor's, as my daughter
does, or just wait for the online quiz. You can get immediate feedback
on whether your answer is correct or not, or wait until you take the
entire quiz. Pre-algebra is taught, however, as a type of "basic math"
refresher course, with all arithmetic included in one course, so it
wouldn't be recommended for younger children unless they have the
aptitude / interest to move quickly.
Setting up as a homeschool family can be a tad confusing, as the site
was originally designed for schools. But following through the
instructions we didn't encounter any problems. Homeschooling families
work at their own pace. The site is set to retain the grades /
proprietary features for one year, but the Thinkwell representative I
spoke to indicated that all you have to do is request an extension of
that time if you need more than one year to complete a course.
I consider this one of the better programs for gifted students, and
John Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth uses all the
Thinkwell products. We have only used levels up through Intermediate
Algebra, so I have no experience to share on the higher levels or other
products at this time.