Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Virtual Nerd

There is nothing like a being a mother to remind you that your brain has a limited capacity.  I used to be a fairly smart person, but for a few years my brain was full of things that the ordinary person did not want to talk about (diapers, potty training, tantrums, etc).  I was well read on the subjects, but had no one to engage in discussions with other than those I was practicing my knowledge on.  Now that my children are older, I am starting to have glimmers of the person I used to be.  Random facts come out of the blue and I have no idea where I learned it or why it has not been accessible for 15 years.  Just last week I realized that I really did know how to find the square root of 56.  Who knew! And I can still string together French words into sentences!  It is a very exciting time in my life, as I work on regaining my brain, although my kids think I am really losing it instead.

One of the most wondrous things about the human brain is how it catalogs its knowledge.  Its search engine is un-replicated.   Memories are cataloged under sights, sounds, tastes, smells.  It can jump from one topic to another to another, till you forget where you started.  It can interact with other brains by a variety of languages, artwork, chemical pheromones, and body movement.

So imagine when a parent is interacting with another brain and they are trying to recall something that was cataloged in their head 20 years before, and the frustration when they try to rely on tools invented by other humans to jog their memories. The tools want specific input and will only return specific output.  The tools do not understand how the human brain works and its associations.  Nor do they understand that a human brain can have parts of the solution and need the other parts found and returned to complete the whole memory.

The ability to relate one topic to another and to another until understanding is complete is what makes Virtual Nerd, a new web based math assistance program, different.  Its input and output comes in many different forms and allows you to wander all over within a topic, until you find all the pieces you are missing.

Let's look at input.

With Virtual Nerd, you can search for Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1 or 2, or Physics topics.  You can do this by keyword, an interactive flow chart, or in the case of Algebra 1, by the contents of 4 different math texts.

Once you get in the ballpark of what you need answers about, you chose a topic, and are taken to a screen that is divided into three parts.

The output for the chosen topic is in visual and auditory forms.  It is also search-able and relates itself to many other topics. 

The Video:
  • uncluttered
  • readable handwriting
  • instructor is very well spoken
  • good volume
The Diagram:
  • computer font
  • covers same info as video without extra written prompts found on white board
  • uses different colors for emphasis
  • writes entire worked problem neatly and succinctly
  • hover your mouse over this box and another pops up with related topics and definitions
The Step-by-Step
  • a written script or "closed captioning" for the video
  • uses different colors for emphasis
  • fast forwarding and rewinding available by scrolling and clicking
  • hover your mouse over this box and another pops up with related topics and definitions

This program is different from other math programs I have seen, because it has no limit of moving you sideways through a topic, giving you easy access to layers of instruction for each step made in a problem.  This effect is very similar to the human brain and how one thing can remind you of another....and another......

I did find the keyword search at times to be not as detailed as I would like and sometimes it would bring up more subjects than I wanted to wade through.  I found the textbook searches to work best, even though we were not using one of the text books listed, when looking up a subject from a text book that Dragonette needed a clearer explanation of.

I have very high praise for the woman on the videos.  I had no problems understanding her and she had no distracting "umms" or pauses, or mistakes while writing.  She obviously memorized the script and feeds it back to us flawlessly.

This is not a full teaching curriculum and is not meant to be.  It is instead a tutoring tool that was created by two guys who wanted to share their love of math effectively.  The company has plans to add practice problems, quizzes, and the ability to get feedback along with more Physics, Chemistry, Pre-Calculus, and Calculus.

The company offers a variety of pricing plans.

1 day = $5
1 week = $19
1 month = $49
3 months = $129

The company also offers a 2 hour free trial and a free membership to educators at accredited institutions.

I think that if you are struggling with math, this program could be very helpful.  It is a powerful and intuitive tutoring tool, and is probably cheaper and less logistically challenging than hiring a tutor.  It could also be used for review before a big test.  But at our house, paying monthly for this service would absolutely break our homeschooling budget.

I would like to see this company develop a pricing compromise for homeschoolers.  While I understand they are hoping teachers at accredited institutions will advertise their service to their students and provide them with free access to try out the program, I don't feel it is fair to lump homeschoolers in with the general public, since we not only pay taxes to support local school, but then turn around and pay again to educate our own children with no tax breaks, usually on one income.  Perhaps while the company is expanding its offerings, it will also research the homeschool market and learn about our needs, too.  To stay afloat in the competitive market of math helps, it would behoove them to befriend the homeschool community instead of using us to fund free services for teachers at accredited institutions and their families.

I hope the company takes homeschoolers' needs in mind, as they have an excellent product that is well presented.


  1. EXCELLENT REVIEW! We enjoyed this program as well. Blessings!

  2. We thought you would like to know that because Virtual Nerd ( has received such significant interest following your review of our online tutoring service, we are offering a special discount to homeschool parents. Homeschool parents can receive 50% off the 1 and 3 month subscription plans. Just enter the discount code: homeschooldeal when you sign up for service. That is a huge discount, and hurry - the offer is valid until March 31, 2011!

  3. As a supporter of Virtual Nerd, we wanted you to know about our Math Boot Camp. To help students avoid the "summer slide", we are offering boot camps in: Pre-Algebra, Algebra I, and Algebra II. The five-week camps cost only $19! A pre-quiz will assess student's knowledge, and weekly playlists will be assigned to help them attain a better understanding of the subject and build upon concept knowledge. Finally we wrap up with a quiz that assesses how far they have come! We hope you will share the good news. Get started today!