Online math lessons add up to success

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- If you've ever struggled with a math class, this story is for you. Imagine having access to a top math teacher, anytime you need a little extra help. It's possible, with a formula that can build success while also saving money.

"What is a negative times a negative?" Professor James Sousa asks his students at Phoenix College. "A positive," the students answer.

And "positive" is what Sousa brings every day, with a passion for his subject. "To me, math is a beautiful topic, because it explains the world we live in," he says.

But Sousa is not only using math to help explain the world we live in, he is using it to improve the world we live in. "I want to see students be successful. I want them to reach their educational goals," he says.

And to do this, he has created thousands of online math lessons, from basic arithmetic to advanced calculus.

"So I initially started making videos for just my online students," Sousa says. "But I found that my face-to-face students also benefited from those."

The first benefit is that the lessons replace textbooks. "The cost of textbooks has been getting outrageously high," he says. "You know a textbook can cost over $200."

Additionally, online lessons improve class time, says student Tawnya Jory. "He is very enthusiastic in his classes," she says. "And you are working together with other students, versus most classes where you are working individually with stuff on the board."

Jory says it has made a huge difference in the calculus class required for her Physician’s Assistant degree, "But I was dreading calculus because I didn't really understand it. I just kind of went through the motions. And this time I understand it," she says.

But the free videos reach far beyond Phoenix College. "They can be viewed anywhere, anytime around the world, as long as someone has an internet connection," says Sousa.

That means even Valley high school students have full-time access to his lessons. "I think they like, number one, the videos are free," Sousa says. "But also, again, because they can customize it to their needs."

The college also offers free online classes in basic math "The idea here is they would review those concepts before they take the placement test, and hopefully test out of developmental math," he says. "Saving them money because developmental math does not count for college credit."

Sousa also shows us how he uses lots of visual examples to break down concepts. “If you say I have a fraction times a fraction, what does that really mean?"

Outlining thousands of equations, Sousa hopes it will all add up to success. "It is really rewarding to know I am contributing to making this a better place," he says.

The Council for Advancement and Support of Education named Sousa Arizona’s Professor of the Year.

For more on his videos you can visit