Monday, December 13, 2010

ALEKS

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Is there a subject in your homeschool that you really enjoy but your kids do not? In our school, math falls under that category. And even though I enjoy math, it's a challenge to keep refreshed on multiple concepts. It can be time-consuming trying to keep ahead of my high schooler while also trying to make beginning math understandable to my kindergartener. Not to mention a few others in between, who at various times are ready to chuck their math book across the room (or into the nearest fire pit).

When we have come across little "kinks" in our school, where we have either fallen behind, or a child just isn't catching on, it helpful to have an alternative to get through that rough passage. All of my kids were struggling in their math studies this fall and so our review of ALEKS was a timely opportunity.

From their website, here's an explanation of what ALEKS is all about:

Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces is a Web-based, artificially intelligent assessment and learning system that uses adaptive questioning to quickly and accurately determine exactly what a student knows and doesn't know in a course. ALEKS offers truly individualized instruction that meets the student at her learning level and instructs her on the exact topics that she is most ready to learn. As a result, no two students will experience the same learning path while working in ALEKS.Learn more by watching a quick 2-minute video.

ALEKS can provide you with the instruction and support that you need to homeschool your children in mathematics for grades 3-12. With a comprehensive course library ranging from elementary school math to complex subjects such as PreCalculus, ALEKS acts much like a human tutor to help take the stress off of homeschooling parents.

ALEKS offers highly-targeted, individualized instruction from virtually any computer with Internet access, making it a comprehensive and mobile education solution for your children. A subscription to ALEKS offers access to all courses and your child may take as many courses as needed during their subscription period.

ALEKS is a Research-Based Online Program:

  • Complete Curriculum Solution for Math with Access to Full Course Library
  • No Textbook Required
  • Artificial Intelligence Targets Gaps in Student Knowledge
  • Assessment and Individualized Learning for Grades 3-12
  • Master Account Includes Quizzing and Automated Reports to Monitor Learning Progress
  • Unlimited Online Access - PC and Mac Compatible
  • QuickTables - Complimentary Math Fact Mastery Program for Multiplication, Division, Addition, and Subtraction

ALEKS has been used successfully by homeschoolers, as well as by millions of students at schools andeducational institutions throughout the world. Additionally, some ALEKS course products are American Council on Education (ACE) credit-recommended, meaning that your student may be eligible for college credit at participating colleges.

How the Program Works
When you begin ALEKS, you will select a course level for your student (this can be changed later). You can view a complete list of courses HERE. Third grade is the youngest age applicable for the program. Based on the course selected, the student will be given a 30-question assessment. There is no time limit on the assessment (one of my kids took 3 hours laboriously working through his upper level questions). Students do not need to complete the assessment in one sitting. ALEKS saves the student's progress and when they next login, the student is taken right to the place where they left off. For the initial assessment, students can select, "I haven't learned this yet" and move on to subsequent questions. Here's a assessment question example:

After completing the assessment, student will be shown the "My Pie" feature, visually representing the student's current level of mastery of the course material. Various concepts are represented by unique colors. The darker shading within a slice of pie shows the student's level of mastery within that content area. To begin working on a topic, they just click on a pie wedge and a menu of topics comes up; just click on a link to begin working through that area. As topics are mastered, more of the pie slice will be shaded:


Students in upper level math will utilize graphing and ALEKS provided clear instructions that were fully demonstrated and then allowed students to practice:

I like that ALEKS math problems are open ended requiring the student to provide their own answer (not guess from multiple choices). Answers may be in the form of a point on a line (like below), a line on a graph, exponents or fractions (depending on the course level). Prior to taking the assessment, students are instructed on how to input various types of answers.

Students can opt to receive an explanation for how to work a particular problem. Below you will see an example of each step worked for the student. When they have reviewed the process, they can select to receive another explanation or practice the problem:

When your student works through a topic area, they will receive immediate feedback on whether their answer is correct. In the example below, you can see that a hint is given and the student is given an opportunity to try again.


In addition to the online aspect of ALEKS, you can also print off worksheets. I personally like having some written work to serve as a tangible record of their work. Worksheets are also helpful for periodic review or preparation for a quiz or test. Here's a sample worksheet page:


One helpful feature of ALEKS is the Student Attendance Report that shows how many minutes were spent for each day logged in as well as the number of topics attempted and the topics mastered. Here's a sample of that report:

ALEKS provides a wonderful overall progress report of your student's effort. In addition to viewing the days they logged in, ALEKS calculates how many topics were learned per hour and then generates predictions for how many hours and how many weeks to complete the course content. Here's what the Progress Report looks like:

One feature I really liked was the ability to create a quiz. All of the topics for the course were listed and all I had to do was drag and drop the concept into my quiz form and it automatically created a quiz on those concepts. The next time that student logged into ALEKS, they were prompted to take the quiz. The answers to the quiz were delivered to my ALEKS inbox. The results were automatically scored and a report generated like this:


Our Experience
Three of my students and I tried ALEKS for one-month. The program has math offerings for 3rd grade through some college math. Each took a pretest to find out their current knowledge base. Being fairly early in the year, I reminded them there would be many concepts they hadn't yet covered and as mentioned earlier, students could select "I haven't learned this concept" instead of trying to answer the problem. Here's what each of my kids and I thought of ALEKS.

Student #1 (son-age 15, 10th grade):
"I don't like math and it's not my strong suit but it seems to be a rather effective teaching tool. The design interface was easy to use--very slick."

Student #2 (son-age 12, 7th grade):
"Good and FUN!!"

Student #3 (daughter-age 11, 6th grade):
"It's a fun way to learn math. You can feel like you've accomplished a lot as your pie gets bigger. If you get stuck on something, you can have it explained to you."

Teacher
During the trial period, I also signed up as a student and took the initial assessment and worked through some of the topics so I would have a first-hand experience of the program. Other adults might want to use the program to learn math or science courses not previously taken. It would also be an effective way to prepare for the GRE (especially if you've been out of college for a few years).

What does it cost?
ALEKS has kindly extended a FREE 1-month trial to readers of my blog. Just use the following
link:
Visit ALEKS for 1-Month Trial

With a chance to use the program fully for a month, there is really no reason NOT to give it a try. During this busy holiday season, you can take a break from your traditional math and have your child learn in a new and fun way while you can view all their progress. Or use it free for a student preparing for a college entrance exam. After one month, if you decide to continue, you can pay a monthly rate of $19.99 per student. If you will have multiple users, you'll want to take advantage of the family discount by signing up for a 6-month or 12-month subscription. Complete pricing information is available HERE. [Note: the family discount does NOT apply to the monthly rate.]

Suggested Uses
  • To improve overall math skills in a fun way
  • Help prepare for annual standardized testing
  • Help prepare for college entrance exams (ACT/SAT/GRE)
  • Take it on the road--no text required
  • Assist struggling learners--they can repeat and review as often as necessary
  • Challenge accelerated learners allowing them to advance at their own pace
  • Help retain math skills over the summer break
The Verdict
We plan to extend our trial subscription for an additional month to see how well my students progress. I have been surprised at how much my younger two students have requested to use it. Asking for more math has not been a common practice around here! Having an unbiased, infinitely patient instructor has been a blessing. Not having to manually correct quizzes is a nice bonus too.

For additional thoughts on this product from others who used the product, visit the TOS Homeschool Crew Blog.

Contact Information

Address: ALEKS Corporation
15641 Red Hill Avenue, Suite 150
Tustin, CA 92780

Phone:(714) 245-7191

Web: www.aleks.com


Disclaimer: I was provided a 1-month free trial of ALEKS Math in exchange for my honest review of our experience. Opinions expressed reflect our family's experience.

1 comment:

Penny said...

Your first paragraph is so like me and mine. lol

Stopping by from the crew. I really enjoyed reading this review. Great job!

Blessings,
PK