Monday, December 13, 2010

TOS Review: ALEKS Math


I can't tell you how often I hear this in my house, but it's at least once a day, and always from my younger son - Aaron, age 11.  He's struggled with math ever since finishing up the workbooks with those pages where you count the owls in this box, then count the owls in that box, and then you add all the owls together.  I think the problem is that he has never mastered his math facts, but knowing that and fixing that are two totally separate things.  We've struggled with this for years, because the older he gets, the more resistant he is to doing what he calls "baby math"; that is, doing the basic math facts review, repetition and memorization that most kids learn in the early elementary grades.  Flash cards, Calculadders, workbooks, computer games - we've tried them all and every single try results in melt-downs, tears, screaming and my son sometimes even hitting himself in the forehead going "I'm stupid!"

That's why I was SO surprised to find that he not only would do ALEKS without a fight, but that he actually was asking if he could do it.  We received the ALEKS program shortly before we had a couple of planned week-long school breaks, then had one unplanned break for some family problems, and then had computer problems.  But through all of that my son continued to do his ALEKS math without complaint, and it was him reminding me that he needed to do it.  When I sat down to finish this review, I asked to tell me honestly, on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 is "I love it" and 1 is "I hate it"), where he ranked the different math programs we've tried over the years.  He gave ALEKS a solid 8, and it was the highest (by 2 points) that he ranked anything.  When I asked him if he'd like to continue using ALEKS instead of something else, he quickly answered "Absolutely!  YES!"  Then mumbled "if I have to do math..."

So, with that kind of endorsement, you might be asking yourself "What is ALEKS?"

ALEKS stands for Assesment and LEarning in Knowlege Spaces.  It 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.  You can check out a 2-minute video that explains the ALEKS system.

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.

Here is what ALEKS has to offer:
  • 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
Let me walk you through the ALEKS program - there's a lot to see, but it's definitely worth the time!

1.  Student Assessment - Each student using the program starts ALEKS by doing the online assessment program.  This helps ALEKS determine what your child has mastered, and what they need to work on.  ALEKS then generates the... 

2. MyPie page, to show both student and teacher the results.

As you can see, each part of the pie shows a dark area (near the center) and a lighter area (toward the edge).  The dark area is what your child has mastered.  The light area is what they need to work on.  From this pie, the student can select any item that shows up in the rectangle when you hover over that section of the pie.  The student starts working.

3. Aleks uses a free response environment and special Input Tools that require an actual answer, instead of multiple choice.  This helps the students demonstrate mastery of the skills they are learning.

4. Learning Mode:The Learning Mode provides students with practice problems, and offers explanations of topics and procedures as needed. Once a student has demonstrated mastery in the Learning Mode, the topic is added to the ALEKS Pie, and new material that the student is now ready to learn becomes available.

5.Explanations: When a student is working on a particular problem, she can access an explanation of that problem by clicking on the "Explain" button. The explanation typically provides a step-by-step solution, with commentary. In some cases, an alternative or more detailed explanation is also available.

6. Feedback: Students receive immediate feedback, and depending on what they are working on, sometimes they also receive instructions or suggestions for fixing the mistakes.

7. Worksheets can be printed out, if desired, to give the student further practice or review.  Each worksheet is uniquely generated based on the student's current knowledge.

There are a couple of other items the program offers, both of which I feel are great tools.  The first tool is ALEKS QuickTables. QuickTables is a research-based, math fact mastery program for multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction.  QuickTables is EXACTLY what my son needs to help him master his math facts, but since it's part of the program, it doesn't make him feel like I'm the one pushing him to do so.

The other tool is the Interactive Games.  The games are unlocked as the child masters subjects, and while they are technically still reviewing and learning, they see it as playing.  Win-Win!

That's just the student's area.  As the parent, you have access to a whole set of tools to help you follow your student's progress through the program.  
Above is the Master Account homepage.  This links you to each student account, where you can view their attendance records, their progress reports and MyPie charts, create quizzes for them and view the quiz results.

Attendance Report will show you how often they are using ALEKS and for how long.  It also allows you to view what they worked on each time.

Progress Report tracks student progress made throughout the course. The blue bar represents the percent of course material that the student has mastered during an ALEKS assessment; the green bar represents the percent of new topics the student has mastered in Learning Mode since the last assessment; and the yellow bar represents the percent of topics the student has yet to learn in order to complete the course.

Quiz Results: Quizzes are automatically graded and the results are available to both the parent and student immediately. You can view a detailed quiz results sample report (PDF).

So where do you get started?  Well, let me first suggest that you take advantage of ALEKS' free 1-month trial offer.  This is a $19.95 value, and it will give you plenty of time to explore the program and see if it works as well for you as it has for us.

Visit ALEKS for 1-Month Trial

After that, a subscription to ALEKS is
  • $19.95 per student, per month, or
  • only $99.95 every 6 months, or
  • only $179.95 every 12 months.
ALEKS also offers a Family Discount Program, if you have more than one student you'd like to use ALEKS for.  Yes, the program is pricey, but if you're dealing with the same problems I've been dealing with in my 11-year-old, it might just be worth it!  The best part about ALEKS is that the program will "patiently" continue to work on a math subject until it is mastered, no matter how long it takes the child.  That is definitely an area where mom is not so advanced herself!

Find out what other TOS Crew members have to say about ALEKS here.

Disclaimer: As a member of the 2010-2011 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I received a complimentary 1-month subscription to ALEKS in exchange for my fair, honest and unbiased review. No other compensation was received.

1 comment:

  1. Aleks sucks, remove it at once! >_<