Friday, August 14, 2009

TOS Review: Aleks Math


ALEKS Math (Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces) is a computer based math program for kids grades 3 - 12. I enjoyed getting to know this web based program with my 4th and 6th grader. When you sign up you will have the chance to create a master account in addition to a student account for every student. When you register a student, you need to choose the course work he/she will be studying to start. You can change at any time should you feel the student is misplaced. ALEKS has a one month free trial which I highly encourage anyone interested in possibly using ALEKS to start with so that you can see how it works before signing on long term.

The course work lists mathematics from 3rd grade up through 6th grade, middle school courses, and high school math such as algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus. There is a tutorial tour of the program along with course descriptions that you can review in order to choose the best placement for your student.

Once you sign up and register, to get started your students will take an assessment of about 25 or so problems. Before they even begin with the questions, the assessment will give them a quick tutorial on how to put answers into ALEKS and how to use the various drawing features for drawing lines and making graphs, fractions and mixed numbers. It's very straight forward and easy to navigate.

One reason ALEKS is unique in the math web based programs is the artificial intelligence it has to keep pace with your student. The program is able to use "adaptive questioning to quickly and accurately determine exactly what a student knows and doesn't know in a course". In this way, ALEKS is able to present material to the student that he/she is most able to learn. Once the assessment is complete, the student will have a "My Pie". The pie tells the student and you as the parent, how much of a given concept the student has mastered and what he/she has not mastered. When the student visits ALEKS in future sessions, he/she can just choose from concepts listed within each section of the pie in a drop down list to learn a new concept. Once the problem set is finished and it is mastered, it is added to the finished portion of the pie.

The lessons under the drop down list show you a problem set based on a concept and if you don't know how to do it, you click on an explain button with the name of the concept and it is explained in writing to you. Then you click back and begin answering the questions until you have mastered the concept.


Example assessment question- if you have not learned a concept required to answer the question, you can let the program know this and it moves to the next question.

The program allows students to draw lines on graphs and measure things. It's pretty clever and enjoyable for the kids.
Cost:
  • $19.95 per student per month
  • $99.95 every 6 months
  • $179.95 a year
  • there is a family discount program for more than one student using the program
Here are some pros and cons to using ALEKS Math:

Pros:
  • web based program with a large data base for problems and concepts.
  • allows the student to set the pace for their math instruction
  • independent in nature
  • master account allows mom to monitor the progress of her students both their assessment scores and what the student works on how long it takes them to do it
  • quizzes and assessments along the way
  • artificial intelligence constantly challenges the student rather than it being an established problem set for a given concept.
  • once a particular level is finished, you can move right to the next level without another purchase or waiting time
  • you can easily align your child's math with your state standards by clicking in two drop down menus. It creates a pdf document with the list of correlations between the ALEKS course and the state standards at that particular grade level
  • it's a complete program
  • some courses are available to earn college credit at participating institutions
  • students seem to enjoy it!
Cons:
  • there are no tangible materials to hang on to- no passing down of resources
  • one size fits all format- though it can challenge and be individualized for the student, the presentation is the same each time
  • computer web based model- does not allow for interaction with mom during instruction
  • cost- it is an expensive program
Overall, I think it's a great program. It's thorough and well written to suit homeschooling families and it makes a great tutorial alternative for public or private schooled students who need extra help.

It is not a program I would choose to use with my family, though I have enjoyed getting to know it over the last few weeks. There are two key factors driving this conclusion for me. First, is the computer based model of instruction. It is tempting to have my children receive their main instruction from a computer and I know some parents feel this is the best way for their students either because they themselves lack confidence in math or because their student has demonstrated a lot of resistance to math instruction and really seem to enjoy this format.

For me, I prefer to be actively engaged in my children's instruction- sitting down at the table and interacting over a concept and driving it home with real life experience. Together. I prefer this type of instruction to assess how my kids are really internalizing the concepts. When you look at a computer assessment, it does not give you the whole picture. I can imagine any number of reasons it would take 10 minutes for one concept for R9 given her distractable nature if it is not hands on stuff. So...did she really have a hard time? Or was she picking the proverbial daisies? Hard to say. In addition, I am certain R9 would grow tired of the same format of instruction.

The second key factor is the cost. For my family, the cost is absolutely prohibitive. According to the family discount chart, it would cost $431.88 per year for three of my kids to participate. Once J4 joins the crowd, the cost jumps to $539.84. For one year. For only math. Or put another way...though we could invest this amount in a math program, it is not how I would choose to use our family resources. It is not practical, in my opinion, for the average homeschooling family.

If the cost for this program were nominal, it would be a fun diversion for our living math program. I think families who are oriented toward computer instruction would be quite statisfied with ALEKS Math.

Do the trial and see what you think!

2 comments:

Tracey said...

Good job on this review.

Leanne said...

Brilliant review!

I also really appreciated why you would/wouldn't use the program.
A real honest review

Thank you

Love Leanne