Thursday, December 18, 2008

Aleks online math program

Looking for a math program for your independent learner?
Want to eliminate tiresome overuse of drills for topics already mastered?
Do your children enjoy "seeing" the progress that they are making?

The ALEKS(Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces) online math program may be something you will want to explore! As a TOS Crew mate I was given a 2 month trial, and we have enjoyed using it! ALEKS is offering a special 1 month free trial (a $19.95 value, instead of the regular 48 hour free trial)to readers of the TOS reviews, so read on, and then check it out!

Before I tell you my impressions, a little background from their website:
"ALEKS is a web-based, artificially intelligent assessment and learning system. ALEKS uses adaptive questioning to quickly and accurately determine exactly what a student knows and doesn't know in a course. ALEKS then instructs the student on the topics she is most ready to learn. As a student works through a course, ALEKS periodically reassesses the student to ensure that topics learned are also retained. ALEKS courses are very complete in their topic coverage and ALEKS avoids multiple choice questions. A student who shows a high level of mastery of an ALEKS course will be successful in the actual course she is taking.
ALEKS also provides the advantages of one-on-one instruction, 24/7, from virtually any web-based computer for a fraction of the cost of a human tutor."

You can read more about ALEKS' background and how it works here.

Now for our thoughts on this program~
I was very impressed with the Artificial Intelligence component from the initial assessment and on through the program.

I appreciated that there wasn't just a general "Grade" category to place my children, but an actual assessment of what they already know, and what they are probably ready to learn. Any gaps were targeted, and my children were started right where they needed to be, rather than having to endure tiresome drills of topics that they already had a competency in, or being placed at a level that they were unable to master.

This is very much an "online textbook" approach, and your student will still require scratch paper to complete their math problems. This is a good thing, in my opinion! :)

There is a unique component that a typical textbook is missing... if a topic was mastered the student could move on, without endless repetition. We also liked the visual of the student's mastery of topics. Each student is given a pie chart, and the independence of choosing what to work on next within the parameters of what they are ready to learn. As each topic is mastered, the pie chart is filled in.This was a great motivator for my 11 year-old learner. She is pretty much a no-nonsense math student, who chose Saxon math as her preferred textbook (as long as I only assigned some of the problems). She asks every day for ALEKS, and has enjoyed her break from Saxon while we work on this review.

I am thinking that this is a great program for any child that is already working somewhat independently, as the ALEKS program does a very good job of explaining how to go about each problem. However, if you have a student that requires you to explain what is already in the textbook(more of a hands-on learner), then you will probably have to do the same with this program. I have an 8 year-old 3rd grader, and he needed my assistance (even if it WAS just reading the explanations to him.... I'm assuming this is a developmental thing...) for a good portion of his work.

Another thing to note is that ALEKS gives you the option of printing up worksheets. This is a great option if you have a student that actually does require extra work, OR if you need to free up the computer for someone else to do some work.

I also have to note that we had trouble for the first week (Until I realized that I needed to contact Customer service... well, DUH! that's what they are there for! :}), because we couldn't "find" the answer boxes. The solution was for us to switch browsers (From FIREFOX to SAFARI.... we're on a MAC), and then all was well.

So, how much is this great program, you ask?
A subscription to ALEKS is

Check it out! I think you'll be impressed! We were!

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