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Sunday, December 21, 2008

reviewing www.ALEKS.com

Taken from the www.ALEKS.com website:

ALEKS (Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces) can provide you with the instruction and support you need to homeschool your children in mathematics for grades 3-12. ALEKS is accessible from virtually any computer with Internet access, making it a flexible and mobile educational solution for your children.
  • ALEKS is a Research-Based Online Math Program:
    Complete Curriculum Solution for Math - One Subscription Allows Access to All Courses
    No Textbook Required
    Artificial Intelligence Targets Gaps in Student Knowledge
    Assessment and Individualized Learning for Grades 3-12
    Automated Reports Monitor Learning Progress
    Unlimited Online Access - PC & Mac Compatible

And now Lynn says...

I can't believe I forgot to review ALEKS! I completely missed my deadline. For some reason, a load of TOS reviews were due in December, which made it a little trickier to stay on top of it all.

I had been faithfully writing my review deadlines on our family calendar, but this one slipped right by me. I never even wrote it down. I just noticed it was due last Wednesday! What's so sad is that I just got moved up from an alternate to an official TOS crew member, so I now have this late review tarnishing my super-cool writer image. ;)

So here are my many personal thoughts on ALEKS math:

I have tried so many math curricula over the years. We've used dept. store worksbooks, ABEKA, SOS, and a lot of Saxon. Math is not my strong point. I am getting better at it the more I teach it to the kids, but it isn't something I really enjoy. I'm more of the history/literature type girl. My school years were filled with math anxiety. I think it all began in third grade when I stayed sick repeatedly, and kept missing key concepts I needed to build upon in higher grades. Nowadays I would panic if I had to count back change at a yard sale! It would bring back memories of standing at the blackboard with all those eyes boring into the back of your head when the answer just isn't there. Wow, this fear runs deep....maybe I need some ALEKS help, too. The good thing is I believe it is available for parents to use as well.

I never want my children to feel so inadequate about a school subject. I am hoping that if we continue to use ALEKS for math, that will compensate for my own short-comings while giving them a firm foundation. Besides, it makes me feel "safe" to know that math is covered, freeing me up to do those unit studies that I so enjoy. As with www.time4learning.com, having the boys be able to do a portion of each day online is such a benefit to this busy mom's schedule. It gives me time to spend with our preschooler and any daycare children that might be here. And I know my son's time on ALEKS is serious stuff; ALEKS is not a game site.

In fact, you won't see flashy videos and bright colors on ALEKS. At first glance, ALEKS seems rather bland. But my 8th grader likes the simple screen, with only one problem at a time. He says its less distracting and overwhelming for him, and I can see from his progress reports that it must be true, because he is learning. We have been able to try him briefly in both middle school math level 3 and now pre-algebra.

Let me tell you some of the pros of using ALEKS.com:
First of all, the child who will be using ALEKS must begin with an assessment, usually 15-30 math problems. If the child comes upon a concept they are unfamiliar with, they can choose an option which says, "I haven't learned this yet." The ALEKS system uses artificial intelligence to track the child's progress and keep track of what he has/hasn't learned. After this initial assessment, the child is given his own pie chart. It is broken down into sections and as the child completes problems from the sections correctly, the slices are colored in, making it easy for the child to chart his own progress. Nick likes the pie; everyday when he logs in, his screen goes directly to his pie where he clicks on a "slice" (subtopic) he needs to work on. He feels he is in control of his math course just by getting to pick the topic of the day. He may choose geometry, fractions, decimals, etc. I like that the artificial intelligence is used for assessment and daily work. I really feel that feature accurately shows exactly what my son knows and where he needs help or review.

For the child who is overwhelmed by pages with 30-50 problems on them, the one-problem-at-a-time approach is simplistic and works wonders. No more tears! Some might find the lack of color dull but when a child is easily distracted, the simple design of the screen makes it easier to focus on the task at hand.

Not only can the child see his pie and progress recorded there, but parents can see a list of state standards and a comparison chart of how their child's progress stands up to those standards.

For those who like to see some paperwork or need to keep paperwork for evaulautions, there are printable worksheets.

And for extra review, ALEKS has a feature called Quick Tables which is meant to be a way to review and drill math facts, such as multiplication tables.

My cons to using ALEKS are that between letting one son use ALEKS and the other Time4learning, we will be acruing a lot of fees for subscriptions and spending an awful lot of time online. I have mentioned before that since we have dial-up, this too, can be a problem. We have three computers in our home but if any one of us is online, no one else can be. If we get DSL, this will no longer be a problem. In the meantime, family and friends will continue to suffer through the Callwave internet answering machine.

Secondly, your child doesn't get an actual letter or number grade off ALEKS. You can see on the pie chart the completed work; as the pie concepts are mastered, they care colored in. But in some states parents may find that they need to somehow assign a grade for evaluations. I would record A's as long as the pie shows that math is being completed sucessfully daily.

Third, the cost of ALEKS can be pricy for a one-income family. You can get ALEKS for $19.95 per month per child or pay for 6-months at the cost of $99.95. With one child so close to the dreaded high school years, I have to weigh the cost. SOS would be less expensive, but we used an older, bought off Ebay version for 4th grade and it had so many glitches that I have shyed away from it since (of course, newer versions may not have this problem--I'd be happy to snag a free copy to use and review, dear Alpha Omega company). Teaching Textbooks is another option for higher math, but it too, seems pricey. I have come to the conclusion that higher math, when mom must rely on a system to teach it anyway, will cost plenty. However, it must be done and I want it done well. Since I am so frugal in other areas of homeschooling, and since our unit studies cost so little, perhaps it will be workable to keep both ALEKS for the remainder of this year at least. I know my son loves it, is respoding well to it, and feels more confident in his math skills. He used to shudder at the thought of pre-algebra but now asks when he can do his daily math. I would love to use ALEKS all the way through high school if I can.

By the way, we aquired a free trial of ALEKS via The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. Anyone can get a free trial, however, just by paying ALEKS a visit.

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