Monday, December 13, 2010

Review of ALEKS

Recently, my family was given free for our review a one-month trial subscription to ALEKS (Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces), a web-based, artificially intelligent assessment and learning system for grades K-12.  The beauty of ALEKS is that, because it quickly assesses what your child has learned, there is no needless repetition of skill sets which have already been mastered.  For my children, this kind of program is a gift!

Initially, I had my qualms about ALEKS, only because my daughter gave me much resistance when it came to doing the placement assessment at the beginning of the course.  There is a very small learning curve for people who have never done a math program on the computer before, and I think that was what was causing her trouble.  When she finally sat down to work, though, she never gave me a problem again.  Simply put, she loved ALEKS.

 My daughter is nine, but is quite advanced in math, so placing her in any program is a challenge for me.  After a few days, we finally settled on ALEKS grade 7 for her, and it seems to be the right fit.  ALEKS lets me know that it is the right fit by providing me with the most comprehensive updates of her progress that I could imagine.  My daughter also loves seeing her progress on her "pie."

The above chart is T's actual progress pie in 7th grade math.  It shows how many of the skills she has mastered and how many she has left to conquer.  Presented graphically in this way, as it is to her throughout her lesson, it provides such a wonderful, but completely non-pressuring motivation.  She wants to complete her pie! In fact, she asks for extra math time with ALEKS so that she can improve on her pie's ratios.  You can't get a better recommendation for a math program than that!

If I log on to my parent account, I can get additional reports about T's progress, such as the one below:

 Further, I can see exactly what T has done thus far, as well as which skills are about to be introduced for mastery:
 I truly appreciate how easy ALEKS makes it to master her progress on an ongoing basis.  Both she and I feel that we know exactly where she stands mathwise.  Also, as a homeschooling mom, there aren't enough words to describe how much I love the fact that ALEKS is coordinated to state standards.  At any time, I can pull up the Texas state skills test standards and see *exactly* how T measures up against them.  Because she is three grade levels ahead in math, it is very important to me to be able to determine that she is, in fact, at the level that I think she is.

In addition to K-12 math classes, ALEKS also offers higher education business and science classes.  Based on our experience with 7th grade math, I would not hesitate to enroll my children in any of them.  I am especially excited by their offering of statistics for the behavioral sciences.  I have a Ph.D. in a behavioral science, and can attest to the fact that computer based learning for this type of statistics is really the only  way to go.  It's wonderful to see a class being offered at the high school level that allows for this fact.

I used to think that ALEKS was expensive, but after actually using the program, my opinion has changed dramatically.  ALEKS costs $19.95 per student, per month.  A six-month subscription costs $99.95, and a full year is $179.95.  Given the cost of some other math programs out there, and given that they represent only one math course, whereas you can complete as many math courses per year as you are able to master with ALEKS, I have come to  think of ALEKS as a tremendous bargain.  Further, ALEKS wants homeschoolers to use their program, and offer a multi-child discount to prove it.  Read about those rates here.

Although I have not had the occasion to use ALEKS customer support, the avenues to reach them are readily apparent on the website.

The best endorsement that I can give to ALEKS is the fact that when, a week ago, I received an email from them telling me that our one-month subscription had been increased to three months, T yelled, "YES! Now I can finish my pie!" She was genuinely excited.  As for me, I am seriously considering paying for ALEKS when my free subscription is up.  I love that my daughter is loving math.  I love that both she and I can keep track of her progress daily.  I love that this is one less subject that I have to hold her hand through (given that she has three younger siblings!).

If you are interested in finding out more about ALEKS, please visit their website: ALEKS or use this form to contact them.

If you are interested in seeing what other Crew members thought about ALEKS, please visit the Crew Blog.

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