Sunday, November 9, 2014

Review of IXL

This is not the first time we have reviewed IXL, so I can say with the utmost authority that this is one program that does not rest on its laurels: it keeps getting better and better! When we first met IXL Math, it was one of the very best math practice programs we could imagine. My kids loved it. I wished we could use IXL for all of our subjects. Well, IXL must have had burning ears, because not only have they continued to expand their math offerings, but they now have IXL Language Arts - another huge winner!

Christmas Book Review

Before I get into everything that IXL has to offer, I want to address price. Cost is what held me back from IXL when I first started homeschooling, and I am KICKING myself. IXL is one of the best bargains out there, especially if you need a super high-quality program to help you work with your kids while you do something else (work from home, work away from home, take care of babies, recuperate from an illness, etc.). You just don't get more bang for your buck anywhere else, especially considering that IXL has math options for Pre-K through Precalculus and Language Arts options for 2nd-8th grade (with more grades coming). 

An annual subscription for one child for math is $79/year. Each additional child is only $20/year. For math and language arts, one child is $129/year. Each additional child is still only $20/year, so a full subscription for two children would only be $149, three children would be $169, etc. You can explore all of your pricing options here

All That IXL Has to Offer

It needs to be noted that IXL is not intended to be an instructional program; rather, it is intended to be a practice and reinforcement program. Your child learns a concept with his core curriculum and then practices it with IXL's thousands of practice questions and problems. He is able to see his mastery increase along the way with certificates of accomplishment, etc. Having said that, we have been using IXL in place of our core curriculum for the past month or so and I have been very pleased using it this way. My kids learn best through trial and error. They attempt something. If it is right, they internalize that. If it is wrong, IXL shows them that it is wrong and shows them (very thoroughly) how and why. They internalize that, too. They have learned the concept. Hence, although IXL does not purport to replace your curriculum, as with all things homeschooling, how you choose to incorporate it into your school day is completely up to you. It is a very complete program.

When you buy a subscription, you are not limited to a single grade level. You have access to everything in a particular subject area. If you buy both math and language arts, you have access to everything on the site. That's wonderful for two reasons: it lets you target your child's needs even if those needs don't correlate to state standards and it allows you to move between grade levels if your child works through a grade in a period shorter than one year. You can see a snapshot of some of the available language arts skills here:

Once your child has actually started to work through the skills, you begin to see the mastery level pop up next to the individual skill. Mary-Catherine's (9) fourth grade language arts page is shown here:

You can see that she has 100s (and gold medals!) through skill C.2 (where she has a 45) because that is the skill she is currently working on. You don't have to work through a level consecutively like M-C is - that is just how I have chosen to have her do the 4th grade language arts. My rationale is simple. Although most of this material is complete review for her, this is a standardized testing year for us and IXL uses standardized testing language. I think this is a wonderful way for her to become accustomed to the specialized way standardized tests ask questions. My kids are always a little afraid of testing (it's not required in Texas so we only do it every other year so I can see how they compare to grade level - like many homeschoolers none of them are really on grade level in much of anything). Being able to demystify it and give them so much practice is hugely beneficial to them.

As you can see with the little gold medals next to M-C's name, IXL is all about the rewards. I would have told you that my kids are not big on the incentives, but I would have been wrong! The way IXL works is pretty ingenious. When you first begin to work on a skill, you receive 10 points for a correct answer. After the first 2 questions, you get 9 points for a correct answer. After that, you continue to get diminishing rewards for correct answers. Incorrect answers, however, are dealt with harshly (M-C chimed in with, "very harshly!") You lose anywhere from 5-10 points for an incorrect answer, depending on where you are in your mastery process. Obviously, IXL is going to make sure that your child knows a skill before awarding them that 100! It is not simply a question of answering 10 questions right for 10 points each. My kids love the challenge - in fact, they begin to take it very personally when they get up into the 90s and miss a question. Experiencing that setback makes them so determined to master the skill. I love to see that fire in them - it's a fire I don't see when I am just working with them one-on-one. 

I know that I have cut off the questions in this graphic, but I am showing it to illustrate how the process works. Keep in mind that the child only sees one question at a time. I am just showing two here so you can see the variety. Your child will see the number of questions she has attempted, the amount of time she has been working, and her "SmartScore" - that is the mastery number to which I have been referring. Hence, she always knows where she stands.

Along the way, they earn certificates for number of questions answered, skills mastered, and other things. For skills mastered, they unlock rewards.

Switching gears to Therese and her Algebra report, here is a summary of her activity, which shows her reward status:

Looking at her summary chart below, you can see that, unlike M-C, Therese has been jumping around on her Algebra skills. I left that up to Therese because, again unlike M-C, Therese is using IXL as a supplement to her regular math program. For her, it is working really well that way. She does her math program and then comes to IXL to practice what she feels she needs to. That's the great thing about IXL - you can completely adapt it to your needs. Nicky (11) is also doing IXL Algebra. Unlike Therese (13), he is using it as his sole math program right now, so I have two kids using the same level, but using it two separate ways. How neat is that?

One of IXL's greatest features is the amazing number of reports available to parents. For example, I can see at a glance every single individual problem that Therese has worked! I can see when she worked it, what she answered, and whether it was correct or incorrect. As an example, here are two such problems that I looked up:

I have never seen another program with reporting capabilities like these. They are an amazing value add to the program that I don't know that many people consider. Just think, if you have a dawdler, you can actually see how fast she is working (I don't have that problem with Therese - you can see that she answered problem #1 at 1:16 and #5 at 1:19 -- and she did answer the others in between). I am not even showing you half of the different ways you can look at your child's progress - IXL even emails you the progress reports! Here I looked at Therese's progress over the course of (I think) 3 weeks:

IXL has something to offer every homeschooling family. For me, I am looking for things that some of my kids can do while I work with other kids or while I deal with headaches (although I am praying so hard that a new treatment will give my whole family some relief!). IXL has become a huge part of that. I will always make room in my budget for it. It is a no-brainer for me. Unlike so many companies who put out a great product and then sit back and count their revenue in perpetuity, IXL is literally exponentially better every single year. That speaks volumes about them. 

IXL is also available as an iPad app for those running iOS 7 and above. It has both the math and the language arts and works essentially the same as the online version. The portability factor is great, as is the "tablet" factor for those kids who just love the idea of doing school (or anything) on the iPad. Even better - IXL is on Kindle Fire! What that means for my family is that all of my kids can do IXL at once - I love that, as it really cuts down on potential arguments about who gets to do it first (what a great program to inspire those kinds of arguments!). To find out if IXL will run on your device, be sure to visit their apps page.

Clearly, this is a company I love (as a bonus, all four of my kids do, too). To see how other Crew families used IXL, click the banner below.
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1 comment:

  1. You can earn $20 for each 20 minute survey!

    Guess what? This is exactly what big companies are paying for. They need to know what their customer base needs and wants. So big companies pay millions of dollars per month to the average person. In return, the average person, myself included, answers some questions and gives them their opinion.