Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Review of UnLock Math's Algebra2

UnLock Math
Because we have reviewed UnLock Math in the past, I was happy to have the chance to review them again. This time it was Nicholas (14 on July 4th) who used UnLock Algebra2. The timing on this product was perfect, as Nicholas was just finishing Geometry (from another company - but don't look too far if you need Geometry, because UnLock Math has just introduced UnLock Geometry!). Although UnLock Algebra2 can be used as a supplement, it stands alone as a complete curriculum, so that is how Nicholas has been using it for the past six weeks. Just what is it all about, though?UnLock Math
UnLock Algebra2 covers the following concepts: 
  • Review of Equations
  • Review of Exponents
  • Systems of Linear Equations & Inequalities
  • Polynomial Functions
  • Functions
  • Complex Numbers
  • Polynomial Functions Solving & Graphing
  • Quadratic Functions
  • Exponential & Logarithmic Functions
  • Rational Functions
  • Radical Functions
  • Conic Sections
  • Statistics & Probability
  • Series & Patterns
  • Trigonometry
  • Matrices
Each of these Units is broken down into 6-13 sections, which you can see illustrated by the helpful Pacing Guide.

While a pacing guide is certainly useful, I hardly need to include the typical homeschool disclaimer that it's just a suggestion. Your child may move more quickly, but he may (as my son did) move more slowly. When Nicholas was younger, he *plowed* through math (the reason he's a rising freshman in Algebra2 (having already completed Geometry). I didn't take Algebra2 until my junior year (N.B. I was *not* a math person). Now he has started to slow down some. Also, it's summer, so I suspect he is not as motivated as he might be. When I challenged him on why he wasn't where the pacing guide said he should be (I have left him alone to work on this program completely independently except when he came to me with issues), he told me that there is a lot to each component of the program and it was just taking him a long time. 
This is what the program looks like when you log on:

He's right that there is much to each lesson. Warm Up, Lesson Video, Practice Problems, and Stay Sharp. The lessons are taught by Alesia Blackwood, who was homeschooled for part of her life and who is married to a homeschooled graduate (Matthew). She wanted to be a teacher from early on and is passionate about math. 

Some key features of UnLock Math are that lessons are taught in bite-sized chunks, students are shown only one problem at a time, and every answer is shown in its entirety so that students can see exactly what they did wrong (or right!). Here is a view from the grade book.

Speaking of the grade book, it is *very* detailed:

You can see how long your child spent on a particular section, how many problems they got right out of how many total, and the name of the section they were working on. There is also a progress report view:

It's more of an overview of the entire course, broken down by section (Warm Up, Practice Problems, etc.). To see where your child is without grades, you can look at this view (the one he would see):

Our Experience with UnLock Math

If you blew up the pictures above, you'll have seen that Nicholas's grade with UnLock Algebra2 is not exactly...good right now. I'm okay with that, and here's why: I have been working with Nicholas closely as he works on this program (although not closely enough, since I see he's been skipping sections!), and I have seen that he *gets* the math. Where he is falling down significantly is in how he is entering the answers on the computer. He'll work through a problem and show it to me. I'll verify the answer. He'll enter it on the computer and it will be marked wrong. The reason, as he'll discover in the excellent and thorough presentation of the answer, is that he did something like input the units of the answer incorrectly. In other words, the answer itself was right, but the label was wrong. 

He's also had an issue with a problem type appearing in the Practice Problems and/or quiz section that was never demonstrated in the video. In other words, he feels like he's seeing something for the very first time. As Matthew Blackwood himself explained to me, the problems in the practice section are adaptive, and the later ones in the section do require you to make some of your own inferences about what to do and how to solve. For Nicholas, likely because of his age and immaturity, this has presented much more of a challenge than it likely would for older students, so that is just one thing to be aware of.

Finally, Nicholas has told me that the thing he dislikes most about UnLock Algebra2 is that it always shows the easiest scenario in sample problems. Division always works perfectly. Fractions are never complicated. That kind of thing. Then you are thrown into the deep end with the Practice Problems which are never simple. He would love to see complicated examples that show the universe of possibilities in one or two problems so that he feels prepared for what is going to hit him in a few minutes. He always ends up feeling somehow baited and switched by UnLock's approach (but, again, see my point above about how UnLock Math works regarding adaptive problem solving).

There are many things to like about UnLock Algebra2. There are also some frustrating things. For a kid like Nicholas (younger than average for this course, rigid about his learning (OCD/ADHD/Tourette's)), those frustrating things are probably more frustrating than they are for other kids. I'm not sure if we're going to continue with UnLock Algebra2 past this summer, but it's a good math program with some really nice people behind it (and very responsive customer service), and it's definitely worth a look if you're in the market for higher level math. For what it's worth, I really like the program -- after all, they do everything for me!

Of course, the best thing about the Homeschool Review Crew is that you don't ever have to take my word for it! Especially on a review like this, where my recommendation is not 100% glowing, please definitely click the banner below to see what everyone else thought of UnLock Math!

Pre-Algebra, Algebra and Geometry {UnLock Math Reviews}
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