Saturday, November 15, 2008

ALEKS review

I've talked about ALEKS, the online math program, several times over the past few years. Someone on one of my yahoo groups just asked about it and I wrote a somewhat lengthy reply and thought I'd share it.

I thought I'd chime in with our experiences with ALEKS, too. We've used ALEKS several times over the past year and my daughter has used it for 3rd - 5th grade math.

While she loved ALEKS and could "fly" through their program (she just turned 8 and was in 5th grade math last year as a 7 year old), I have found some problems with it, too.

Whenever a child learns a new concept, they only have to get 3 problems right for the program to say they have mastered it. As a parent, you can have the child do the "extra" problems, which brings it up to 5 total problems before a concept is considered "mastered."

Although they say they program is supposed to be using artificial intelligence to figure out what concepts your child needs extra work on, I have found them to be very biased towards certain types of problems. For example, when you print out a worksheet for them to practice on, they will usually give you 21 problems. I have found that for several grades they almost always gave my daughter a Venn diagram - which she has no problem with. But, they rarely gave her multiplication problems - which she could use review with.

Also, even when she missed a problem after "mastering it", as long as she could figure out the right answer, they returned it to her "mastered list."

I think ALEKS would be a wonderful supplement. My daughter had "hated" math until trying ALEKS and loved all the new and exciting problems it gave. She loved that the 21 problems on a worksheet were each of a different kind (i.e. NOT 21 addition problems). And, she would actually spend several hours doing math some days.

But, I also feel it led to a false sense of what she knew. And, even though she "catches on" to math concepts quickly, she needed more practice than just a few problems - especially when it comes to the "biggies" like multiplication and division.

Hope this helps!

4 comments:

Robin said...

I've noticed many of the same points with ALEKS. However, for my child, too much problem repetition causes frustration with a program. So he liked that aspect of ALEKS.
What I didn't like was that they had no way to go backwards and do some basic math facts review. And that there were no visual aids or games. He responds very well to those.
He really loved their system of a pie chart that laid out the entire course for the year. They had a pie wedge for addition/subtraction, one for multiplication/division, one for algebra, one for geometry, one for fractions, etc. And, visually, he could see exactly how far he was in the course. We haven't found that kind of feedback from any other course he's taken online.
As for the worksheet mode, we were also disappointed that you couldn't print out a worksheet that just helped with ONE concept. Everytime I would try to print a sheet I would get about 7-8 different kinds of problems and I'd usually have to cross out most of them, which was a waste of paper.
Another aspect of ALEKS that I liked was the way they would offer a different way to learn a concept. If he wasn't 'getting' it, they would ask if he wanted an alternate explanation. I thought that was great.
Overall, I think he learned a lot the year we used ALEKS. And the pace was just right for him.
I hope this will also help your readers make their decisions. It's always interesting to read lots of points of view.

Marjorie said...

Thanks for the review. I have never heard of this program, but I am always looking for new resources.

:: jamie :: said...

Just wanted to spread the word about something my daughter Kathryn is starting on her blog:
Fun Time Fridays
.

We hope to see Alex there!

Steve Kemble said...

In regard to ... "Whenever a child learns a new concept, they only have to get 3 problems right for the program to say they have mastered it. As a parent, you can have the child do the "extra" problems, which brings it up to 5 total problems before a concept is considered "mastered." ...you are missing a key aspect of ALEKS. ALEKS re-assesses students every 20 new concepts learned; if the student has forgotten a concept, its taken out of the students ALEKS PIE and re-taught with new problems. Also the 'teacher' can schedule progress assessments at any time. Once again, if the student forgets a concept, it is taught again with new problems. The aim is to assure that what a student learns becomes part of his/her'permanent memory;.

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