Sunday, February 12, 2012


I don't usually do a lot of cut 'n' paste work in my curriculum reviews.  But, for this one, there is a lot of cool stuff I wanted you to see!  So, below you will find a full description and plenty of screen shots of the program in the words of the providers.  But, first let me tell you about my experience with ALEKS.

The name ALEKS (reminds me of Alex) sounds so friendly -- like a neighborhood pal.  And truly, this program was very user-friendly and even fun to use.  As part of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I was provided with a two month trial version for free, in exchange for my honest review.  I have never before tried a comprehensive math program that was computer-based.  I downloaded the trial version. There was the tiniest of glitches because we needed an upgrade to Java before we could get things going and that took some finessing by my resident computer expert (but that is not the fault of ALEKS).  Once that was ready, ALEKS downloaded fine.  I was given login names for myself and my two children.  I could choose any courses I liked, so I put the kids in their respective grades (7th grade math and Algebra) and I also put myself in Intro to College Chemistry just to see what it was like (uh, it was hard).  To make myself feel better, I also tried out a 3rd grade math assessment (yes, I passed with flying colors).

At the beginning of each course, the student is walked through a tutorial of how to answer questions.  ALEKS has a brilliant system for typing fractions, mixed numbers, chemical symbols, square roots, etc.  They explain how the program works and then give you an assessment test of 20 to 30 questions.  Based on how well you answer those questions, ALEKS creates a pie chart showing what areas you have mastered and what areas you need to work on.  Some areas are immediately clickable -- you choose what you want to tackle first.  Let's say, you need to complete 5% more in the area of fractions.  So, you click on that subject and you are taken to a practice problem.  You can choose to answer the problem and try to move on, or you can choose the explanation.  The explanation is detailed and multi-leveled.  In other words, if you don't understand a concept in the explanation, it is highlighted and clickable and will take you to another level of explanation, deeper and deeper.  Once you understand the concept, and you answer several questions correctly, you can see your pie pieces filling in darker and fuller.  As pie sections are filled in, you are able to move to more sections and try more difficult areas.

ALEKS covers math from kindergarten through college level and even has a way to earn ACE college credits.

I thought that the process and explanations were exceptionally well-done.  I really like the fact that a motivated student could get through this without much parental involvement and probably at an increased speed.  I think that you could definitely achieve a good level of mastery with this system.  The "artificial intelligence" of the program really seems to do a good job of tracking what you know and what you need to know.

In the maths where you must draw graphs, circles or other geometric shapes, ALEKS has a really cool way of simulating pencils, erasers, compasses, and rulers.  It was fun practicing drawing the lines and circles!

That said, I'm not sure that there was enough practice for a struggling student.  If you complete 3 problems correctly on Tuesday and "master" the concept, that doesn't mean you will remember them a few weeks later.  My 9th grade daughter felt that she would like more repetition (not that she wanted to do the work, but she felt that she would learn  better with more).  When I took the 3rd grade assessment, I got a 100% on my first try (thank goodness).  I thought that there would be a series of review questions, but instead you are expected to jump into the next level.  That is okay, but I just thought it would be nice to be able to assign some review if you wanted to.

I loved receiving weekly e-mail updates on how my children (and I) were faring.  The updates told me how much time we spent and how our pies were coming along.

I am used to spending about $70 a year for math curricula, a student book and a teacher's manual.  ALEKS is a bit pricier at $19.95/month or $99.95 for 6 months or $179.95 for 12 months.  But, if your student is a good independent learner and can finish more than one course in a year, you may be saving money in the long run.  There is a discount of multiple siblings using the program.

So, I definitely think ALEKS is worth considering.  Consider what type of learner your child is.  If they like to use the computer, are willing/happy to work somewhat independently, and motivated to move quickly (to save you money), then I think this would be a good program for you.  Below is more information from the makers of ALEKS, including a special price trial version just for you, so keep reading!  Then, to see what other TOS reviewers had to say, click here.

What is ALEKS?

Aleks LogoAssessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces is an online mathematics program that provides personalized learning and assessment tailored to a student's individual needs. Using artificial intelligence and adaptive, open-response questioning, ALEKS quickly and accurately determines what a student knows and is most ready to learn within a course. Learn more by watching a quick 2-minute video.

With a comprehensive course library ranging from elementary school math to complex subjects such as PreCalculus, ALEKS acts much like a human tutor to help take the stress off of homeschooling parents.

ALEKS offers highly-targeted, individualized instruction from virtually any computer with Internet access, making it a comprehensive and mobile education solution for students in grades 3-12. A subscription to ALEKS offers access to all courses and students may take as many courses as needed during their subscription period.
ALEKS is a Research-Based Online Program:
  • Complete Curriculum Solution for Math with Access to Full Course Library
  • Artificial Intelligence Targets Gaps in Individual Student Knowledge
  • Master Account - Monitor and Direct Student Progress
  • Unlimited Online Access - PC and Mac Compatible
  • QuickTables - Math Fact Mastery Program for Multiplication, Division, Addition, and Subtraction Included with Any Math Course
ALEKS has been used successfully by homeschoolers, as well as by millions of students at schools and educational institutions throughout the world. Additionally, some ALEKS course products are American Council on Education (ACE) credit-recommended, meaning students may be eligible for college credit at participating colleges.

GOOD DEAL:  Because you are a homeschooler reading this blog, you can use the ALEKS 2-month free trial (a $39.90 value). We only offer a 48-hour trial directly from our website, so this is a special offer only for homeschoolers who are new users to ALEKS.

Homeschool Banner 

Student Account
Student Assessment
Assessment: Students begin in ALEKS by taking an individualized, adaptive assessment to determine what they already know and what they are ready to learn.

Student MyPie
MyPie: The ALEKS Pie summarizes a student's current knowledge and offers topics that the student is ready to learn next. The darkened portion of each pie slice represents the topics that the student has mastered and the lighter portion represents what the student has yet to learn.

Student Graphing Tool
Input Tools: ALEKS provides a free response environment and sophisticated input tools that avoid multiple-choice and require students to demonstrate content mastery.

Student Problem Two
Learning Mode: The Learning Mode provides students with practice problems, and offers explanations of topics and procedures as needed. Once a student has demonstrated mastery in the Learning Mode, the topic is added to the ALEKS Pie and new material that the student is now ready to learn becomes available.

Student Explanations
Explanations: When a student is working on a particular problem, she can access an explanation of that problem by clicking on the "Explain" button. The explanation typically provides a step-by-step solution, with commentary. In some cases, an alternative or more detailed explanation is also available.

Student Feedback
Feedback: Students receive immediate feedback and, in some cases, suggestions for correcting mistakes.

Review: At any time, students have the ability to review topics they have previously or recently mastered. To view topics that were added in the Learning Mode, students can click on the "Review" button on the ALEKS toolbar and can work on additional problems for review.

Worksheets: Students have the ability to print out 16-question worksheets for additional practice or review. These worksheets are uniquely generated based on the student's current knowledge.

Student Problem Two
ALEKS QuickTables: QuickTables is a research-based, math fact mastery program for multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction.

Student QuickTables Games
QuickTables Interactive Games: Provide additional review and built-in rewards.

Master Account

Master Homepage
Master Account Homepage: Easily manage all student accounts, monitor student progress, view customized resources, and more.

Master Attendance Report
Attendance Report: Track student time spent in ALEKS per day, the topics attempted, and the topics mastered and added to the ALEKS Pie.

Master Progress Report
Student Progress Report: Track student progress made throughout the course. The blue bar represents the percentage of course material that the student has mastered during an ALEKS assessment; the green bar represents the percentage of new topics the student has mastered in Learning Mode since the last assessment; and the yellow bar represents the percentage of topics the student has yet to learn in order to complete the course.

Master Quiz Results
Quiz Results: Quizzes are automatically graded and the results are available to both the parent and student immediately. View a quiz results sample report (PDF).

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