I remember last school year hearing lots of buzz about ALEKS and wondering what it was. I never wondered enough to actually seek to find out because…well, I don’t know. I’m weird like that. I knew it had to do with math and that it was done online, but that’s about it.
Now, after spending some time reviewing it, I know that ALEKS is an acronym that stands for Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces and that it’s an online math curriculum for grades 3 through 12. Having recalled hearing people say how much their kids enjoyed the program, I was really looking forward to getting my guys started on it.
They were not impressed. I admit that their lack of enthusiasm for the site was probably directly related to my bright idea that, since we were given access to the ALEKS site two weeks before starting school, that would be the prime time to try it out before starting our regular schoolwork. Quit shaking your head at me. I now realize what a foolish thought that was and how it probably unfairly tainted my kids’ entire perception of the program.
The first thing we did — which was probably the beginning of the end, as far as my kids were concerned — was the assessment. Students are given 25-30 problems so that ALEKS can determine what they know, what they don’t know, and where they should start. According to the website, ALEKS “uses adaptive questioning to quickly and accurately determine exactly what a student knows and doesn’t know in a course.”
The assessment portion was really interesting to watch. I decided to input both Josh and Megan’s grade level as 3rd for a starting point. You would think, then, that they would be given similar problems on their assessment, but they weren’t. The program seemed to begin honing in on their individual strengths and weaknesses right away. I noticed that, if they got the answer to a particular type of problem wrong, that same type of problem would show up later in the assessment, though often worded a different way. I guess that was the adaptive questioning at work.
Once the kids completed the assessment, they were taken to a page with a pie chart that explained how the different colors on the chart showed what they know and what they’d be learning. The program worked with them interactively to show them how the pie chart worked, then, they could click on one of a few choices from each area of the chart — basic operation, fractions, etc.
They then worked through a set of those problem types with their “online instructor,” a little onscreen character that instructs them as they go. Each week, I got a detailed report showing me exactly what the kids had done that week, from how long they had spent working online to what they had mastered, including a percentage of overall mastery.
One of the aspects of the program that I was most excited about was the Quick Tables feature. It’s set up like a multiplication chart and the answers are color-coded based on whether they have been mastered, are being practiced, or have yet to be introduced. I was looking forward to the kids being able to practice multiplication drills online. However, Josh got really frustrated at the outset, trying to gain access to use the Quick Tables.
He was supposed to input sets of numbers (not answer a problem, just key in the number that he saw onscreen) as quickly as possible. However, he was asked to do this several times (I guess trying to either get him up to a certain speed or get a baseline for how quickly he could input the numbers) before he could access the Quick Tables. I think he would have enjoyed it more if he could have just jumped in and started answering problems.
If you’re looking for online math games to help your kids improve their skills while playing video or arcade-like games, ALEKS is probably not it. However, if you’re looking for an actual online math curriculum that builds up to new concepts in a predictable, logical manner, ALEKS may be just what you’re looking for. It is an online math curriculum, not a game.
Actually, ALEKS offers a variety of curriculum, not just math. You’ll find everything from algebra and geometry to calculus, chemistry and physics. Additionally, some ALEKS course products are American Council for Education (ACE) credit-recommended, meaning students may be eligible for college credit at participating colleges. Costs for the program range from $19.95 per month to $179.95 per twelve months for an individual child with family discounts available.
I received this product free for the purpose of reviewing it. I received no other compensation for this review. The opinions expressed in this review are my personal, honest opinions. Actual results may vary.