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Product Review: ALEKS

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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.

 

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11 Comments

  1. Not just your kids….mine gave it a try this week and were also unimpressed! Will definitly will do Teaching Textbooks and Derek is doing Video Text Algebra.

  2. I was tempted to do the 30-day-trial — just, you know, to see where my kids are — but based on your and Jane's comments, I think I'm going to pass. My kids are pretty unenthusiastic about math as is. Any that further dampens their excitment could be disastrous!

  3. Both of you can feel better knowing that it wasn't just your kids. My kids didn't like it either. In fact, my 11 yr old who went to public school through 2nd grade said this feels like school. We were done after that! lol

  4. I'm sorry you're kids weren't impressed, but I totally would have tried it out before official school too! That's the way I am.

    It sounds interesting though, I will go for the trial offer. At the very least it sounds like a great way to evaluate you kids strengths and weaknesses.

  5. We're in the middle of our free one-month trial of ALEKS Geometry. My son (14) and I are extremely pleased. We used Teaching Textbooks for Pre-Algebra and for Algebra I. Prior to that, we used k12.com math. ALEKS has helped my son gain much deeper understanding of Algebra 1 concepts that make up about 20% of the Geometry pie. My only debate is whether we're going to go month-to-month, six-month chunk or full 12 month subscription.

  6. I am currently using it for my college course in chemistry. It is the schools first time using this program and my class happened to be the guinea pigs. I can not stand this program. It has a bunch of useless extra work that teaches you nothing. It piles a bunch of unnecessary junk. This is the worst online software I think ever to be used. I do not recommend it what so ever. At one point it kept marking me wrong, so I decided to take a picture of my work and compare it to the answers they gave me….it was word for word the exact same answer. I am not sure what is up with this program but I despise it like nothing ever before.
    -frustrated student.
    P.S. This software has taught me nothing.

  7. My son has used Teaching Textbooks 7th grade & Pre-Algebra. I like it – in that he is learning at his own pace with good instruction from the program. I have always been worried that he isn’t retaining the material. After researching math programs (again), I read online someone saying that they used Aleks for their kids with Teaching Textbooks – just to make sure they learned everything well. So, I found a 2 month free trial of Aleks. My son recently took the assessment and found that his pie is mostly incomplete (even though he is making A’s and B’s on his tests in TT)! I am so happy to have found Aleks – now I don’t have to worry about whether he will actually “know” Pre-Algebra after completing his pie. This will alleviate a great amount of fears of him being able to do well on his ACT test in a couple of years.

  8. I love using ALEKS for my 6 children I have used Abeka,(lower levels) Teaching Text Books(upper levels) , Video Text(Algebra and Geometry) and was starting on Saxon(upper level). I used the curriculum that best fit my children individually. ALEKS has filled in the gaps that I had no idea were missing. My children love the program and can’t seem to stop doing math problems. They love the challenge of filling up the pie graph. I give them rewards for every 50 lessons they complete. Then they will receive a grand prize at the end of each subject completed. The reason I chose to use their trial was I have two children that needed their math to finish off their Associates of Science Transfer degree (dual high school courses for high school(home schooled). Here in Washington state they offer this for free if your child can test into college level courses during they their junior year of high school. They will not graduate with out college algebra. In spite of taking the above courses my daughters were not able to test past the high school math even with a near 4.0 GPA. ALEKS is helping them to fill in the gaps. My other children will not run into the problem as I intend to stick with ALEKS as long as I can come up with the money to pay for this program. My children are signed up for 3rd grade, 6th grade, beginning and intermediate algebra( 2 children) and 2 oldest high schoolers are in college algebra. I highly recommend you give it a try especially if the math program that you are currently working on is not flowing for you or your child. My children ages range from 8 to 18. Teresa

  9. I have to use aleks for my homework assignments given by my professor! IT IS HORRIBLE! if you write the wrong answer it adds on a whole bunch more to answer. It also forces you to read the “explanation” which is no help to me at all. not to mention, the assessments they give you are extremely long (they take about an hour or more).

  10. We love ALEKS it is perfect for my math gifted child often she never even looks at the explanations and she only has to do 3 problems right to move on. She enjoys the freedom to choose what to work on next. I like that though she only has to do a couple of problems to move on it does make her review it and on a schedule but again only 1 or problems is gets it right. We did hate the quick tables for the same reasons you stated so we just don’t use that option.

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