# ALEKS

I have something to brag about.  My 10 year old son has done his math everyday for the last month without complaining!  Is this due to my fabulous parenting skills?  What about my exciting teaching?  Unfortunately the answer is no on both counts.  As part of the Homeschool Crew, I’ve been given a free trial of ALEKS math for the last month.

What is ALEKS?
To quote from their website:

ALEKS is a web-based, artificially intelligent assessment and learning system. ALEKS uses adaptive questioning to quickly and accurately determine exactly what a student knows and doesn’t know in a course. ALEKS then instructs the student on the topics she is most ready to learn. As a student works through a course, ALEKS periodically reassesses the student to ensure that topics learned are also retained. ALEKS courses are very complete in their topic coverage and ALEKS avoids multiple choice questions. A student who shows a high level of mastery of an ALEKS course will be successful in the actual course she is taking.

My son has really enjoyed using ALEKS. His favorite thing is the fact that it is on-line and does not require writing. Another benefit to him is that with ALEKS, once he proves that he understands a concept, he doesn’t have to continue working problems on it. He also has some control over what he studies in a given day. (Though the program does make you change topics periodically.)

So what do I like about ALEKS? (Besides the no whining!)I have found ALEKS to be a very thorough mathematics course. My son is using Level 6, but the program is available from Level 3 through PreCalculus. The parent places the student in the approximate level of the child, and an assessment is made on the student’s initial log-in. From that assessment, a pie chart is constructed showing how much of a particular topic is known and how much needs to be learned. The student uses the pie chart to pick his topic of study for each lesson. Below is what my son’s pie chart looks like after about 1 month using the program.

The dark, center portions of the pie chart indicate what has been learned, while the lighter, outside portions show how much more needs to be learned. The parent can generate a report with this pie graph as well as a detailed list of what topics the student can do and what the student is ready to do next.

I love that this program is not like a game. The computer is serving merely as a tool and not as entertainment.  I’m not saying that learning should not be fun.  On the contrary, I think that learning is fun!  It’s just that I fear that many children are not discovering the joy of learning that is derived just from learning.  No rewards are necessary because learning is the reward.  But, I digress a bit.

The very best thing about ALEKS is how it teaches the student what he needs to learn.  There are not pages of problems on a concept that the child already understands.  On the other hand, the program does not advance and leave the child not understanding a concept.  There are periodic assessments that serve both as review and a guide to see the student’s overall progress. ALEKS can help teach the subject that is probably the most feared by homeschool teachers.

I personally love math and feel confident in my ability to teach it.  However, I still see benefits of a program like this.  One is that it takes less time for me.  I have struggled this year trying to add my 3rd child into the teaching mix.  Technically last year was kindergarten for him, but he wasn’t really ready for much formal schooling.  This year I have had to work hard to find the time for the individual attention he needs.  Having my oldest use ALEKS for math has freed up some time in my schedule to teach my younger son. It also has helped my son’s attitude about doing math.  He really doesn’t like to do anything that has even a slight hint of busy work.  He doesn’t understand why I require him to practice.  With ALEKS, it’s the computer that thinks he needs more practice and not me.

I should mention that I don’t think ALEKS is ideal for every child.  I also had an account for my 3rd grade daughter.  She completed the assessment but it was very tedious for her.  She doesn’t particularly enjoy working on the computer and she had more trouble with the mechanics of entering her answers and choosing her problems.  Some of the issues stem from her age, but also she is much more of a pencil and paper type of child.  She’s the type of child that in kindergarten would get out workbooks and do schoolwork without me telling her to. So, if your child is on the young side and not particularly fond of the computer, I would recommend waiting.
ALEKS can be purchased for \$19.95 per month, \$99.95 for 6 months, or \$179.95 for 12 months. There are also family subscription discounts available for the 6 month and 12 month subscriptions.

You can read The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew Blog for more reviews of ALEKS and other great products.