Monday, December 13, 2010

Review: ALEKS

I had heard of ALEKS before, but to be completely honest, I really had no idea what it was when this review was presented to me.

So what is ALEKS you ask?  Well, ALEKS stands for Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces.  If you'd like a quick and easy answer, it's a math-learning website.  But that doesn't really give it the credit it's due.  So the 'official' description of ALEKS is this:

"...a Web-based, artificially intelligent assessment and learning system that uses adaptive questioning to quickly and accurately determine exactly what a student knows and doesn't know in a course. ALEKS offers truly individualized instruction that meets the student at her learning level and instructs her on the exact topics that she is most ready to learn."

ALEKS can provide you with the instruction and support that you need to homeschool your children in mathematics for grades 3-12. With a comprehensive course library ranging from elementary school math to complex subjects such as PreCalculus (as well as higher education science), ALEKS acts much like a human tutor to help take the stress off of homeschooling parents.  ALEKS is accessible from virtually any computer with Internet access, making it a flexible and mobile educational solution for your children.

-Complete Curriculum Solution for Math with Access to Full Course Library
-No Textbook Required
-Artificial Intelligence Targets Gaps in Student Knowledge
-Assessment and Individualized Learning for Grades 3-12
-Master Account - Monitor and Direct Learning Progress
-Unlimited Online Access - PC & Mac Compatible

Since our oldest son, who's 11, has struggled just a bit with fractions I felt he might get the best use out of this site so he helped me with my review.  The first step, once you purchase a subscription to ALEKS, is that your student(s) will begin by taking an individualized, adaptive assessment to determine what they already know and what they are ready to learn next.

Once they have finished that they will be shown their 'pie'.  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.

While ALEKS appears to be a wonderful tool, my only real issue with it is that our family has always focused on the mastery way of learning math as opposed to the spiral method and the ALEKS assessment includes questions on several topics that my son has not learned yet.  This made his pie look like he knew very little, which was a bit discouraging for him.  However, students can work on one particular concept at a time until mastery is acheived, so if we had a paid subscription that we could use over an extended period of time I can see my children really liking and doing well with ALEKS.
Subscription prices are as follows:
*$19.95 per student, per month, or
*only $99.95 every 6 months, or
*only $179.95 every 12 months.
They also have a family discount plan.  And just for my readers, ALEKS has graciously extended a one-month FREE trial!

Visit ALEKS for 1-Month Trial

 While I really like ALEKS and belive it would be a great help in our homeschooling, our family simply can not justify spending this amount of money on something that isn't crucial.  Would it help?  Yes.  Would my children enjoy it?  No doubt.  But is it a neccesary purchase for us?  No, it is not.  While we would use ALEKS every day in our homeschooling, we do have our wonderful math books that we have used for years that are also getting the job done for a lot less.  For our family, four student accounts, even with the family discount plan, would cost us $300 for six months.  That's just not in our budget and I'm afraid that it's not going to be in a lot of homeschool family's budgets, the majority of whom are one-income families.

However, if you have a struggling math student and would be willing to pay for a personal tutor who is available 24/7, then ALEKS may just be what you're looking for.  Here's some more information to help you see just how many great things ALEKS has to offer...

ALEKS provides a free response environment and sophisticated input tools that avoid multiple-choice and require students to demonstrate content mastery.


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.

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.

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

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.

QuickTables is a research-based, math fact mastery program for multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction.

Interactive games provide additional review and built-in rewards.

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

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

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

Quizzes are automatically graded and the results are available to both the parent and student immediately.

So, overall I would give ALEKS an A-.  The 'A' for how well it is laid out and the numerous amount of help and options it offers.  Their customer service response time and the friendliness of their staff also contributes to that 'A'.  I had some issues setting up a second student account for our other son and while the issue still hasn't been completely resolved, I can't complain about the helpful emails I received regarding this issue. 
The 'minus' comes after that 'A' simply because of the cost.  If a subscription were half the cost it currently is, then I would seriously considering purchasing a subscription for our family.

*As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I received this product free of charge in exchange for my review and honest opinion of it. As a believer and follower of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, I promise you that all my reviews contain only my own honest opinions...'cause He told me to not lie!

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