Math. One single word in the English language that can conjure up so many feelings and emotions. For many those feelings and emotions are things like dread, confusion, frustration, and even hatred and anger. Although I don’t hate math (don’t really love it either though), I do worry about my ability to help my child understand math when he doesn’t “get it” the same way that I do.
During the time I was teaching in the classroom, I realized that there was not always just one, single way to solve math problems. In fact, there are many ways to get to the correct answer. I believe that the learning style of the person has a direct correlation on how they approach math and are best able to understand those not-so-concrete concepts. The problem arises when my learning style and, therefore, mathematical approach are different from that of my students or child. I want more than anything to help my child understand and master the important math concepts. But sometimes I just can’t find the right words to do that. So when I give my son a tool that will help him do just that I say “YES!” I had the opportunity to try out such a tool from the great people at Educents and ALEKS / McGraw-Hill.
ALEKS (Assessment and Learning in Knowledge Spaces) is an online math program that is designed to determine what the user knows and doesn’t know and then provide targeted learning on the needed areas. As the student progresses through the ALEKS program, it will reassess where they are to not only check for understanding of new topics but also retention of previously learned topics. The ALEKS program is available for all grade levels including post-high school level courses. Also, to the math course which covers all the components of a good math curriculum (number sense and operations, measurement, fractions/decimals, geometry, algebra, graphing, and more depending on the level) there is also a program called Quick Tables that focuses on Math Facts. Whether you are looking to remediate math, get ahead, or just find a comprehensive math curriculum, ALEKS has it all!
As a mom and teacher, I had the opportunity to check-out the ALEKS program before I asked my child to start it. I was very happy with the comprehensive curriculum and the depth at which the topics were covered. I loved that I had the ability to select a level for my child to work at, and the ability to change that level as needed.
When I first showed ALEKS to my son he was very excited. He loves using the computer and is usually highly engaged to any lessons or activities we do on the computer. He started with the initial testing phase where the ALEKS program determines areas that he has already mastered and areas that he needs additional practice and instruction. We divided this up over two days because I wanted to make sure he was doing his best work and not slacking off as he got tired. Once the placement was done, he was able to navigate the program easily and decide what areas of math he wanted to work on. I could also send him to a specific area based on our lessons.
The ALEKS program uses an easy to use and understand pie chart that helps the learner see what they have mastered and what they have left to learn.
Within each section of the pie, there are two colors. The darker color represents that portion of that concept that has been mastered while the lighter color represents what is left to be learned or mastered. My son enjoyed this feature and the visual that allowed him to track his progress. By just clicking on an area he could see what the available concepts were that he could learn.
The only negative that I saw in the program was that there was a lot of reading involved. For most students that does not pose an issue. However, my son is dyslexic which makes reading a struggle. This meant that I needed to be there to assist with the reading through the lessons. While I don’t mind that, it is a reminder to him of his reading struggles. He is at the age where he wants to be able to complete these things independently, and that was difficult through this program. We searched for a feature that would allow the program to read to him but were not able to find one. Other than that one issue, we enjoyed the ALEKS program.
I am a stickler for math facts because I know that as my child progresses in math, a solid understanding of those basic facts will make future math so much easier. I have my son practicing math facts using another online program every day. Let’s just say it is not his favorite thing we do each day, and I often endure the “do I have to?” moans and groans that come with that. However, when I introduced him to the Quick Tables program, all of that stopped. Although he was still working on his math facts, there was something about the Quick Tables approach and format that resonated better with him. During our ALEKS trial, I gave him a choice on which program he wanted to use for math facts. Every day he chose Quick Tables. What I loved was that ultimately he ended up spending more time practicing math facts and with a much better attitude. My son also loved tracking his progress on the Quick Tables grid, where the different colors represented his growth on a particular math fact.
The Quick Tables program was fun and something my son could do independently, which he loved.
ALEKS/Quick Tables Pros:
- Comprehensive math curriculum (elementary through college level classes available)
- Individualized for each student based on their needs
- Easy to track progress
- Fun and engaging
ALEKS / Quick Tables Cons:
- Lots of reading made it difficult for my child with dyslexia to work independently
All in all, I would highly recommend this program. It can be used in the traditional classroom by teachers looking for ways to differentiate their math instruction. It can be used by parents at home who are looking to help their children fill in gaps, review what they are learning, or get ahead. It can be used by homeschooling families as a comprehensive math curriculum. Want to learn more about the ALEKS program? Check out this short video or visit the ALEKS web page!
Amy is a former kindergarten teacher turned homeschooling mom. She focuses on multi-sensory teaching methods and making learning fun and engaging. Amy shares her teaching tips and resources at Teaching in Blue Jeans.