Dec 13, 2010

One of the most common questions that a homeschooling mom may hear is "what about calculus?" Well the hapless homeschooling mom no longer need quake in her boots, ALEKS is at hand. To quote from the website, "Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces 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."

ALEKS has a series of courses one can access, from elementary school math to the no longer dreaded calculus. One can also study science (such as Physics) or business (Principles of Accounting, Business Statistics and more). Once the student is registered for a course they take an assessment test. Their results are shown in the form of a pie chart with each piece representing specific topics. In the case of the "Principles of Accounting" course that my daughter Grace took, the slices are "Basic Terminology", "Basic Transactions and Financial Statements", "Journal Entries", "Adjusting Entries", "Closing Process and Financial Statements" and "Merchandising Accounting". What the student knows at the outset is displayed as a darker section of the piece. The student can scroll their mouse over each topic to see the subtitles within each topic. Under "Basic Terminology" the subtopics are "Account Classification into Financial Statements", "Information Classification into Financial Statements" and "Components of Annual Report". The student is given the option of which topic they wish to study, being prevented from advancing beyond the level that they can understand. When the student chooses their subject they are walked step by step through the lesson. At any point they can click on a term of concept and another window is pulled up that gives a definition and practical example. Once the concept is explained the student has a series of practice questions. If the student gets the questions correct they move to the next concept. If they fail to get the questions correct they are slowly walked through the concept again with more in depth information until the student repeatedly demonstrates an understanding. There are printable worksheets available to the student in each topic. There are tools such as a calculator and dictionary available should the student feel the need to utilize them. There are also quizzes along the way.

The teacher (mom in this case) are kept informed of the progress of the student via email. The weekly email informs the teacher of the concepts mastered, the amount of time the student spent on the course and the quiz results.

The benefits of this program are many. This is a huge help for the math challenged parent. They can trust that the student is not simply sliding through the program with a less than secure grasp of the subject matter. They can keep abreast of their student's progress. They can feel assured that the student is being thoroughly taught in a step by step manner while taking advantage of the flexibility of accessing their "teacher" 24/7.

I really liked the benefits that ALEKS offered. I found myself working through one course with my older children simply because I enjoyed (re)learning a subject I had found difficult when I was in school in a non stressful yet structured format.

For us the only downside in using this program consistently would be cost. A three month unlimited online subscription is $19.95 per student, per month; $99.95 for a six month period or $179.06 per year. While this cost is not out of line per se for a higher level one year math curriculum where it would fail to be the wisest choice for us would be n that we could not reuse it for subsequent students. When one has twelve students, this becomes significant! They do have a family discount program wherein the more students one enrolls, the more money one saves, up to 43% and for some families this may make the program very reasonable. For our family if we were to use ALEKS we would likely use it as a remedial program in courses that we feel we are not making headway on ourselves and for this purpose the program is very affordable. Best of all, there is a free trial program!

I did receive a free subscription to ALEKS in exchange for my unbiased review. I review curriculum as a part of the This Old Schoolhouse Review Crew.

No comments: