Math sans textbook? Could there be such a thing? Well, this is the computer age and as we move to a more “paperless” mode of operation in many realms of our lives (“so long” snail mail, “hello” making payments online!), it stands to reason that school subjects will do the same.
Enter Aleks Math. A complete math curriculum for ALL levels of math (including college level and business math) and not a single bulky textbook to be had! Aleks is a computer based program that uses an “artificial intelligence engine and adaptive questioning…” it “assesses a student's knowledge and delivers individualized instruction on the exact topics a student is most ready to learn. As a result, ALEKS targets gaps in student skills and enables immediate success in learning new material.” Aleks seems to have thought of everything. It is very user friendly and my kids really enjoyed it, much to my chagrin.
I am admittedly a textbook gal. Not because I like lugging around the textbooks but because the textbook is used much like a storybook; you start on the left side and keep going until you get to the right. Concepts are taught sequentially. I am told, “Here, do this.” Since math is really not my thing, I find security in the structure. Therefore, having a math curriculum completely online was pushing the envelope a bit, for me!
Well, since I am not the one actually doing the math, my computer-phobia is not the bottom line here. What did my kids think of Aleks? Other than the fact they had to do math during the summer (gasp!) in order to review the program; they loved it!
Beginning their math journey by taking an assessment test (which took around 30-45 minutes to complete), they enjoyed seeing their results in their own personal “pie”. Not the kind of “pi” that is divisible to the zillionth degree, but a colorful picture of a pie that represented what they know and what they need to know.
Each subject to be mastered for the year has a different portioned and colored “slice”. What they have mastered thus far is shown in a darker version of the color that slowly fills in the “slice” as they show understanding of the ideas. My kids (grades 6 and 9), really liked being able to choose the subject they were working on for the day. However, if they weren’t ready for a section, Aleks was smart enough to tell them they weren’t ready to work on that quite yet; there were other things to master first.
Furthermore, as the teacher I can easily look at their work and see what has been accomplished and what they need to concentrate on. Aleks also sends the teacher an email update on what each student is doing, how long they have worked and what they may need to focus on, among other summarized things.
Aleks is like having a tutor, trapped right their in your monitor! (That’s what I have secretly wanted to do to all of the brainy math-whiz sorts out there! Ha-ha!). Not sure what obtuse or acute means? Click on the word and an explanation, with examples, is given. Not sure how to use a particular formula? Click on the help button and watch a demonstration. Still can’t solve for the correct answer? Click on the “explain” button and see the entire problem worked for you. Afterward you can try and solve it yourself. Then keep working on similar ones to show mastery. A continual wrong answer will prompt a pop-up that says something like, “Let’s work on something else for awhile and come back to this later.” Which is a nice way of saying, “You are about to get really frustrated! Why don’t you take a break!”
This is math for the modern, computer savvy kids and, although “savvy” may be a stretch in describing my girls, they caught on quickly and really seem to really like it. At $179.95 per year with family discounts available, it is comparable to the cost of most math programs out there. Furthermore, you can get a free 48 hour trial through their website at www.aleks.com
Personally, it was a bit too much information and too many choices for my non-math mind. I think because math doesn’t come naturally to me, it made me feel rather overwhelmed to have so many options. As I said, there is security in buying a book that says, “Start here” and then builds on each concept until you get to the end. However, that is a selfish reason not to consider using the Aleks program. Especially if your kids are motivated by doing math in such an innovative way! They are the ones that need to be excited to conquer math and do their work without pulling their/your hair out. I know that, though it may take me awhile to find my way around their website, eventually the familiarity and comfort level will change as I work the site regularly.
We already have our math program set for this year but Aleks is in strong contention for the year following. My kids have already expressed their desire to give Aleks a try and that ranks really high with this reviewer!