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A Parental Review of ALEKS
An Introduction to ALEKS
ALEKS stands for Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces. This math website is mandatory for many students. What are the pros and cons of the ALEKS math program?
Pros of ALEKS
- The use of a pie chart graph to show progress toward the required work on a subject like fractions, subtraction or division is easy for children at any level to understand. My first grade son understands that there are several areas he has to work in and how far toward the goal has been done.
- The built in help is easy for the children to access. Help is often useful for the children by themselves but frequently requires adult explanation.
- Reporting child's status, time logs and test results is a breeze in ALEKS. This many done, this many right, where your child's strengths lay, where they are weak.
- The system can log time spent working. ALEKS reports this to teachers and parents can access the information as well. This allows the teacher to require 15 minutes spent on addition drills or multiplication review, without relying upon written logs. If the child logs in and then wanders off the play, the teacher will see that they logged in but only a few minutes of work was done. This improves accountability as well as identifying children who take a long time to complete questions, an indication of struggling with the subject matter.
- Your subscription to ALEKS is good for 12 months. Parents who have paid for the school year can have children practice what they learned over the summer using ALEKS, at no additional charge.
- As a website, ALEKS avoids the need to install specialized software.
- ALEKS is available at both school and home. If a child misses part of their math or reading lesson due to illness, doctor's appointments or any other reason, your child (assuming they're well enough to do this) can run through the ALEKS lessons at home or in the evening. Make up work for a missed day no longer requires carting paper back and forth, simply sign on and have the child do the work.
- As a website, ALEKS can be run on any computer if your child has their login credentials. If you're away from home, your child can log in and do their math drills or vocabulary practice on your iPad.
- ALEKS tests for both mastery of the currently worked material and mastery of prior subjects. If your child is working on a multiplication, they'll be tested on addition math facts to ensure they remember that information.
- Children can work at their own pace to a certain degree. Average, accelerated and challenged students all practice at their level and progress at their own speed.
- Using ALEKS at home in conjunction with a private school or home school curriculum allows older students to qualify for honors and Advanced Placement (AP) credit.
- The low cost (at least the rate offered through schools) is cheaper than a few hours of tutoring. If your child's school doesn't use ALEKS, the tuition is an excellent value to get an independent assessment of your child's weak areas and targeted and disciplined drills to work on that subject area.
Cons of the ALEKS Site
- The ALEKS website is highly Java dependant. The website will permit the student to enter a problem section and input an answer. However, if the Java version conflicts or is behind what ALEKS needs, the forward and back buttons don't load on the next page. The only solution is to close the browser, upgrade Java, reboot the computer and re-enter the website.
- Parents do not automatically get their child's password. You must either ask your child or the teacher for it. If your child loses the password, you can't get it from ALEKS, only from the teacher.
- Sites like Khan Academy do a better job of explaining advanced concepts like geometric formulas and estimating.
- Trying to select the area to enter fractions is an act of precision mouse clicking. Younger children need help or direction with this.
- ALEKS runs best on Microsoft Internet Explorer. Mozilla is more prone to requiring reloading of the web page periodically.
- ALEKS purports to teach advanced math courses like algebra, pre-calculus and geometry. These subjects require detailed explanations and, in my opinion, detailed analysis of a student's confusion and identification of where they are struggling. Unlike social studies and science that frequently rely upon memorization, advanced math requires understanding advanced principals and problem solving skills. ALEKS' method is adequate for a skill assessment but not teaching those unfamiliar with these high level math courses.
- Supervision is still required when a child is running drills on ALEKS math. While the graphical screens demonstrate the concepts of fractions and geometry well, it doesn’t keep a six year old entranced and engaged. Stay nearby to keep your student working on ALEKS.
- Rivals like Softschools.com contain sizable free math drill games, whereas ALEKS requires a subscription.