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ALEKS Online Math Tutorial Program Review by Donna Campos

ALEKS Corporation
15460 Laguna Canyon Road
Irvine, CA 92618

ALEKS is an acronym for "Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces." This Internet-based mathematics program can be used as a tool for Higher Education, as K-12 targeted instruction correlated to state standards, or as an independent use curriculum. For the purpose of this review, it has been used as an independent use curriculum--as a personal tutor, which is the suggested use for homeschoolers. Users have access to a full course library without a textbook requirement. Paper and pencil and a variety of other mathematical tools may be useful to the student when working certain problems, but answers, grading, and actual coursework are done on the computer. Internet access is required to use ', but this also enables students to use the program at different locations when convenient. Courses are available for students in grades 3-12 and beyond, and available course offerings range from elementary-level titles to middle school Geometry and Pre-Algebra as well as high school Algebra, Geometry, Algebra 2, Pre-Calculus, and Trigonometry, just to name a few. 

Two or more accounts are set up for use of the program: a master account for use by the parent and an account for each student user. Each account has its own login name and password. The master account includes quizzing ability and automated reports so that parents can monitor progress. It also features a communication system that allows parents and students to leave reminders or other information for one another. The purchaser pays to use the program on a month-to-month, six-month, or annual basis. If a student completes the course requirements before the purchased time is entirely used up, parents can simply move the child into another course of their choosing. A User's Guide is available in both Web versions and PDF for parents to peruse at their leisure, and customer service is readily available. A Training Center is also available, with instructions on each aspect of using ALEKS

ALEKS targets gaps in student knowledge determined from an initial assessment and adjusted throughout the use of the program. Upon first logging in, the student is led through a tutorial that explains the use of the program. Then the student begins the initial assessment, usually consisting of 20 to 30 unique questions determined by the previous answers of the student. After the initial assessment is completed, the student is presented with a pie chart that displays material already mastered, material that still needs to be mastered, and areas the student is actively learning. This visual presentation of what the student knows can be incredibly motivating throughout the course. From this point on, the student is able to select various topics to work on, based on the information in the pie chart. He or she will continue to see improvement on the chart as mastery is achieved. ALEKS continuously updates the chart and systematically adjusts questions and content to target the student's specific needs. 

Parents monitor progress via reports emailed periodically from ALEKS. Also, by logging into the master account, parents can monitor attendance, topics worked, and the student's pie chart quickly and easily. The program even provides a projected time to completion, based on the student's rate of work. This information is incredibly helpful when determining exactly where your child is in the process of mastering the material. A feature called ALEKS Quick Tables may also be assigned by the parents, with a particular focus on only addition, subtraction, division, or multiplication facts. Parents can design and print individualized worksheets with specific details as to the number and types of problems. Visual tracking of progress is also provided in Quick Tables; a color-keyed table displays exactly what the student currently knows. 

Our family finds ALEKS a wonderful addition to our homeschool. In our busy household we have children ranging from toddlers to those about to graduate from high school. So having a program that provides math mastery for independent learners is a tremendous help. Our daughter had easily cleared our local Algebra exit exam, but I knew she did not know the material to the level we desired for her. An adequate grade is not what we wanted; we wanted her to have mastery of the subject. ALEKS provided for this need. 

A child without adequate independent study habits might need closer monitoring when using ALEKS, but the program certainly allows for that. Parents could assign a certain amount of time to be spent daily and then monitor whether the child was fulfilling that requirement. If your student simply hates work on the computer, ALEKS may not be the best choice as a math program. Likewise, those who require the use of math manipulatves will not find ALEKS an ideal learning tool. Also be aware that a child needs to be reading at least at a third-grade level before attempting this program. 

Math skills are essential in all walks of life, and the assurance that our students are achieving mastery is truly priceless to our family. The flexibility of either a monthly, bi-annual, or annual commitment makes ALEKS a workable option for most homeschools. The actual price is comparable to other full courses offering the same information. Our family really needed a program that would allow me to focus on younger children while the older children studied independently. ALEKS filled that need beautifully. I encourage you to try ALEKS through their trial offer to see if it will work for your family. You will certainly enjoy knowing that your students are mastering math with greater understanding than any pile of worksheets or five-pound textbook could offer.

Product review by Donna Campos, Senior Product Reviewer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, October 2009