Monday, October 10, 2011

Aleks

We decided to try out Aleks, for Math. Really, the only reason we considered it was the fact that they were offering a 2 month free trial. 2 months seemed like a long enough time to really get a feel for how the kids like something and how well it works for them. I don't like short trials. My kids love something for the novelty of it, but that can wear off after a month or two. So, trials that are a lesson, a day, or even a week can be more challenging to figure out. With some things, we can tell right away that we don't like them or that they aren't challenging enough. However, some things can seem cool at first, but interest wanes fast. So, since this program had a decent trial period, I decided it was worth trying out.

This should be our last full week of our Aleks trial. We will not be continuing with it after the trial is done. This is not an inexpensive program. It is $20 a month, $100 for 6 months, or $180 for a full year. That's just for 1 student. There are discounts for more than one student for the 6 month & 1 year plans. However, it would still be $170 for both kids for 6 months and just over $300 for both kids for a year.

Now, a note about price:

Aleks is not an overly expensive program. It is pretty much mid-priced compared to other Math programs.

Saxon is a pretty popular Math program. Saxon ranges from about $69 to about $120 per level, not counting the manipulatives for the lower levels.

Singapore is another popular one. It seems that you need to purchase that one in pieces, and it appears that it can get up to $160 for one level (this is, of course, dependent on the level).

Math-U-See costs anywhere from $65 to $120 per level, without manipulatives.

Mastering Mathematics, the program we're using for Jay, covers 1st-6th grade Math and cost me less than $150 (and came with games, flashcards, & manipulatives).

Life of Fred, which Dea has been using & Jay will start next year (he'll do the LOF Fractions and Decimals & Percents books alongside the Mastering Mathematics books on the same topics, and will then continue with LOF Pre-Algebra books & up), ranges from $19 to $55 per level.

VideoText Algebra & Geometry costs about $100 per module. Each full course consists of 6 modules. It does say that the Algebra course covers 3 years of Algebra (Pre-Algebra, Alg 1, & Alg 2) and the Geometry course can be used as Geometry & Pre-Calc. They also offer a discount. All of Algebra or Geometry for $529.

Considering we've been using Life of Fred and Mastering Mathematics, it would take some serious benefits to convince me to switch to something so much more expensive. Aleks, while not a bad program, has not convinced to me to spend that much money.

The lowest level Aleks offers is 3rd grade. Since Jay is in 2nd grade, it made sense to start him in the lowest level available. As of his last assessment on Aleks, he has mastered 35% of the 3rd grade material. Aleks uses the traditional scope & sequence of the public schools. Mastering Mathematics, which he's been using since Kindergarten, is a mastery approach. This means that, while he is well ahead in some concepts (like learning long division), he has little to no experience with other concepts (like fractions and geometry concepts). So, the assessments at Aleks are not 100% accurate for him, since it won't allow him to do certain things that he can do and grades on things his regular program hasn't introduced yet. His original assessment put him at 22%, and he's only done about 13 hours total on the site. I'd say that a 13% increase in 13 hours is good progress.

Dea, is not good with tests. She gets so worried about getting something wrong that she freezes up. Plus, she  lacks effort when the subject/topic is not of interest to her. So, I was not surprised when her initial assessment on Aleks put her at 20% in Algebra. Her most recent assessment has her at 42%, and she has only spent about 23 1/2 hours on it. That is also a decent increase.

My biggest problem is that it won't allow them to study certain things. Dea still has topics in the Arithmetic Readiness section that it will not allow her to do yet. It has decided that she has to prove mastery of topics in other areas before finishing the last 2 topics in Arithmetic Readiness. I have no doubt that she could easily finish off those last 2 topics, but it won't let her.

My kids simply don't follow a typical scope & sequence, and this program does. This prevents them from being able to truly move at their own pace. Since the assessments leave out some things that my kids know, they are not accurate measures of where my kids are & what they know.

Even if I liked this program, it still wouldn't work for the kids. The novelty has worn off, and they are bored with it. It takes more reminders every day to get them on it. Dea has been working through the Algebra text my sis used in college last year, and prefers that to doing Aleks.

The kids' lack of interest in the program, the lack of truly individualized learning, not allowing them to work at their own pace, and price combine to create one conclusion - this program is not worth the jump in annual cost for Math for us.

I am not saying that this is not a good program. I'm not saying that it isn't worth the cost. All I'm saying is that it does not have all the elements that I am looking for in a Math program, and is too expensive for me to justify the price if we would still need to use other materials.