Thursday, December 18, 2008

Review: ALEKS

Maybe it's me. In fact, I'm pretty sure that it has to be me ... because I am about the only homeschooler I know of who has given ALEKS math a try and wasn't immediately sold.

ALEKS is a
“web-based, artificially intelligent assessment and learning system"--ie, an online math program that tracks what your kids know and keeps reviewing yet-to-be-mastered material. This is a complete curriculum; if you use ALEKS, you really don't need to supplement in the area of math beyond perhaps giving your children the chance to apply what they're learning.

And, for me, therein lies the rub. This is math completely out of context. Knowledge for knowledge's sake. Joyless, flat and lacking in the "ah-ha!" moments that make homeschooling so very beautiful.

ALEKS instruction is thorough and detailed. Your child will learn, don't get me wrong. The explanations are relatively clear and the amount of drill and practice is just right. Lessons are presented in a no-nonsense tone that doesn't employ games or other "distractions." There's even a complete report emailed to the parent to help you track progress, just in case you wonder what's happening in the area of math (this program requires no involvement on behalf of a breathing instructor). I have no doubt that children educated through ALEKS score exceedingly well on standardized tests.

Really, it couldn't be easier.

But it also couldn't be any less like the warm exploratory sessions I prefer in our homeschool, where math is absorbed, context is retained and a good time is had by all.


Lydia said...

You are not alone. Aleks is everything I hate about standardized education.

Kristin said...

This is helpful, thanks. We're mostly "unschooled", "Better Late Than Early" focused. Math has been very casual, real-life based thus far (the oldest is 9).

I am wondering what you are doing to teach math. I blogged about a college-level math program that appears to be similar to ALEKS and very effective. Since I struggled in engineering school (with all the math....due to poor instructors, IMO), I thought this approach would have helped me. And was thinking it might be effective for my 9 year old. But your point on "out of context" makes much sense.

Anyway, I'm interested in your thoughts if you have the time.