Tuesday, December 16, 2008


I was at a baby shower a few weekends ago visiting with family I hadn’t seen in quite a while. Updates were being given regarding my kids when the expected question came forth, “How do you teach those difficult subjects in high school?” I found myself explaining about independent learners that seek knowledge without it being handed to them easily, finding a good curriculum and utilizing friends with various areas of expertise to fill in the gaps. As I spoke I could tell that most of my audience was a bit unconvinced that it truly was possible to homeschool for high school. Their eyes told me they were seriously considering the thought that I must hold some sort of super power. I wish I would have had my computer because I could have taken them to the ALEKS website and a glimmer of understanding would have instantly shone in their eyes.

ALEKS, Assessment and Learning in Knowledge Spaces, is a phenomenal web-based assessment and learning tool with tremendous potential to help home educators through the rough and rocky subjects of math and science. ALEKS provides specifically targeted individualized instruction to each subscriber. Through the technology of artificial intelligence it offers a "consistent cycle of assessment and education for students".

ALEKS currently offers tutoring/curriculum in math for a variety of ages and a few science courses designed at high school level. ALEKS is completely on-line and therefore accessible from any computer with internet access. The service provides information to enable customers to compare the curriculum content of ALEKS with their State’s standards. Teachers can access detailed information of their student’s progress; making record keeping and evaluations a snap!

If you have ever doubted your ability to handle middle or high school level instruction than you have just found your new best friend in ALEKS. ALEKS offers instruction and tutoring for:

Math for Level 3, 4, 5, and 6 (think grade school)
Middle School Geometry
Middle School Math 1
Middle School Math 2
Middle School Math 3
Foundations of High School Math
Algebra 1
Algebra 2
High School Geometry
Math Prep for the California Exit Exam
Math Prep for the TAKS Exit Exam
AP Statistics (Quantitative)
Math Review for AP Calculus
Math Review for AP Physics
Fundamentals of Accounting (sole proprietorship)
Fundamentals of Accounting (corporation)
Business Math
Adult & Continuing Education classes in Behavioral Science and Science

I had Samantha, age 17, self-professed math hater, test drive ALEKS for my review. She had just completed a textbook version of Algebra 2, but she chose to use ALEKS to review for an anticipated ACT test. The registration process took less than 5 mins. and was followed by a brief 4 min. tutorial regarding how to use the keyboard for Algebraic exercises. Sam worked through all of this without assistance while I sat and took notes.

The first step with ALEKS is to be assessed for future study. The program provided Samantha with a 30 problem assessment test which took her about an hour to complete. She was instructed to use pencil, paper and calculator when necessary then type in or click the correct answers.

Upon completion of the assessment a pie graph divided by topic appeared. This provided a quick visual display of her strengths and weaknesses thus alerting us to her success and mastery of the topics contained in the Algebra 2 course. The pie is the heart of the ALEKS program which only requires you to work on areas still needing mastery. There is no need to spend precious learning time reviewing mastered concepts with this program.

Holding the cursor over a particular area of the pie provided more detailed information regarding the topic. For example, one area titled “Graphs and Functions” listed a subtopic of “graphing lines” with “determining the slope of a line given its graph” in blue. When Sam clicked on the blue link it took her to a sample problem demonstrating the concept with the option of choosing a sample practice problem to complete or an “explanation” option.

When she chose “explanation” the word “slope” was highlighted in the title of the practice/explanation page. Clicking on this word provided instant access in pop up screen format to a detailed dictionary page with definition, explanations, and sample problems. Within just a few moments Sammi had received a bevy of specific information for the math concept that apparently she still needed to master. ALEKS had provided her with assessment, practice and instruction and specific tutoring with a few simple clicks of the mouse. If she desired further practice she would have the option of printing out a 16 question worksheet designed specifically to test her mastery of a topic she wished to review.

"It was easy to learn how the program functioned. I think ALEKS is a good program for anyone that needs help or review in math, because it targets the areas you are struggling with. It also helps you spend less time in the areas you are stronger making it a great study tool", Samantha remarked.

If you still have doubts that ALEKS could help your homeschool they offer a free two day trial on their website. The company has provided me with a one month trial to share with all of my blog readers. Simply click here to access the link. Once you have sampled ALEKS a subscription costs $19.95 per student per month, $99.95 every six months or $179.95 every 12 months. A family discount program is also available and can be viewed on the ALEKS website.

So never fear.... ALEKS is here! There is no need to doubt your ability to conquer even the greatest herculean task of teaching your children chemistry and Calculus. You really do have a secret super power at your disposal and its name is ALEKS.

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