We had the recent opportunity of reviewing Alexs.com, a math program that is a web-based artificially intelligent assessment and learning system. Alex is an acronym for assessment and learning in knowledge spaces. For our trial, my 8th grader tried out their algebra curriculum. The initial assessment process took about 45 minutes, and this procedure allows the program to personalize his account. Their were a few crashes that were frustrating during this process, but once we were up and running the teaching time seemed to run smoothly.
This program works on both PC and Mac and uses a “streaming” plug-in, and works on all the popular browsers (explorer, firefox, Netscape, mozilla, and safari). We have a high speed Internet, so everything loaded quickly. They offer for homeschoolers grades 3-12 mathematic instruction as a complete curriculum, with no textbook or printing worksheets required, all you need is an Internet connection and you can work from any computer. Alexs as integrated standards into the course from all 50 states.
To start, the kids complete a tutorial session, which showed them exactly how to answer problems such as fractions, graph plotting, etc. It was very visual and easy to follow. After they complete their assessment they get to see a pie chart that shows them the areas they are proficient, and where they have room to grow. The lessons focus on one problem at a time, as opposed to seeing twenty or so math questions on a page, which can sometimes overwhelm the student. My son had the opportunity to review what he was weak in, and once he mastered a concept he moved into the next phase of learning. After a math problem is introduced he had the option to answer the question, or hit “explain” for the concept to be reviewed. That really allows the child to have an active role in his math, and time can be used most efficiently.
I asked my son what his impressions were of Alexs. He said he liked that it showed him how good he was doing with the “pie” chart, so he could try to better his “pie slice” and watch the piece grow. He also liked the usability of the program, it was easy to follow directions and convenient to place answers. Furthermore, he liked that the problems weren’t too challenging for his skill level. The beginning assessment I’m sure helped determine the level at which he was being taught. And, he appreciated the “explain” option and thought it a good feature. “If I’m stuck I don’t have to just sit there and try to figure it out, I can do something about it.” Since he’s in Algebra now, it is way out of my comfort zone for teaching. So that was a plus. Our overall experience with Alexs has been positive, and if you are looking for an on-line math program, this is one to be considered. They offer a free “3-hour in a 48 hour period” trial, or you can subscribe for $19.95 per student, per month or $179.95 for a year. I highly recommend you going for the trial before purchasing a program like this, as you really have to “try it on” to see if it fits.