ALEKS - Assessment and Learning

Implementation Strategies

View a selection of implementation strategies from educators who are successfully using ALEKS to achieve dramatic learning outcomes. 

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ConVal Regional High School, Contoocook Valley Regional School District
Peterborough, NH

Grade(s): 9 - 12
Scenario: Computer Lab, Laptop Carts, Home Access
Purpose: Intervention, Core Curriculum, Supplement
ALEKS Portion of Curriculum: 20-80%
Time Spent in ALEKS: 1-5 hours per week, 20-100 hours per term
ALEKS Course: Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1, High School Geometry, Algebra 2, PreCalculus, Trigonometry

Christine Daisy, Teacher
I have had an excellent experience implementing ALEKS into our school math program. The program is very user friendly and students find that they are more motivated to tackle math topics and they do not feel overwhelmed by the material because they are only presented with material they are ready to learn. Students feel like they are successful and accomplished as they learn topics to increase their pie. We have students who were unsuccessful in a traditional math class and were placed in an ALEKS-based math recovery class; the majority of these students are very successful using ALEKS and are now ready to rejoin their classmates. I am so impressed with ALEKS and its capabilities that I am planning to develop a summer enrichment/remediation program around it.


Scenario

What challenges did the class or school face in math prior to using ALEKS?
The biggest challenges we face in math class is student readiness. All students learn math at a different pace and even with significant training in differentiated instruction, it is very difficult to meet each students' needs while still moving the class forward. Students have knowledge gaps and assessing each individual's needs takes significant amount of time and resources, which we do not have in a public high school setting. ALEKS assessments work wonders to accomplish this. I feel more confident that students are actually learning their skills instead of developing more gaps.

How many days per week is class time dedicated to ALEKS?
1-3 days per week.

What is the average length of a class period when ALEKS is used?
45-100 minutes.


Implementation

How do you implement ALEKS?
I had been looking at ALEKS as a program I wanted to bring in the school to meet RtI, enrichment, and independent study needs. I was unsuccessful until the administrators were trying to decide what to do with 20 students who had failed first semester Algebra 1. At that time there were no options for them in the schedule. My math department proposed a non-traditional approach of using ALEKS to meet the individual needs of these students. I knew once in the door, ALEKS would prove its effectiveness. Many people in the building have seen the benefits of the program and I believe it will continue to blossom as we move towards a more individual approach to RtI.

Do you cover ALEKS concepts in a particular order?
No, I do not cover ALEKS topics in a particular order.

How do you structure your class period with ALEKS?
For the Math Recovery class, ALEKS is the main curriculum and completing the Pre-Algebra course is the goal of the semester. These students go to the computer lab three days per week and work on their ALEKS Pie with a quiz or assessment scheduled every Friday. On the other two days, students work on ALEKS generated worksheets or teacher designed math activities. For our topics in math class ALEKS is used as curriculum/skill support. We work on ALEKS one day per week to enhance our skills while we learn more topics in math. Students are trying to complete the Algebra 1 curriculum during the semester. We also have students who use ALEKS to strengthen their skills on the side while enrolled in a traditional Algebra 2 class. These students have found that their Algebra 1 skills are weak, which was causing them to be unsuccessful; they chose to work on ALEKS instead of hiring a private tutor. They work on ALEKS after school, during a study hall, or during "down time" in class.

How did you modify your regular teaching approach as a result of ALEKS?
For the Math Recovery class, ALEKS is the main curriculum and completing the Pre-Algebra course is the goal of the semester. These students go to the computer lab three days per week and work on their ALEKS Pie with a quiz or assessment scheduled every Friday. On the other two days, students work on ALEKS generated worksheets or teacher designed math activities. For our topics in math class ALEKS is used as curriculum/skill support. We work on ALEKS one day per week to enhance our skills while we learn more topics in math. Students are trying to complete the Algebra 1 curriculum during the semester. We also have students who use ALEKS to strengthen their skills on the side while enrolled in a traditional Algebra 2 class. These students have found that their Algebra 1 skills are weak, which was causing them to be unsuccessful; they chose to work on ALEKS instead of hiring a private tutor. They work on ALEKS after school, during a study hall, or during "down time" in class.

How often are students required or encouraged to work on ALEKS at home?
They are encouraged to use ALEKS at home when they are absent; however, there is no requirement. They have a goal of completing the curriculum. If it can be done during class time then that is fine.

How do you cultivate parental involvement and support for ALEKS?
Parents have been made aware of ALEKS and its use.


Grading

Is ALEKS assigned to your students as all or part of their homework responsibilities? If so, what part of the total homework load is it?
No.

How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
Math Recovery grade break-down: ALEKS Worksheets are 20 percent, ALEKS Assessments are  20 percent, participation is 20 percent, and ALEKS topic completion is 40 percent. For ALEKS Worksheets: students are required to complete three sixteen-problem worksheets per week. These worksheets are ALEKS generated and correspond to their current topics. They are given the full block on Tuesday and time, if needed, on Thursday as well. ALEKS Assessments: Students are given an ALEKS generated assessment every Friday. These assessments are 25 questions and are based on their most recent topics. Every month, they are given a cumulative assessment, which is a 30 question evaluation and includes topics from the beginning of the semester. The assessments are graded by the percent increase from their last assessment. If students are doing the required amount of topics, they should increase by at least six percent every week. Participation: On Thursdays, students take part in a math-related activity. These range from code-breaking to exploring the Golden Ratio. Some weeks, students have a choice of several real-life skills worksheets, which are each worth different point values. Students receive points for doing the worksheets, not for correct answers. ALEKS Topics: Students are required to complete at least 12 ALEKS topics per week. They are able to choose which topics they work on from their pie chart. This makes up the largest portion of the students' grades, because they have two full blocks as well as part of the block on Friday to complete this assignment.

Do you require students to make regular amounts of progress in ALEKS?
Students are required to complete at least 12 ALEKS topics per week. They are able to choose which topics they work on from their pie chart.  We also require progress on weekly assessments.


Learning Outcomes

Since using ALEKS, please describe the learning outcomes or progress you have seen.
We are using ALEKS in a variety of ways, but the learning outcomes have been the same. Students find that they are more motivated to tackle math topics and they do not feel overwhelmed by the material because they are only presented with material they are ready to learn. Students feel like they are successful and accomplished as they learn topics to increase their pie. They feel more comfortable working with math on a computer. We have students who were unsuccessful in a traditional math class and were placed in an ALEKS-based math recovery class; the majority of these students are very successful using ALEKS and are now ready to rejoin their classmates. They are encouraged by their progress and feel successful in math. I have also used ALEKS to enhance and support a lecture-based class. These students are excited when we work on a topic they have mastered in ALEKS and are excited to get on ALEKS to work on things they have learned in class. The program and the lecture support each other very well.


Best Practices

Are there any best practices you would like to share with other teachers implementing ALEKS?
Support students as they learn each new topic.  Be a math coach instead of teacher by helping them read through the ALEKS explanations and examples instead of "teaching" them. It is important for all students to learn how to learn. By modeling how to read the explanations and pointing out important information, you are helping them to be self sufficient. Remember that most students are reluctant to move on to topics they have not seen before. Encourage them to be brave and celebrate their success with them.