View a selection of implementation strategies from educators who are successfully using ALEKS to achieve dramatic learning outcomes.
Oak Lawn Community High School, Community High School District 229
Oak Lawn, IL
Grade(s): 9 - 12
Scenario: Computer Lab
ALEKS Portion of Curriculum: 10-20%
Time Spent in ALEKS: 1-2 hours per week, 16-32 hours per term
ALEKS Course: Algebra 1
Jeremey Cryan, Teacher/Instructional Technology Coach
ALEKS has been a great tool for our Algebra 1 block classes. For freshman students who enter high school struggling with the basics, ALEKS provides them with a self-paced, structured, and interactive environment where they can fill in individual gaps. At the beginning of the year, my students tested in after the initial assessment with 9.9 percent course knowledge. Over the last seven months, with an average use of one hour per week, my students increased by an average of 31 percent in assessment. I had one student take her initial assessment and test in at four percent. She has now increased by 61 percent and is the furthest along in the program! Their progress has also transferred over to the classroom. Occasionally, we will get to topics in our curriculum and a student will say, "I did that in ALEKS already!"
What challenges did the class or school face in math prior to using ALEKS?
One challenge our school faces is trying to bring the lower level math students closer to achieving the "Meets Standards" mark on the state tests. Also, the students who are enrolled into the Algebra 1 block test into high school with low math abilities. We needed a way to allow the students to work on their deficiencies while also leaving room for our Algebra 1 curriculum.
How many days per week is class time dedicated to ALEKS?
1-2 days per week.
What is the average length of a class period when ALEKS is used?
How do you implement ALEKS?
We have made it part of our Algebra 1 block curriculum. Since we have two periods, we use one period for instruction and the second period for ALEKS work.
Do you cover ALEKS concepts in a particular order?
We align the available topics to the curriculum we cover in our Algebra 1 block classes. After the students take the initial assessment, they can complete any topic ALEKS allows them to work on. We do not limit them to a specific order of topics.
How do you structure your class period with ALEKS?
We try to go to the computer lab one to two times per week. Since it is a two period block class, we usually go during the second period after classroom instruction. At first, the students needed to master three to four topics per class period. Since many of them are now further into the program and topics are becoming more difficult, we require they master two topics per sitting. Students are given classwork points toward their overall class grade. Also, as a weekly homework assignment, I require them to master two topics and complete 30 minutes of ALEKS work outside of math class.
How did you modify your regular teaching approach as a result of ALEKS?
ALEKS allows the students to work independently on topics that they have not yet mastered. Therefore, we are able to work with the core Algebra curriculum in the classroom and use ALEKS to address individual issues. We are able to move ahead with students who are ready and to work with individual students who need more help.
How often are students required or encouraged to work on ALEKS at home?
We go to the computer lab one to two times per week. The students are also required to put in 30 minutes and master two topics outside of the classroom per week.
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?
The work they complete in class goes towards the classwork part of their overall grade. The out-of-class work goes towards the homework part of their overall grade. ALEKS accounts for about 15-20 percent of their weekly homework points.
How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
ALEKS is not a percentage of their grade. They are given classwork points (which make up 15 percent of their grade) for the work they do on ALEKS in class, and homework points (which make up 20 percent of their grade) for the work they do on ALEKS outside of class.
Do you require students to make regular amounts of progress in ALEKS?
Each class period we use ALEKS, students are required to master two topics. Outside of class, they are also required to master two topics. I use the Time and Topic Report to monitor their progress. Earlier in the year, when the available topics were easier, I required three to four mastered topics per session.
Since using ALEKS, please describe the learning outcomes or progress you have seen.
The purpose for using the program in our Algebra 1 block classes is to help fill in the Pre-Algebra gaps that the students have coming in, and to provide a self-paced environment for them to work on topics they need more practice with. At the beginning of the year, my students tested in after the initial assessment with 9.9 percent course knowledge. Over the last seven months, with an average use of one hour per week, my students increased by an average of 31 percent in assessment. I had one student take her initial assessment and test in at four percent. She has now increased by 61 percent and is the furthest along in the program! The instant feedback that the program provides is motivating to the students. They know immediately if they are on the right track. They enjoy watching their slices fill up. We also use it as a competition. Students like to know where they are in the "standings" or if they have completed more topics than another student.
Are there any best practices you would like to share with other teachers implementing ALEKS?
We provide our students with a notebook that is strictly for ALEKS use only. They keep it in the classroom and grab it when we go to the computer lab. This way they always have scratch paper and can take notes when they need to click the Explain button. My classroom aide and I won't help the student with a topic unless they have already clicked Explain, taken notes on how to solve the problem, and tried again.