View a selection of implementation strategies from educators who are successfully using ALEKS to achieve dramatic learning outcomes.
Plymouth Christian Youth Arts & Tech High School, Minneapolis Public Schools
Grade(s): 9 - 12
Scenario: Laptop Carts
Purpose: Credit Recovery, Enrichment/Gifted and Talented, At-Risk Students, Core Curriculum
ALEKS Portion of Curriculum: 90%
Time Spent in ALEKS: 5 hours per week, 40 hours per term
ALEKS Course: Pre-Algebra, Foundations of High School Math, Algebra 1, Traditional Algebra 1, High School Geometry, Algebra 2, PreCalculus
Kevin Scharber, Teacher
I have been working with ALEKS for two years, and I love the independent learning. It allows me to reach students at 20 different levels in my class all at the same time. My gifted students can really rise above their grade level, and my struggling students can receive more one-on-one attention. I have seen some students learn half a year's worth of Algebra in just one quarter. Students build a lot of confidence as they view their daily progress.
What challenges did the class or school face in math prior to using ALEKS?
Our primary challenge was in Algebra 1 where we teach students who are anywhere from a second grade math competency to a twelfth grade math competency. Some of our students were placed in our class because of academic barriers at a young age, where other students may have already taken the course but failed due to truancy. Our secondary challenge was constantly working to bring students to grade level who had multiple levels of knowledge requiring completely different lessons. ALEKS provides a structure for make-up lessons that keeps the students advancing while the teacher helps those who are a day behind.
How many days per week is class time dedicated to ALEKS?
5 days per week.
What is the average length of a class period when ALEKS is used?
How do you implement ALEKS?
I use ALEKS as a credit recovery class for students who need a second dose of math classes. These are primarily seniors who need extra credits towards Algebra, Geometry, or Algebra 2. Students are graded based on the number of topics they complete in a quarter. This is broken down to a daily score so that the students can see their progress over the course of the quarter. They can earn extra credit one day in order to counter a lack of work for another day, or can spend extra time working on it at home to catch up. Ultimately, their grade still depends on how far they get from the start of the quarter to the end of the quarter. Even if their daily grade is adequate, they still need to do well on the assessments in order to receive full credit for the class.
Do you cover ALEKS concepts in a particular order?
We give the students choice as to what topics they work on next.
How do you structure your class period with ALEKS?
The students begin class with a written warm-up on a broad, higher order topic. When they have completed it and the class has discussed it, the students will go to the cart and grab a laptop to begin ALEKS. They have daily sheets to fill out that include explanations of new topics and space for their work answering that topic. In the last five minutes of class, the students power down and work on an exit ticket connected to the warm-up at the start of the hour. The purpose of the warm-ups and the exit tickets is to allow for more problem solving and discussion to occur in the classroom. It also leads into conversations with students on their problems on ALEKS. Both basic and advanced skills can be put into a bigger context. We provide a daily context to talk about.
How did you modify your regular teaching approach as a result of ALEKS?
I provide consistent examples for each problem type as a resource for the student's computation practice. On many assignments I'll include the answers for the next 4-10 questions after the examples so that they can build confidence in their work. This helps me spend more time in class on the concepts instead of the procedures. However, I learned from my use of ALEKS that examples aren't enough for a student to understand a procedure. It is vital that students learn problem solving skills to see the patterns that occur from one topic to another.
How often are students required or encouraged to work on ALEKS at home?
Students only use ALEKS from home as a way to make up for lost time or a low achievement day. Many of my students do not have the opportunity to log in from home.
How do you cultivate parental involvement and support for ALEKS?
We haven't looked into parental involvement yet, as we know that our students have technology restrictions at home.
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, ALEKS is not connected to student homework in our program.
How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
Students are expected to master four topics per day. They review those topics the next day or whenever they have time over the next week. In addition, we look at how far they've progressed throughout the quarter. Between daily participation and overall progress, ALEKS accounts for about 75 percent of the grade. The other 25 percent comes from homework and daily work, including warm-ups and exit tickets.
Do you require students to make regular amounts of progress in ALEKS?
Students are expected to cover a quarter of their pie within a quarter of the school year. It is percentage-based, and begins from where their Initial Assessment placed them. In order to receive full credit for a class, the student must reach their expected goal. If the student does not reach their goal, they are able to earn partial credit.
Since using ALEKS, please describe the learning outcomes or progress you have seen.
I have seen some students learn half a year's worth of Algebra in just one quarter. Students build a lot of confidence as they view their daily progress.
Are there any best practices you would like to share with other teachers implementing ALEKS?
I believe that it's vital to have the student take notes from the explanations in order for them to truly articulate what is happening in both the question and the answer.