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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Alta Vista High School, Vista Unified School District
Vista, CA

Grade(s): 10 - 12
Scenario: Computer Lab, Computers in Classroom
Purpose: After-School, Intervention
ALEKS Portion of Curriculum: 100%
Time Spent in ALEKS: 4-10 hours per week, 60 hours per term
ALEKS Course: Essential Mathematics (with QuickTables), Algebra 1, High School Geometry, Trigonometry

Terry M. "Skip" Curtis, Retired Teacher
I was a high school science and math teacher at a continuation school, and I used ALEKS to address the widely varying levels of math abilities of my students. I introduced ALEKS at my school site after finding it at the 2003 NCTM meeting in Salt Lake City. Now, as a retired teacher and full time tutor, I encourage the use of ALEKS to students and parents. I found ALEKS to be extremely effective in working with groups of students whose mathematical abilities are wide ranging. Allowing each student to work on the math with which they are challenged was the most effective method I have found to improve individual mathematical performance.


Scenario

What challenges did the class or school face in math prior to using ALEKS?
The most pronounced problem was the varying background levels of students. Some students had missed important math concepts in early grades and were unable to keep up with more proficient members of the class.  

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?
45-50 minutes.


Implementation

How do you implement ALEKS?
Students log into ALEKS upon entering the classroom and begin working; they are assisted by teacher walking around the lab. Periodically, quizzes are assigned to the class based upon their individual mathematical levels. Students are allowed to request assessments at earlier times or to delay assessments in the event they feel unprepared. Students were given an outline of requirements which included the production of a portfolio, which contained ALEKS quizzes, a final report, a biographical summary of a person who is famous for mathematics affiliation, and a summary of how ALEKS has helped them advance in math.

Do you cover ALEKS concepts in a particular order?
I covered topics based upon previous math course completion, which was assigned by the administration.

How do you structure your class period with ALEKS?
Students begin each class by logging into ALEKS. Students work individually and log off at the end of the period. A few days during the term, we focus on completing the portfolio requirements. Whenever computer problems with our server occur, we use the time for portfolio preparation or special mathematical worksheets that can be included in the portfolio.

How did you modify your regular teaching approach as a result of ALEKS?
I focused on ALEKS as the base for the course and used a textbook only as a reference. Also, instead of standing before the class trying to drill in a particular mathematical concept, I can spend my time walking around the classroom working with students at their individual level.

How often are students required or encouraged to work on ALEKS at home?
Students are encouraged to work on the program at home for at least 2-5 hours a week. Many students exceed this requirement.

How do you cultivate parental involvement and support for ALEKS?
A parent letter is sent home with each student at the beginning of the term to inform the parents of the importance of ALEKS and its use in the school, as well as to request their support at home.


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?
Our continuation school does not do homework, per se. However, we continue to stress the importance of working on the program.

How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
The progress the student makes on ALEKS constitutes about 40 percent of the grade, with a portfolio constituting another 20 percent. The portfolio contains all of the quizzes from the program, biography of a noted mathematician, a typed summary evaluation by the student of the program, and mathematical worksheets covering multiplication, exponential operations, scientific notation operations, fraction operations, and other mathematical concepts.  Time spent on ALEKS accounts for the remaining 40 percent of the grade.

Do you require students to make regular amounts of progress in ALEKS?
Yes. Students must work on the program a minimum of three hours per week, regardless of absences. Students who fail to show progress after a few assessments may be removed from the ALEKS program and returned to a traditional mathematics class using a text and teacher-directed method.


Learning Outcomes

Since using ALEKS, please describe the learning outcomes or progress you have seen.
There have been many success stories in our use of the program. When asked, I always mention the story of Frankie, who wanted to graduate, but had not completed any math credits, and was a fifth-year senior in our continuation school. I assigned ALEKS under the premise that when he completed the program to 100 percent, he would be allowed to take a test without notes. If he scored over 90 percent, and completed a portfolio, he would be assigned his required mathematical credits to complete high school. I had anticipated that this would take him six months. Instead, over the next six weeks, Frankie completed 126 hours in ALEKS, mastered 100 percent of the topics, and, without notes, achieved a score of 93 percent on the final exam. He was assigned 30 math credits, which was all he needed to graduate from high school, enlisted in the Marine Corps, and today is a corporal having graduated from his basic training as a Private First Class. In this case, ALEKS was a turning point for Frankie - he persevered and accomplished his goal. Most students comment on the sense of accomplishment they feel as they fill in their pie and complete increasingly higher percentages of their topics.


Best Practices

Are there any best practices you would like to share with other teachers implementing ALEKS?
I like the idea of individual responsibility for progress. Since we are in a continuation high school setting, we use the carrot method to encourage students to make progress toward 100 percent completion of the course topics. A student who reaches 100 percent on their assigned course before the end of the term, can take an additional assessment on the program, test out over 90 percent (without notes), complete a portfolio, and get their five credits for that term. In that way, students can begin working on the next term's work toward earning their next five credits.