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Woodbridge High School, Woodbridge Township School District
Grade(s): 9 - 12
Scenario: Computers in Classroom
Purpose: Special Education
ALEKS Portion of Curriculum: 100%
Time Spent in ALEKS: 3 hours per week, 67 hours per term
ALEKS Course: Pre-Algebra, High School Preparation for Algebra 1, Algebra 1
Richard Fitzpatrick, Special Education Teacher
I am completely sold on the ALEKS program. The artificial intelligence hones in on all student weaknesses and helps to bridge those gaps. I have seen a significant decrease in undesirable behaviors related to their learning disabilities when using ALEKS; it just keeps them focused and wanting more. ALEKS has also improved students' foundational skills that are critical for the Algebra 1 curriculum that I am currently teaching. It's an excellent alternative to the one-on-one individualized instruction that I wish I had the time to give to all of my students.
What challenges did the class or school face in math prior to using ALEKS?
My class was facing a lack of foundational skills, such as adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing. Even if they knew their multiplication tables, they were not able to apply the knowledge algebraically because they didn't comprehend the concept of grouping numbers. The use of a calculator has also been an issue. However, I like that ALEKS only allows use of the calculator at certain times and it teaches easier ways to compute without the calculator.
How many days per week is class time dedicated to ALEKS?
2 days per week.
What is the average length of a class period when ALEKS is used?
How do you implement ALEKS?
We use the ALEKS program twice per week and I still teach the regular curriculum of Algebra 1. I ask that my students strive to become proficient in at least 10 new topics each time they use ALEKS.
Do you cover ALEKS concepts in a particular order?
I tend to have the students work clockwise with their pie charts.
How do you structure your class period with ALEKS?
I use ALEKS twice a week. Our school has block scheduling so when it's our day to use the laptops, I allot my students the entire 90 minutes with ALEKS. They also receive infrequent quizzes and printable worksheets, as well as QuickTables for a warm-up.
How did you modify your regular teaching approach as a result of ALEKS?
After the Initial Assessment, I was able to see just how much remediation was necessary, especially with the assistance of the pie. It shows specifically, broken down section by section, what I needed to be teaching from the textbook.
How often are students required or encouraged to work on ALEKS at home?
As much as possible if they have Internet access.
How do you cultivate parental involvement and support for ALEKS?
Parents are informed of the program and their child's current level of performance. They may receive emails or phone calls discussing what their assignments are as well as generated reports of their child's progress.
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?
ALEKS is part of their homework responsibilities. Usually they are assigned worksheets that are generated from their current math levels 2-3 times per week.
How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
Homework grades are generally 30 percent and assigned quizzes are 20 percent. Participation also counts as 20 percent and tests are worth 30 percent. Students are held to the same grading scale as I would normally give with the regular curriculum taught. Most of their grades from ALEKS come through homework (printable worksheets) and assigned quizzes (online).
Do you require students to make regular amounts of progress in ALEKS?
I expect students to become proficient in at least 10 new topics for each session of ALEKS, unless of course they are given an automatic assessment. In such a case, once they are given their new pie, I expect to see at least a 10 percent increase from their last assessment.
Since using ALEKS, please describe the learning outcomes or progress you have seen.
The progress I have seen in my students is that they are comprehending the Algebra 1 curriculum more rapidly. Often I see students come into my classes in the beginning of the year and I quickly find that their math skills are like Swiss cheese; there are so many gaps that need to be filled that it is almost impossible for them to be successful once they reach Algebra. I have found that I am unable to find and correct those missing pieces as quickly as ALEKS can. Some students have said that, "ALEKS is easier to use and it works with you so you don't feel like you're failing." One student explained, "It keeps me busy because I'm hyperactive and it explains what you don't know." Another student stated, "I like how it motivates me when it says that if I get one more problem right, it will add it to my pie."
Are there any best practices you would like to share with other teachers implementing ALEKS?
I think one of the most important aspects is to prompt the students to allow ALEKS to teach them. They must learn to navigate through the explanations when they have answered a problem incorrectly. Also, they should utilize any or all hyperlinks to aid in comprehension of terms and procedural knowledge.