Monday, November 10, 2014

Review : IXL Math & Language Arts

Practice, practice, practice! It's the only way....
To make myself better, everyday!

With all the time we spend on core subjects such as Math and Language Arts, I find there are still areas that need improvement. Math and Language Arts understanding gives the most necessary and foundational skills needed to have a successful education. It is the basis for understanding, reading, writing, and science.

Last year we reviewed IXL, and loved it, so we are very happy to once again receive a one year subscription to the Math and Language Arts programs offered by IXL to use in our homeschool.

What is IXL?  It is an online program designed to reinforce concepts taught, and practice math and Language Arts skills to gain mastery. It is set up in a fun, interactive way as 'practice that feels like play'.

What grades are covered? IXL's math now has levels from Pre-K all the way up through high school! High school math subjects include algebra 1 & 2, geometry, and pre-calculus. Language Arts covers grades 2-8, with 9th and 10th grades coming soon. Though we did not personally use the earlier levels, they do include an audio option to have the questions read for students who cannot read fluently yet.

Easy Log-In
How much practice is there? A typical grade subject includes hundreds of questions - enough to keep a student engaged for their entire school year. They work through each topic until they have mastered it. As their speed and accuracy in answering questions correctly improves, so does their score. When they have achieved a 100% mastery on a particular subject, they earn a medal, and can move on to something else. Students can move around throughout the program and switch to whatever subject area is relevant to their current studies - they do not have to move 'in order' through the IXL program. They also can work on multiple subject areas at one time. They do not need to limit it to only one topic until mastery. Kelly currently has about 6 topics that are at various stages of mastery, and she rotates between them when practicing with IXL.

What happens when you sign up? Students sign up, choose an easy log in with a personalized avatar, and then can move on to their home page. On this page, in either math or Language Arts, they are able to see a list of all the topics in their grade level, with a small gold medal next to subjects that they have mastered.

Notice the gold medal next to the first exercise - "Identify pronouns" - this shows mastery of that exercise has been achieved.

Using the program: IXL does not teach concepts, but rather reinforces concepts already learned. It is designed to compliment the curriculum your students are already using. Parents can pick and choose what subject areas need extra practice, and allow their students to practice and get extra help in a fun way. When a student answers a question correctly, they are rewarded with a correct answer page, typically stating "excellent" or "awesome" and then moved on through the remaining questions. Their score on the right side of the page reflects their progress. Once they have answered enough questions in a row correctly, the program will say that they have "mastered" that subject. Students strive for 100% mastery.

Here is a typical 4th grade question about graphs and interpreting data:

Correcting the wrong answers: When students answer a question incorrectly, the program pauses and gives them both the correct answer and a thorough explanation so that they can read through it, understand it, and then improve. They will continue to see similar questions as the one answered incorrectly, until they have shown mastery of the subject.

Here is an example of an explanation for an incorrect math answer for the question shown above:

The Language Arts explanations are very thorough. Here is an example of an explanation for an incorrect Language Arts answer, in the 8th grade Language Arts level:

As you can see, students can drastically improve their understanding just by reading through the explanations given for wrong answers.

Flexibility of the program: Students have access to all grade levels, not just their current one. If a student is struggling in an area that perhaps is several grade levels lower then their current one, they can select whatever topic is troublesome and exclusively practice until they have mastered that area. With this flexibility, parents can definitely tailor this program to exactly fit a student's needs.

Incentive plan: Students receive awards based on their progress through the program. As I already mentioned, each subject that is mastered earns a gold medal. In the math program, students also receive awards based on the number of correct answers, and subject areas mastered. There is a chart where they can place their award 'stickers' and uncover virtual prizes.

Here is what the awards center looks like: 

Students also receive email certificates based on their performance. A typical email looks like this:

The lovely, full color certificates can be printed out and handed to the student as a tangible reward for their hard work:

Reports for the teacher: IXL still has one of the best report systems recording a student's work of any online programs I have ever used. Weekly progress reports are mailed to the teacher/parent. Also, I am able to log in at any time and see exactly what my students have been up to: how much time they have spent, what areas they have mastered, where they have struggled, how it compares to their practice last month, and what percentage of their current grade level they have mastered. I can even go in to see which specific problems they missed. It is fascinating to be able to see exactly what the students have accomplished or exactly where their problem areas are. I really feel like IXL tries to partner with a home school parent to help them successfully educate their child in these core subjects of math and Language Arts. 

Here is the home page for the teacher report section. As you can see, there are a number of options to view reports, including graphs and usage reports. I can track exactly how much time was spent in each subject area.

IXL on the go: A really convenient feature of IXL is its iPad and Kindle Apps. We have used both, although the girls prefer using it on the iPad because the math app turns the iPad into a whiteboard for them to work their problems. The Language Arts App is new, and has been a great help as well. 

Here is a picture of Kelly working math problems on the iPad app as she answers questions:

How much does it cost? The cost of this program for one student is $9.95/month for one subject, or $15.95/month for both Math and Language Arts.  Additional students cost an extra $2 per month.  Alternatively, you can purchase an annual subscription which is only $79 for one subject, or $129 for both math and language arts.  Each additional student adds $20 a year to the cost.

How did we use IXL? We have used IXL this fall with Kelly practicing 4th grade Math and Language Arts, Melissa practicing 8th grade Math and Language Arts, and Laura practicing Pre-Calculus at the high school level. Laura also reviewed some Algebra 2 and even some 8th grade level math (ratio & probability) for SAT test practice. She especially found the explanations helpful when she answered a question incorrectly. Melissa has used the Language Arts section a bit more then the Math section, and it has greatly helped her understanding as to why certain things 'are the way they are' in English grammar.  Kelly has definitely gotten the most use of the program though, using it at least 3-4 times per week, as extra practice with both Math and Language Arts concepts. Some of the Language Arts concepts have been a little tricky for her, as things are called by different names than the way she is learning them, and she doesn't have enough experience to know that they are talking about the same thing yet. I have found that when I am able to sit and explain those words to her, that she has no problem at all mastering subjects in Language Arts. Kelly definitely prefers the Math section though, because of the fun way of incorporating the iPad, and also the rewards and virtual prize board are attached to the math section, but not the Language Arts section. This definitely makes a difference in what area she chooses to practice!

How could IXL improve? The only thing I can think of that could improve this program is having a rewards board for Language Arts. 

Would you like to try it for yourself for free?  By going to the IXL Website, you can choose a grade level and practice up to twenty questions per day at any grade level, just to get a feel for it! 

Check out IXL on Social Media:

And read how the rest of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew used IXL in their home schools:

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