Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Review: UnLock Math

Melissa just finished Pre-Algebra this past school year, and will be starting Algebra 1, and high school, in September. I have found that it is helpful to have some kind of plan in place to review and keep the math facts fresh over the summer, so that the girls can jump right in to their new work in the fall without having to spend so much time reviewing and refreshing their minds. This summer we were given the opportunity to review UnLock Pre-Algebra from UnLock Math. I was very excited because the program seems tailored to the need we have - refreshing "already learned" math facts while keeping pace with new concepts.

What is UnLock Pre-Algebra?  This is a completely online course that takes a student through sixteen units of lessons preparing them to meet the challenge of a rigorous Algebra course. While each unit includes review and testing, the new concept is taught in video format by a teacher, with colorful graphics that demonstrate the concept.

What is a typical lesson like? Each unit has up to eight separate lessons. Students may work at their own pace, although there is a pacing guide included with suggestions for the teacher. Each day, students log on and pick up where they left off the previous day. They start with a quick warm up of mathematical review questions to get their brain engaged and thinking mathematically. The actual video is next. The ones we have watched so far have been around five minutes long. It is an actual video of a certified teacher (Alesia Blackwood - a former homeschool student) as she teaches the student that day's new concept. After watching the video, students follow the path on their screen and complete some practice problems that correlate with the lesson. The next section, "Stay Sharp", reviews concepts from prior lessons. Then there is a "Challenge Yourself" section that is exactly what it's name describes. The questions there challenge the student to apply the mathematical concept to some challenging problem solving. There are notes to print out that allow the student to study a printed version of the new concepts of that lesson.

How long does a lesson take? I allowed Melissa to work through this at her own pace. Typically she would complete an entire lesson in one sitting, although some days she only did one or two of the sections, completing a lesson over several days. Even on days when she completed an entire lesson, she was finished in under twenty minutes. Perhaps that will take longer as she moves on to more challenging concepts. 

Video Lessons embedded on the page

Don't lose your place! The student's dashboard contains all the units with a small lock next to each. As they complete lessons the lock graphic 'unlocks' to help them keep track of where they are at. The lessons don't actually remain locked to the student though, which does allows for flexibility if the student and parent decide to move around and do the lessons out of order, focusing on weak areas. I think it would be tremendous if there was also a way to keep the lessons locked and cause the student to work them in the order they are listed in if the parent chose to. 

Unit One

Grading and teacher preparation: There is virtually no preparation on the teacher's part. Once signed up, the student can take off running with this program and work through it. There is so much review built in that parents need not worry if the concepts were mastered the first time, as they will be visited again through the warm ups and 'stay sharp' sections. The teacher gradebook is very thorough. It includes the score, time spent, and date/time completed. Parents also have the ability to go into the program to see how the questions were answered, so they can decipher any trouble spots the student may be having. On the student's page, there are colorful graphs and charts demonstrating their completion of the course, as well as their grades and mastery of the lessons.

Grade book sample

Testing: Each unit has built in quizzes and tests. The scores are tracked in the gradebook, and a final average is given for each lesson and unit. The questions are kept "one-to-a-page" which we have found to be less intimidating and overwhelming. Most of the questions we have encountered so far have been traditional "fill in the blank with the correct answer" questions, which eliminates the guesswork that some students attempt with multiple choice answers.

What did we think? I found this program to be extremely user friendly and easy. Setting up and starting was a piece of cake, and Melissa was able to start it immediately, and has been able to work through nearly all of it on her own so far. While we are using it as review, Melissa has also found some concepts explained just a bit differently, which helps her to broaden her mathematical thinking. Melissa enjoys the video teacher, and thinks she is fun and interesting. She definitely explains the concepts thoroughly and keeps the pace moving along quickly. I think this program definitely has the potential to take a student on a journey through Pre-Algebra and allow their Algebra experience to be much more successful. As an educator who believes in mastery of  the subject matter, I absolutely LOVE the way the math concepts and reviews are layered throughout the program. The student will visit the concepts multiple times before completing the program, but in a non-tedious way because the problems are sprinkled throughout the various sections. The only challenge we have encountered so far using this program is that we have had several attempts of submitting tests, and the program not recording their completion. This has been a minor frustration, and one we have been able to work around. 

Other programs: UnLock Math also has an Algebra 1 program, and will soon be releasing an Algebra 2 program. These programs are suitable for any level of learner, whether a math whiz or a learning challenged student, because the student may absolutely work at their own pace. The built in reviews will definitely help students who have a struggle with math. 

To see how other Crew members have used UnLock Pre-Algebra, click the banner below:

UnLock Math Review

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