Friday, November 7, 2014

IXL - A Schoolhouse Crew Review for 2014

I learned this fall that IXL would would be giving members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew the opportunity to review BOTH their IXL Math and IXL Language Arts programs this year. At first I just glossed over that opportunity, because my son had aged out of IXL in a previous year. However I then learned that this review was applicable for K-12. I looked into what they now have, and I requested the review.
My son is currently working on Algebra I, so I was happy to learn that IXL now offers sections in Algebra I,Geometry, Algebra II and Pre-Calculus! I got our account started and helped my son log in. He has used IXL before, so he was able to take off on his own, for the most part.

IXL was also offering the Review Crew access to their Language Arts program for 2-8, so I asked for access to that as well. 8th grade Language Arts shouldn't be that different from 9th grade, and they are working on 9th grade, to get it released as soon as they can. I know language arts skills repeat each year, to a large degree.

The IXL Math is designed to enable your student to get lots of practice until they master the various math skills they need to have. The ideal way to use IXL Math is for the student to work through a daily math program's lesson for the day, and then go to the topic listing, find what they were working on, and practice that skill.

Once a topic has been selected, the program goes immediately to asking questions. The answers get typed into a box on the screen. It is wise for the student to keep scratch paper and pencil at hand to assist with calculations. As the student works through the problems, when he/she gets an answer correct, there is instant scoring with positive praise.

If the answer the student provided was incorrect, the computer corrects and explains:

If the student reads through these explanations, IXL can work as a self-teaching course. However, it is not intended to be used that way, and many students get frustrated to constantly receive the "Sorry, incorrect..." screen. So it is better if you use this program the way it is intended.

I have long known that my son is good at Math -- I mean, he "gets" things intuitively that is difficult for others to figure out over time. However, generally, my son doesn't like math. So it was with some amusement that I noticed, as I read the weekly reports I was receiving about the math my son was working on, that while there were areas of Algebra I that he was still needing to improve in, he was nevertheless going into the Geometry and pre-Calculus, and for certain sections getting 100%!

My son also did some work in the 8th grade Language Arts section. He did not excel in this area, though, which comes as no surprise to me. My guy is a Math/Science guy, and much less of a Language Arts guy. So, in order to evaluate the Language Arts section, I spent some time there myself. 

Like the IXL Math section, the Language Arts section is not intended to be a complete curriculum. It is intended to be used to practice skills that are being taught in the regular language arts program for that student's grade. I found the program easy to work with. There are some areas of Language Arts where the usage rules have changed in the US, and the rule changes did not seem reflected in IXL. The use of commas in a series no longer require a comma after the word that precedes "and", but using the comma is not wrong, per se. It is just not required, so that might frustrate some students. I did not work through the entire program or anything -- that was just one issue I noticed.

So, in light of the fact that the usage IXL promotes is not "wrong", there is really not an issue. I found the program very easy to use between typing some answers and mousing to move commas for other answers. We have used IXL in the past, and I think improvements have been made since then. I really like it now. I am really looking forward to the 9th and 10th grade Language Arts, which will be released soon.

The ultimate goal, in each session of practice, is to get 100 correct answers. However, when the student answers a question incorrectly, the "Correct" total seems to drop by more that just one, making it discouraging to continue if you are getting repeated incorrect answers. I don't know if there is a place on the website where this is explained, but I did not find it.

I was delighted to learn that IXL is also available for use as an app on the iPad. We did not end up using it this way, though.

In summary:
  • IXL Math now offers practice for students from Kindergarten to pre-Calculus.
  • IXL Language Arts currently offers Language Arts practice for students from Kindergarten through 8th Grade, and 9th and 10th Grade Language Arts will be released soon.
Additional information:
  • An annual subscription for one child for math is $79; for math AND Language Arts, it would be $129.  For two children for math, it is $99 for the year; for math and language arts, it would be $149.
  • IXL sends a weekly report to the parent on the student's time practicing, successes, and area of work. I found this very helpful. These reports also tell you if the student did not spend any time practicing.
  • The reason I know the above bullet is that my son had difficulty logging in, but he found he could practice without logging in. So, in other words, there is a certain amount of free daily practice a person without an account can do on IXL. However, no record is kept, and no reports are sent to the parent.
I think my son is liking IXL more now than ever before. We have so much to do, now, in 9th Grade, that we will be taking care in the future to focus better on daily Algebra I lessons in the curriculum, and using IXL as a tool when my son needs more practice. We did practice more regularly than this for purposes of the review so that we could be familiar with the program to let you know what we think.

The Schoolhouse Crew members reviewed all levels of IXL Math and Language Arts. To read more Schoolhouse Crew reviews, please click on the button below.

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