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Kevin Karplus

Posts: 190
Registered: 12/6/04
Posted: Jun 5, 2005 3:20 PM
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Based on recommendations on this newsgroup, we tried the 2-day free
trial of and decided not to bother with ALEKS. Here are
the reasons:

* The assessment was frustrating for a kid who likes to work at the
level where he gets 90% right---it quickly got to the point where he
couldn't do the problems and stayed there.

* Once Aleks decides you know something, there is no going back, even if
it has based its assessment on only one or two questions. You are
only allowed to select from a handful of topics that it thinks you
are ready for---there is no going ahead or dropping back to easier

* There is no way to tell Aleks that a problem is too hard other than by
getting it wrong---an unacceptable situation for a perfectionist.

* The format is incredibly boring: a problem is presented, you type
the answer, and another problem is presented. The problems (in the
arithmetic unit) are all just numeric calculations---no word
problems, no multi-step problems, no thinking---just drill.

* There are no intermediate steps to be entered in the problems---you
do the whole thing on paper and just type in the answer. This makes
it non-tutorial, since it does not encourage correct algorithms, and
it has no access to the intermediate work to diagnose problems.

* The "tutorial" information is poorly written and does not necessarily
address the problems that a child may be facing.

In short, Aleks is not a suitable substitute for a tutor and does not
make good use of computer-aided instruction. It may be an adequate
drillmaster for a child with a high boredom threshold.

We ordered the next year's worth of Singapore math texts and will
continue with them. The price is a bit cheaper than Aleks ($33 for a
year's worth of text and workbook, which takes 2-3 months to complete,
vs. $18 a month for Aleks), and the drill less tedious. It does
require a parent (or tutor) to check the answers and perhaps occasionally
provide advice on methods, but the material seems to be more
self-teaching than Aleks.

If one is looking for computer-aided math instruction, the Math
Blaster games make a better use of the computer time than Aleks,
though they do not get very advanced.

Kevin Karplus
Professor of Biomolecular Engineering, University of California, Santa Cruz
Undergraduate and Graduate Director, Bioinformatics
(Senior member, IEEE) (Board of Directors, ISCB)
life member (LAB, Adventure Cycling, American Youth Hostels)
Effective Cycling Instructor #218-ck (lapsed)
Affiliations for identification only.

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