Based on recommendations on this newsgroup, we tried the 2-day free trial of www.aleks.com 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 material.
* 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 firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.soe.ucsc.edu/~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.