Friday, June 15, 2012

Schoolhouse Review: IXL Math

Having a child excel in math is every parent's wish come true, but it's not every parent's reality, especially those of us who have kids with special needs.  IXL is there to help by offering students a focused learning environment that rewards hard work, encourages students to learn from their mistakes and is free from gimmicks and distractions.

For the purpose of our review I received a  six-month subscription to IXL which includes access to all of their content, and let me tell you, they have a lot!  They currently offer math for Pre-K to 8th Grade plus Algebra which includes over 2,000 skills.  They also have such a wide variety of problems that your child is not likely to encounter the same problem twice.  When your child gets the answer wrong, it not only shows them what the correct answer is, it even gives an explanation specific to the problem your child had just encountered. 

IXL also has what I believe every great practice site needs, tons of reports and information to help parents track the progress, successes and struggles your child may be facing.  Let me show you some of the highlights and share with you how it worked for us.

 When the student logs on to IXL they are taken to the practice page where the student has access to every level of math skills.  That's right, your student is not limited to only what their current grade level requires.  Every child can practice math on various levels.  As a mother of a daughter with special needs I really love that because math is one of those subjects where Gess is all over the board.  While she can successfully do some things in her current grade level, there are other areas she can not do at all.  Having access to the entire scope of math is really great for students like that.

While the sections are originally divided by grades they do have an option in the settings that allow you to hide the grade levels.  This is really nice for struggling students who, like my Gess, would not want to click a grade level other than the one they know they are in.

Here are the options for sorting your practice page.  The default is divided by grades and looks like this.

But we have clicked on the setting that says, "hide grade level" so our screen looks like this.

Another option they offer in the settings is to allow you to hide the timer.  This way if you have a child who is going to stress over seeing that timer, turn it off.  However, if you have a child that needs that challenge and reminder to move quickly, simply turn it on. It's your choice!  By turning the timer off you are simply removing the ability of the child to see the timer, but it will still be timing their activity. That way you as the parent will still know how long it took them to perform each specific task and how much time they spent overall.

Then finally, they also offer the ability to turn the skill menu off or on during the practice session.  This comes in handy for a couple of reasons.  One is it just cleans the screen up from further distraction to keep the child visually focused on the problem.  It also helps to keep them on the task.  Gess has a habit of quiting a skill if she finds it too difficult and having the ability to choose that menu from the practice page made the idea of giving up that much easier for her.  When I turned this off I found that she remained engaged a little bit more. Again, for students that are not struggling they may like the menu there to offer them somewhere to jump to quickly when they complete their current task.  With these options we get to choose which works best for our kids and I absolutely love that!

Here is the screen with the menu on:

And here it is with it turned off.  See how much cleaner the screen looks?  This is the option we chose.

Now that they have the children working on their math skills, IXL strives to keep them there by encouraging them to "hunt" for the many awards that await them.

Children earn medals for answering so many problems correctly and after they reach a smart score of 100 they get a gold medal!  For those who know how much Gess loves trying to win the gold medal at Special Olympics, will know she is going to love earning these too.  And look, she has some!

Each child has an Awards tab on their screen where they may check their progress at any time. When they click there they see that they have more than just medals.  They get different prizes for various achievements.  This is where the treasure hunt begins.  Each new skill offers new awards and "treasures."  Here are some examples of what the various award screens look like. 

I would often find Gess on that page searching for her latest treasure too.  Here she is discovering that she got one for mastering 5 skills.  It was a viper, how cool!

We found using IXL was a pretty fun way to practice some of the basic math skills.  There were times when I adapted it to Gess' needs and allowed her to use some helps.  Here is Gess using a 100s chart to both add and subtract.

Oh, and I can't forget to tell you about the IXL parent user account, which is what I loved most about it.  The reports they offer are just incredible.  Just look at the contents of all the different reports you have access to!

And here is an example of just a couple of the charts that measure your child's progress.

Because of these reports I know how long Gess practices, not just overall, but in each individual skill as well.  I know what she has mastered, what she struggles in, what she needs more practice in and what she hasn't covered at all.  I know exactly how long it took her do each skill and how much she has improved along the way.  You can even see how your child is doing in correlation to your state's standards. Anything you want to know is there.  If you want they will even email you reports so you don't always have to log in to see how they are doing.  And when your child reaches a milestone they will email you a certificate to print off too!  (You can also access the certificate through the News Flashes section of the Reports page.)  In just one month Gess has been awarded 6 different certificates!  Here's an example of one below.

Unfortunately having all these tools and incentives to work towards did not make doing math any easier  or fun for Gess.  However, while I still may have to nudge her to do it, having that "gold medal" to dangle in front of her sure helps.  It really is handy to have a way to let her practice without me standing over her and yet be able to see how she did (or if she even tried) later.  At least with IXL I know that she is actually practicing math in a friendly and easy to focus environment.

Pricing for IXL family memberships is $9.95/month or $79/year. Each additional child costs $2/month or $20/year.  Membership benefits include:
  • Complete coverage of math curriculum from pre-K to algebra. Your kids won't miss a thing!
  • Unlimited questions in over 2,000 skills.
  • Fun and colorful practice formats.
  • Questions that adapt to your child's ability, increasing in difficulty as they improve.
  • Immediate feedback and question-specific explanations to solidify understanding of each concept.
  • Audio for all pre-K through first-grade skills.
  • Weekly e-mail updates on your child's progress.
  • Informative, detailed reports pointing out successes and trouble spots.
  • Awards and certificates for you and your children to print out as they reach important milestones.

To learn more visit the IXL website or see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought by clicking on the banner below.


Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I received a 6 month subscription to IXL for giving my honest opinion and assessment of the program in my review.
Note: All pricing is current at the time of posting and is subject to change

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