Thursday, November 7, 2013

REVIEW: Online Math Membership and Online Language Arts Membership by IXL

My kids got to try out the Online Math Membership and Online Language Arts Membership by IXL.

 

WHAT IS IT?:

IXL offers a great online resource for children to get regular practice with skills they’re learning in math in grades PK-12th, and now they’ve added language arts skills for grades 2-4, too! 

There are literally hundreds of topics available in a variety of categories for each grade level, ensuring that there’s always something new your child can spend time practicing.

Children can select topics in any order, and IXL tracks their progress and scores for you, rewarding their achievements along the way for such things as time spent, mastery of topics, and numbers of problems completed.  The site even emails parents once a week with a summary of how their child is doing.

When you sign up, you get access to all grade levels of the material available for each subject.  This is great for reviewing previous topics from the past and also looking ahead to more challenging topics from the next level.  And if your child progresses through a topic at their grade level, they can move on to topics in the next grade level to ensure they are being adequately challenged.  It also prevents you from being locked out of topics your child might still need to practice, even though it may or may not be in their current grade level. 

The concepts on the site align with Common Core Standards and the state standards for all 50 states, and D.C. 

A monthly membership for a single subject (math or language arts) is $9.95/month, or you can subscribe to both subjects for a discounted rate of $15.95/month.  You can add additional children to your monthly family membership for just $2/mo. per child. 

An annual membership for a single subject (math or language arts) is $79.00, or you can subscribe to both subjects for a discounted rate of $129.00.  You can add additional children to your annual family membership for just $20/yr. per child.

 

OUR EXPERIENCE:

Both Haylee (age 9) and Holden (age 5) tried out the math portion, but only Haylee, being in 4th grade, was old enough to work on the language arts portion. 

Holden liked the math okay, but he wasn’t super excited about it.  He actually did quite well with it, but he tends to be more interested in online programs that have a more game-like feel to them, which this does not, so it was not an activity that he asked on his own to do.  Instead, I had to say “we’re going to work on this now,” and we’d sit down and work on it together.  He’s just in kindergarten, so the idea of adding in something that feels like extra school to him isn’t something that really appeals to him just yet.  But it was great for extra practice for him just the same.

Holden is in kindergarten, but he’s doing 1st grade math this year, so that’s what we worked on.  The nice thing about IXL is that you can come and go as you please, in no particular order, justDSCF0923 working on specific topics that you need to practice at the time.  It doesn’t require a long sitting.  I will say that one motivator for him to use it was the little achievements he got along the way.  He’d work on a section, and it would tell us how many more problems or how much more time he’d need to practice in order to earn the next reward.  He’d often ask to do another topic, then, in order to see what his reward would be.  It would take us to a little grid where he could reveal his prize, which was an image of something like an animal or a toy.  Then he was motivated to try to earn more of the rewards than his sister was earning and to see what his next prize might be.  That was pretty cool for him at this age. 

I did have to sit with him, as he can read but is not a fluent enough reader to read all of the problems.  The site does have a little speaker icon you can click to have the problems read aloud to you and a separate one for answers (available for all pre-K through 1st grade skills).  But having to do it on every single problem would have been a bit cumbersome for his attention span, so I just operated the computer for him and let him point to his answer choice.  That worked out just fine.  As he progressed through the questions, they gradually became more difficult.  At the end of every section, it would do a 3-2-1 countdown and then offer some challenge questions.  He’d get all anxious during the countdown, wondering if he’d be able to answer the questions correctly. 

Haylee tried out both the math and language arts sections.  She is in 4th grade this year, but she DSCF0921is doing 5th grade math, so we started there for math but kept language arts on grade level.  Right away, we noticed how if she missed a question, IXL immediately gave a detailed explanation of the right answer, thereby “re-teaching” the topic, if you will.  So although IXL is not designed to be an instructional but rather a practicing tool, this feature is great for ensuring your child understands the topic and the steps to reaching the right answer.  I supposed if you wanted to use it that way, you could choose a topic you haven’t taught and purposely choose a random answer in order to learn the topic from the problem correction.  But then that would skew your child’s scoring.  In any case, Haylee found it very helpful for the questions she didn’t get right. 

Haylee has struggled with math in the past…it’s just not something that comes naturally to her.DSCF0922  So while we’ve made good progress this year in slowing down and ensuring she understands what she is doing, I love having this as a resource for extra practice when we think she’s “got it.”  She loved earning the achievements, and she liked to see the weekly emails I received showing how much she had done and her level of mastery of her grade level’s topics.  She generally enjoys any online sites that offer her immediate feedback for her right and wrong answers, and the reward system was a motivator for her, as well.  Her assessment of the time she spent on both subjects was that while she liked the math, she absolutely loved the language arts!  She chose to work on that the most. 

The language arts portion was a pleasant surprise, because there aren’t nearly as many online programs for homeschoolers in language arts as there are for math, it seems.  I was so pleased that Haylee enjoyed it so much and willingly used it!  We noticed that the reward system didn’t apply to language arts, though, which she was disappointed to see.  But it’s possible this may still be under construction since the language arts portion is so new to the site.

I was quite impressed with the breadth and depth of categories and topics covered in each grade level.  Take a look at what the kids used:  here is the 1st grade math, 5th grade math, and 4th grade language arts.  You can see each category and all of the topics covered within those categories.  Just hover your mouse over a topic, and a little pop-up window will appear, showing you a sample problem you might find inside that topic.  You can switch grade levels by clicking the grade level tabs down the left-hand side of the screen.  I would definitely encourage you to take a look around and see for yourself everything the site has to offer your child.

Your membership does include full use of the IXL Math Practice iPad app, as well, which my kids would have really enjoyed (they love everything that much more when delivered on the iPad), but it requires OS 6.1 or later, so it’s not compatible with my original iPad.  The ability to take the program on your mobile devices is always a great asset, so if you have a compatible device, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the convenience of that feature.

Haylee worked on a variety of topics in categories such as pronouns, antonyms, homophones, DSCF0920affixes, verb tenses, complete and incomplete sentences, and run-ons.  The program gave her a nice variety of questions in varying forms such as fill-in-the-blanks, multiple choice, and highlighting words in the sentences to answer the questions.  If she got frustrated with her performance in a particular topic, she was free to exit and come back to it later.  The key for me was that she enjoyed the program enough to want to come back to it later.  And I really liked being able to view her progress and see areas we needed to work on more in the future.  That makes it a really nice tool from a teacher’s perspective.

Overall, it’s a great resource for giving kids that extra boost to ensure they achieve confidence and mastery in their math and language arts skills.  Though lacking a game-like feel that many kids crave, the site does offer a straight-forward, easy-to-use format that is colorful and appealing and offers comprehensive practice in over 2,500 math and language arts skills.  And as a teacher, I like being able to access reports of how they’re doing and even print the achievement certificates they’ve earned.  The reports highlight their usage, performance, progress, and even point out their problem spots, which becomes a helpful tool for me.

For my family, I foresee it being a great activity for my kids to do on Fridays at their leisure when their regular schoolwork is completed for the week.  I love that Haylee can practice and get instant feedback while I’m working on other things, and it’s a nice activity for me to do with Holden in areas where he needs to shore up his understanding.  I definitely encourage them to keep practicing and honing their skills, and doing it at a comfortable pace that doesn’t pressure them.  IXL gives them the opportunity to do just that! 

Take a look at what Crew members had to say about the Online Math and Language Arts Memberships by clicking the banner below.

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