Thursday, June 22, 2017

UnLock Pre-Algebra {a Homeschool Review Crew review}

A couple of months ago, I sat all of my kids down and had a serious discussion about math.  Clearly, something had to change.  Math has been a struggle here, and at least part of that is the consistency.

So when UnLock Math came along, I jumped at the chance to have Thomas work through UnLock Pre-Algebra.  Basically, I need to know that he is fully prepared for Algebra 1, so I told him he needed to complete this program this summer.

This program is perfect for him.  Perfect.  He told me that one of the best things is that he always knows exactly what to do.  He knows that a "day" of work involves doing the next lesson, all the way through.  Every time, he goes through the same steps, with a couple of variations that are obvious.

When he goes to type in an answer, it almost always tells him things like what to type to represent multiplication.  He rarely has to wonder how to format an answer.

So let's walk through this.  When you get in to the course page, you see a list that looks like this.  The units are listed (there are 16 of them) and the blue lock shows the ones that are complete (units 1, 2 and 3).

The purple closed locks (units 5 and 6) are units he hasn't started working yet.

The light purple open lock (unit 4) is in progress.  When you click on the rocket to launch that unit, you get to another menu screen.

On this page, the locks again show you where you are.  Thomas has finished lesson 4.5, 4.6, and the 4.5-4.6 quiz.

He has not yet started the next ones.  The next step is for him to open up lesson 4.7 and complete it.

The next day's assignment would be lesson 4.8 and the 4.7-4.8 quiz.  The following day's assignment would be the unit review, and the day after that he would do the unit test.

Straightforward and easy.  And the locks keep changing color, so he can clearly see his progress.

Once he gets into a lesson, he is presented with a screen with a fun little arrow path that tells him where to start and how to progress through the lesson.  When he does the work on MY computer (a Mac), that "path" is not there.  The steps are the same each time.  There is probably a better description of what the segments are and why, but I'm mostly using his words here.

Warm Up - 5 problems that review previous concepts, usually from the last few lessons, tends to be stuff that is gearing you up for the topic today. You can repeat the Warm Up as many times as you wish.

Video - this is the primary teaching part of the lesson.  Alesia does the teaching in the videos, with text appearing next to her.  She takes just one bite-sized chunk at a time, and the lessons lead naturally from one to the next.

There aren't a lot of fancy effects, there are some attempts at humor, and sometimes those attempts succeed.  Thomas doesn't want to be entertained, though, he wants to get math done.  Alesia is mostly to-the-point, and he doesn't have to sit through a lot of extra fluff.

Practice Problems - This section has around 10 problems going over what you just learned in the video.  Again, you can repeat this section as many times as you would like, and the questions do change.  Thomas told me that if you are striving for perfection and you do the same section a lot of times, you will see problems repeat.  So it isn't an endless supply of possible questions, but you aren't going to be able to do the problems, note the answers, and then just do it again to get 100.

As you can see, the answer field here prompts him for how the answer should look.  It tells him to enter a number.

Stay Sharp - This section includes about 10 problems that are reviewing stuff that you've done before, not just recent material.  Again, you can repeat this section if you don't like your score.

Challenge Yourself -  The final section includes one problem that relates to the lesson that is much more challenging.  You are only allowed to submit this once.  This is for extra credit, and missing this problem doesn't bring down the student's grade.

After every couple of lessons, there is a quiz.  This looks very much like the other problems sections, except that it doesn't tell you anything about how you are doing as you go.

There are also reviews and tests at the end of each unit.  With the review, you can see how you are doing as you go, but not with the test.

Once you finish the quiz, you can get to a report that tells you how you did and also shows the solution.

This is really helpful when you are not getting a concept!

The program also has some fantastic tracking features.  Thomas loves that he can see progress happening.
This one shows his progress in this unit.  The dark colors are the part he's completed.  The light colors are what is left.  This shows visible progress for each lesson he completes -- the pie is obviously darker each time.

This one shows how he is doing in the course (the speedometer looking part), and it also shows how much of the course he has completed.  That blue line moves a bit as he completes lessons, but it isn't as dramatic as the pie chart above.  Still, over the course of a week, you can definitely see more color.

In addition to all of the above, there are other pieces that I can use.  The course includes a pacing guide that helped me to figure out just what he was going to need to accomplish weekly in order to finish up this summer.

There is a a progress report that gives me some additional information about how he is doing on each type of assignment.  I can look at that for the course as a whole, or I can look at it for individual units.

There is a gradebook that gives me a lot of detail about when he did the assignments, how long they took, how he did on them -- and it shows me how many times he repeated an assignment.  Or, after a day poking around to write a review, it shows a whole lot of incomplete assignments that "he" spent 0-1 minutes on.

Our bottom line?

We love this program.  It is perfect for him as he knows just what to do, and what it takes to finish.  I love that it automatically grades him and I don't have to do anything with that.  Plus he is clearly grasping the material.  He absolutely will be moving on to Algebra 1, and he hopes to work with their brand-new Geometry program after that.

Go see what others on the Crew had to say about these math programs!