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Nov 9, 2014

IXL ~ A Math and Language Arts Review

I am *always* looking for something to help one of the kiddos with math.  He seems to be stuck on adding and subtracting.  Concepts, he gets.  Measurement, patterns, graphs, and shapes; it's all in there.  It's just that adding and subtracting thing.  We practice and practice.  It's craziness and I wonder how I can get it to click.  When IXL came up for review with the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I was happy to try it out.  IXL offers practice and so much more.  IXL Math and IXL Language Arts gave my family a different way to drill the knowledge they are gaining, providing plenty of review to keep learned topics in their brains.

Christmas Book Review

IXL is a supplemental program that will work with nearly any curriculum your family may already be using.  The content is for practicing skills and there are hundreds of skills to try.  IXL does "grade" your child's progress, but it's a top-secret algorithm based on questions attempted, right and wrong answers, and improvement in each skill.  As the child improves, the Smart Score gets higher, until mastery (100% smart score) is achieved.

While it's helpful in the lower grades if parents are near by to offer direction, you aren't required to sit with your child.  Grades PK-5th, now offers audio support so they can hear instructions and the answer choices read aloud.  This makes independent review work possible for new and struggling readers.  However, if your student is learning a new skill, your input is very valuable.  The only instruction provided by IXL happens after a question has been answered incorrectly.

One drawback with this explanation section is the "got it!" button placed before the explanation.  There's one after it as well, but I've found that the boys will sometimes miss one and click the button to go on without even looking at the explanation.

Parent reports
You can see every.single.question attempted and whether it was correct or incorrect.  There is a report for the child's trouble spots, improvement over time, attempted and completed skills, and time spent.  Everything is all there in spreadsheets, bar graphs, and pie charts.  It's unbelievably thorough and gorgeous!

We mostly used second grade on the website, although Mal did some 3rd and 4th grade work in Math and LA, and Merrick worked in PK a bit.  Some things made me think 2nd grade was crazy difficult, but when I thought about it, I realized that 100% mastery at a 2nd grade level would be the equivalent of an end of the year score.  We're only a couple of months into 2nd, so I imagine we'll get through most of this by the end of the year.  Plus, this is spiral learning, so some lessons will be repeated and expanded on in consecutive years.  For instance, Roman numerals in 2nd covers I, V, X, and L while third grade covers those plus C, D, and M.  We'll see them all again in grades four to six.

Math is the only section with an awesome award board.  When the student fulfills a challenge on the board (master 5 skills in a category, answer 500 questions, practice for an hour and a half - don't worry, it's cumulative), he can click a star that appears to receive a "prize."  Second grade is a cool ocean theme.  PK is a playground with prizes like a tricycle or a slide.  Even though they're virtual prizes, the boys enjoyed uncovering them.

IXL fits in very nicely with our current language arts for both the boys, even though they are using very different courses.  When Xav was learning about capitalization or whether a sentence was a statement, question, or exclamation.  He could practice that skill and the same day, Malachi was working on subject/predicate and fragments and run-ons.

There does seem to be no way for the child to know while working just how many questions there will be.  One day, working on compound words, Mal spent over an hour, did 87 words and had a smart score of 94%.  We were new to IXL and just had no idea when it would end.  Obviously, it is because of the Smart Score algorithm, but these guys like to finish and that means 100% mastery. 

I especially liked having one account to log in to, with everyone having their own user account.  We got to set up names and they each chose an avatar.

They both dislike math, so that is no reflection on IXL.  They prefer the online learning over workbooks, so that's a plus.  I just want them to get the practice in and hopefully, some day, it will all click.  Language arts was a bit easier to align with what we were working on in our books.  I'd setup a topic for them a few days or a week after they had covered it in their books.  That was a great way to review and practice.  

Free apps are available for iPad, Kindle, Android, and Chromebook (some older versions are not compatible).  We have a Kindle Fire that I added the math app onto.  I've used it for Merrick a couple of times.  It's so much easier to use the touchscreen than a mouse when you are two.  Yes, there are some sections in PK that he is able to do; naming shapes, counting to three (or five), same, and classifying by color.

IXL meets common core and state requirements.  You can view the correlations on the IXL site.

Math PK-12th grade
Language Arts 2nd-8th grade
Prices start at $79/year for math or language arts and $129/year for both sections for one child.  There is an additional $20 yearly fee for each extra child.  Monthly pricing is also available.  This nifty page will show you exact pricing when you enter in the number of children you wish to subscribe to which courses.

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