Monday, July 27, 2015

{Crew Review} UnLock Pre-Algebra

I have tried a number of math programs for Luke this year -- math is not his favorite and he really needs lots of practice and ways to learn information, without it being SO MUCH that he burns out.

We've had the opportunity to try out a new product, UnLock Pre-Algebra by the new UnLock Math company.  This is a multi-media program that is designed to teach/ refresh math skills to make sure students have a firm foundation in the basics before moving on to Algebra.

UnLock Pre-Algebra is designed for a math-phobic student like Luke.  Created by seasoned math teacher Alesia Blackwook and her husband Matthew, it is designed to provide simple, no frills (but engaging) teaching, practice and review of previous concepts to keep the student's skills sharp.

Technical Requirements: So special downloads are needed for this program, outside of a web browser and enabling pop ups and cookies. You will need to be online to use this course.  There is no downloadable content for offline use.  You can view the FAQs to see more technical information (but I suspect if you are reading this review, you can access the program without difficulty!).

How The Program Works:  As of right now, UnLock Math has two courses: pre-algebra and algebra (with an algebra 2 course planned for the future).  Assigning Luke to the course was easy, and he logs in with a numerical user ID and self-selected PIN.

Luke's homepage looks like this:

The gauge dial in the center shows how current % accuracy on the lesson.  The blue teeny bar graph shows progress through the entire course.  I like the visual motivation to keep working!

The Unit Screen allows students to see what topics are presented in each section.

There is a Pre-Algebra pacing guide which provides parents and students guidance to complete the entire UnLock Pre-Algebra math course in an academic year of 32 or 40 weeks (depending on how many days per week the lessons are scheduled).  The guide also provides a nice scope and sequence to add to your student's portfolio.  Once a section is un-locked, you proceed to the next module.

Completing a Lesson:

Each daily lesson has 5 parts:

  • Warm Up:  10 questions of review information.  Although it shows as "untimed" -- I'm lead to believe that perhaps in the future, a parent could set a timed feature on this to help students work with accuracy and speed.
  • Video Lesson:  These lessons are short:  3-5 minutes of instruction by Ms. Blackwood.  She presents in front of an electronic blackboard with PowerPoint like presentations.  I found the instruction to be good, but I noticed sometimes Ms. Blackwood seemed rushed;  the beauty of this type of tool, however, is that we could rewatch the content.  Additionally, you can view and download a PDF reference sheet (you can see a Pre-Algebra sample here), which provides a written summary of the video lesson.
  • Practice Problems:  This is a set of approximately 10 questions that the student answers based on the new material presented in the lesson.  
  • Stay Sharp:  Here are review questions from previous lessons.  
  • Challenge Yourself: I *really* like these problems, some of which help students to see some practical application of the content.  The question relates to what the student just learned.  It is a good thing to try (Luke and I did these together so I could model problem solving skills) and I suspect the longer Luke and I work through these together, the more successful and independent he will be.
One thing that is great about this program is that there is a HUGE database of problems which are used for the student to work on.  If you are having trouble with a concept, you can repeat the practice problems or stay sharp problem sets with new material.

Another little thing I really appreciate: objectives and goals are clearly laid out for students at the beginning of each lesson in the upper left of the screen.  I also appreciate the visual interest of the map-like layout progressing from Warm Up to each Challenge Yourself.

Gradebook:  As a parent, you can glean quite a bit of information about student progress in the Gradebook.  A simple view from earlier in the review period looks like this:

The area that I marked (above) with red circles shows that these screens collapse.  You can view progress on a per-task basis by percent, letter grade or number correct.  You can also scroll down the screen to see each problem that was asked, the correct answer and your student's response.

You can also see progress in each unit and within the entire course.  Here was Luke's progress early on in the Whole Number unit:

UnLock Pre-Algebra can be purchased for an annual subscription (currently $299.00) or on a monthly basis ($49.00).  However, check their website for referral discounts.

How It Worked For Us:  It is hard for Luke to do math over the summer -- since he is not a fan. However, we worked through it together and he seemed to get a lot out of it --  in spite of himself!  I appreciated that each lesson had a short teaching component -- and even though Luke would say, "I already know that" it was easy to glean some new information from nearly all the videos we've watched so far.  Each lesson only lasted 20-ish minutes ... that was with one run-through of the problem sets.  I probably should have asked Luke to re-do a few problem sets (as a rule, we work to mastery in this home school), but -- well, it IS summer. *grin*

I'm hopeful that we can get some more work done on the program as we ramp up towards the beginning of our school year.  Did Luke love UnLock Math?  No, but he did not hate it either.  *grin* Since I saw progress and there were no tears, this will be our go-to program until the school year starts, and perhaps as he keeps seeing success, he'd be willing to keep working through the material.

You can see how the program worked for other Crew Reviewers by clicking below:

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