Tuesday, July 28, 2015

UnLock Pre-Algebra (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

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UnLock Pre-Algebra (Schoolhouse Crew Review) on Homeschool Coffee Break @kympossibleblog.blogspot.com #math

When math doesn't come easily for a kid, we are on the prowl for a math program that will really give them the keys to understanding it. With a name like UnLock Math, I believed that maybe their online course UnLock Pre-Algebra would be able to do it for us, so I was excited to be able to review it for the Schoolhouse Review Crew. At first, Kennady wasn't quite so excited (because she doesn't like math!), but she changed her tune as went along... But I'm getting ahead of myself...
Unlock Math Review

UnLock Math makes Pre-Algebra and Algebra more fun and less stressful for students - and for parents. It breaks math concepts down into "bite-sized" pieces, taught in videos and using interactive testing. It's automatically graded too, which can be a huge help to homeschool parents! UnLock Pre-Algebra is the full course for seventh or eighth graders that we were able to work on for this review. The teaching is done in entertaining videos by Alesia Blackwood, an experienced high school math teacher, and each lesson includes interactive and adaptive practice, review, and testing. Reference notes are also provided in each lesson. A pacing guide, complete solutions, grading by the program, and records and reports make it simple for parents too.

How did we use it?  Kennady has just finished eighth grade, but math is her biggest challenge, so she is still working through Pre-Algebra material. I have been content to let her learn at her own pace as long as she actually understands it, but now that we're hitting high school grades, making sure she masters the concepts is especially important. So the idea of short and entertaining teaching videos, and adaptive practice was very appealing to her and to me.

We got Kennady set up with her student account, and immediately loved that the dashboard is bold and easy to navigate - and keeps track of where she left off! I printed the Pacing Guide to give us an idea of how quickly she should be aiming to move through the lessons. With several trips away from home during the past month, her availability to work on UnLock Pre-Algebra was interrupted, but the dashboard made it easy to tell where she left off, and she could also back up and refresh her memory if needed. 
Unlock Math Review
Each unit follows the same pattern, and the dashboard offers a flow chart which is helpful for visual learners. It starts with a Warm-Up to do some review of basics and get the math juices flowing! Then the video lesson taught by Alesia Blackwood - she is enthusiastic about math and her often creative presentation of the concepts make them memorable. Any time you can have a teacher that has a genuine interest for their subject, that makes it much more enjoyable for the students, in my opinion. The following Practice Problems are all done on the website, and are graded automatically, as are the Stay Sharp and Challenge Yourself sections that follow. 

Unlock Math Review

One thing I noticed - and liked - about the problems that the student needs to solve, is that they are not simple multiple choice A-B-C-D.  Some are multiple choice, but are "choose all the correct answers". Others are True/False, some are "choose the correct answer", etc. By changing the question format, students are more likely to try to find the answer rather than guess. At least that's how my student looks at it! We also really like that there is only one question on the screen at a time, so it's less overwhelming and distracting. Kennady could focus on only the one question, and her eyes weren't straying to other things on the page. She does have to answer each question before being able to go on to the next, but there's no time limit. Whew! Her score is shown as she works through the questions, so she has that immediate feedback, which is very important to her as well.

I do wish we'd had the time to get even further in the course before writing this review, but Kennady and I have both been so impressed that I know she will continue on in the course as our official school year gets under way. The units do not necessarily need to be done in the order presented, so since we are using this alongside our regular curriculum, Kennady can get extra instruction and practice in the topics that are harder for her, skipping some topics that she does have a good grasp on.

And even though some of it is already review, I'm so glad we decided that Kennady would start off working the units in order, because she had some lightbulb moments in the first unit that was largely a review of things she already knew. Or perhaps she sort of knew but didn't fully understand. For example, after completing the lesson on place values (a pretty basic concept, right?), Kennady said this to me:
This actually makes SENSE to me now, after she taught it. I was always confused about the places past the thousands and didn't quite understand, but now I get it.
I didn't even watch that video lesson, so I don't know how Alesia presented it so that it finally clicked with my kid, but honestly, I don't care. She understands something that had been difficult for her before, so it's all good as far as I'm concerned!  I saw this quote on the UnLock Math homepage and yes, this is exactly what happened:
They'll be exclaiming "AHA, Now I get it!" as their confidence and skill level improves.
What we liked best:

  • short video lessons that (believe it or not) even worked properly when our internet was in data restriction! Alesia's presentation of material is creative and entertaining, and therefore effective and memorable.
  • uncluttered presentation of practice problems and quiz questions - one question per page, and the screen was not busy and distracting.
  • automatic, as-you-go grading! That I didn't have to do!!
  • easy to navigate, and we have the ability to spend more or less time on topics as needed; and can even skip topics or do them in a different order if we need to.
What I need to mention:
  • the notice pops up on the screen, but students should know that they only have one chance to answer the question - once they hit "submit" that question is graded.
  • I was greatly relieved that the video lesson usually worked well with our internet, but it's best to have reliable and consistent high speed internet. 
Our bottom line: I admit I was apprehensive about giving Kennady one more math thing, but UnLock Pre-Algebra has proven to be so helpful and flexible that we will continue to use it. I highly recommend it, especially for students who are not crazy about math and would benefit from a teacher that has a passion for helping students unlock the mysteries of math!

Unlock Math Review
Would you like to UnLock some math in your homeschool? Here's what you need to know:
Visit the website: http://www.UnLockMath.com/
Find out more about UnLock Pre-Algebra. UnLock Algebra1 is also available now, with UnLock Algebra2 coming soon.

Pricing: We received a full year of UnLock Pre-Algebra for this review, which is currently $299 per student. You can see all the pricing options at the website. Sibling discounts and referral discounts are also available.

Age Recommendation: Grade 7 and up.

You can follow UnLock Math on Facebook, on Twitter, on Pinterest, on Google+, and on Instagram.

Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog for more information and to read other reviews. 
Unlock Math Review

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