Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Math and Language Arts with IXL.com {Schoolhouse Review}

You may know by now that I like supplemental materials in our homeschool.  Having a variety of ways to practice and reinforce what we are learning is important to me.  It presents information in a different way and it breaks up the monotony of using a standard curriculum day in and day out.  We were given another opportunity to review IXL.com, and I was given a full year access to both IXL Math and IXL Language Arts sections.

IXL.com review



What is IXL?
IXL.com is a subscription-based website for math and language arts practice.  They currently offer Pre-K through high school level math, and 2nd-8th grade language arts.  We reviewed IXL.com last year, but this year we're getting so much more out of it and are enjoying different features.


How does the program work?
Once a student logs in, they choose the subject and grade level to work on, but they do have access to all grade levels at all times, which is ideal for allowing children to work up or down if their ability varies for different skills.  Then they choose a specific topic and start practicing!  As the student answers questions correctly, they earn points, but if they miss a question they lose points.  As they continue to answer correctly the questions become more challenging, and questions are weighted so that students are given enough questions to master the material.  If the student answers incorrectly, the problem is explained immediately so it is still fresh in mind.  When they reach 100 points, the skill is considered mastered and there's a congratulations screen and a gold metal is added to the full list of skills.



Second Grade Math
Elliott is 7 years old and is focusing on 2nd Grade Math.  This level offers 24 categories with 247 individual skills.  I usually let him use this program however he wants.  Generally he works randomly, choosing a square on the awards board to uncover, and works towards his goal.  If he chooses a topic he hasn't learned in his primary curriculum, I give him a quick overview, and he's off! Sometimes we use it to practice whatever we're learning in our math curriculum instead of doing the workbook pages, but I find that letting him bounce around between topics {rather than only using it to supplement what he's doing in math} keeps all the skills fresh.  Since we use a mastery-based approach for our primary curriculum, it is nice to have this as sort of a "spiral" review for him.

Here are some sample questions taken from various 2nd grade skills he has worked on:  Patterns, Fractions, Estimation and Even/Odd Numbers.

IXL.com review



Overall, he really enjoys the math portion of this website, and it is has recently been one of his favorite "school" activities to do!


2nd Grade Language Arts
2nd Grade Language Arts has 34 categories, with 86 skills, and covers things like capitalization, synonyms, homophones, contractions, alphabetical order and various other common language topics.  We dabbled in a few sections last year, but it's definitely more appropriate for 2nd grade or slightly older kids to review.  We've been using this portion a little differently though.  I do usually choose the topic that coincides with what Elliott is learning about in language arts.  This is because we don't do as much "formal" language arts, so this gives him a way to practice, and gives me a way to assess his understanding.

I will admit that he isn't enthusiastic about this subject in general (he is my math kid after all) and it is not as visually appealing without all the graphics.  There's also no awards board, so he isn't as motivated to get through the questions.  Because of this, we use this side a little more sparingly.  However, I really do appreciate that the format of the questions varies.  As you can see, there's multiple choice, typing in the answer, click and drag and highlighting.  This does keep it from being too monotonous.

IXL.com review




Pre-K & Kindergarten Math
Emory just recently turned 5 years old and although he used IXL here and there last year, he really didn't get into it at the time.  This year he is much more interested in "doing school" like his brother.  He could easily work in the Kindergarten section, but since he didn't use it much until recently, he wanted to finish his Pre-K awards board, so he is finishing up the Pre-K math sections now, which covers 42 different skills within 10 categories.  A lot of the material is easy/review for him, but at his age that is fine with me.

We really just use this for fun once or twice a week.  I do sit with him so if he needs help I can work him through the question.  He is happy to do one set of questions, but he's a typical 5 year old boy and wants to be on the go and is done after mastering a skill.

The progressive nature makes it appropriate for young preschoolers to start (with easier skills like shapes or counting up to 3 for example), for an older preschooler to gain confidence, and for a Kindergarten student to use as practice or review, especially since many of the Kindergarten skills overlap with the Pre-K skills anyway.

IXL.com review


With access to all grades, I can move him into the 129 Kindergarten math skills as soon as he finishes Pre-K.  Although many of the skills do overlap, once we move into Kindergarten there will be additional topics like skip-counting, addition and telling time to challenge him more.


Awards
For each grade level, there is a themed Awards board.  The Pre-K board is a toy theme, and the 2nd grade board is ocean/beach themed.  You can hover over any question mark to see the challenge, and virtual prices are revealed when the challenge is completed.  Challenges include tasks such as mastering specific skills or a certain number of skills, practicing for a designated amount of time, or answering a certain number of questions.  Once the more general milestones (like answering 100 questions) are reached, a new question mark appears with a new target number.  Also, if your kiddo needs a tangible award, printable certificates are awarded periodically for some of these milestones.

IXL.com review
Elliott's 2nd Grade Awards board early during the review period





The App
IXL offers apps for certain iPad, Kindle and Android devices.  We finally got around to downloading the iPad app this year, and the program is fully accessible!  I love that we can take learning on the go, or at least to any room of the house.  I think the boys find the app more visually appealing, and they love the 'scratch paper' that is available for math.  My 2nd grader loves the app, and often chooses to do his math on it instead.  I've even found him on the IXL app without any prompting from me!

IXL.com review



Parent Account
Initially I log in to my parent account, and then the boys can sign into their student accounts with a "secret word" and access their work.  They cannot access the program (except as a guest) without me signing in first.

My account allows me to control features such as allowing audio or displaying grade levels in the student accounts.  I can also view each student's awards board without going into their separate accounts, and sample the problems without it reflecting on their records.

Another great feature of the Parent account is all of the records and progress reports.  There are so many ways to filter the reports.  You can look at a skill and see how many questions it took for them to master the skill and how much time they spent.  You can even look at the exact problems they were given and the answers they chose.  It even tracks scores as related to your common core or state standards, if that matters to you.  Everything can be downloaded/printed, so if you need records for portfolios, you can find something to meet your needs.


Pros
  • Access to all grade levels
  • Program rewards all practice with acknowledgement of time spent and questions answered 
  • Compliments any math or language arts program 
  • The website is clean and there are NO ads 
  • Ability to control certain features from the parent account 
  • Extensive reports 
  • Multiple subscription options to meet your needs 


Wishlist
My only real wish is that there was a Language Arts awards board.  The lack of an Awards board means this subject, which is already my son's least favorite, is not as exciting for my kid that is motivated by seeing his progress in a very visual way.  I would love to see one added!


Final Thoughts
I like the thoroughness of the program, especially considering it is only designed as a practice website.  I like that I can put Elliott on there almost independently while I am nearby doing other things (helping Emory, dishes, laundry, etc), and I think it's great for those busy days when I just need an abbreviated school day--if we have an appointment or class out of the house, IXL.com is a great way to get our math practice in for the day without me having to cover a lesson, check a workbook page or hover around him.

A subscription for one student is $9.95/month for one subject, or $15.95/month for both math and language arts.  Additional students are only an extra $2 per month.  Or you can purchase an annual subscription for one student for $79/ for one subject or $129 for both subjects.  Additional annual subscriptions are $20 per student.




You can check out IXL.com or find them on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ for more information, or read more reviews!



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