And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children. Isaiah 54:13 KJV

Monday, July 27, 2015

UnLocking Pre-Algebra

The beginning of our school year is right around the corner, and Apple will be studying Pre-Algebra this year. She was a little intimidated by it until we got the opportunity to review UnLock Pre-AlgebraUnLock Math is an online math curriculum source with courses for Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1, and soon they will be adding Algebra 2.  Pre-Algebra is typically a 7th/ 8th grade course but over time Apple has gotten ahead in math and so this is the level she is tackling.                                          
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Honestly, I've worried that Pre-Algebra might be too advanced for my 10 yr old 6th grader. It just sounds so.....grown? Mature? Hard? Apple was nervous about it too. UnLock Pre-Algebra has given her a ton of confidence. She is excited about math and learning all new things. I think she feared that math would never get anymore complicated than addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. UnLock Math has truly unlocked a whole new world of study for her. I'm really glad that this was the curriculum she had to begin Pre-Algebra. 

For this site, you register as a parent and then assign your student to the course you have purchased. You set your student up with a password, and they are generated a number as their login. Then they can access their account through the student login. Once they access their account, they come to a dashboard. This page lists all the units for the course. It also has a link for a formula sheet (notes), a pacing guide, and 2 percentage graphs. One graph marks how much of the course is completed. The other gives them an average grade on all the work they've completed so far. 

There are also links for the gradebook for the course and for a progress report. As the teacher, this is where you will go to see how your student is progressing. If you click on a unit, you will get a big colorful pie graph to show how much work is completed on that particular unit. 

From the dashboard, your student can launch the unit they need. Once inside the unit they will see the daily lessons, quizzes, and tests. The number of daily lessons varies for each unit. The pacing guide (found on the dashboard) can give you an estimated number of days each unit should take. I just had Apple do a daily lesson and then the quizzes and tests at our own pace. We followed the pacing guide schedule pretty closely as it gives 1 day for each lesson, 1 day for review, and 1 day for the test. The quizzes are super short and can be tacked on following a daily lesson. 

Each daily lesson consists of 5 parts. The Warm Up is a short set of questions for review. The video is the lesson. The Practice Problems are the worksheet of the lesson. The Stay Sharp questions are a review questions to help the student stay on target. Challenge Yourself is always one question for a bonus. It may or may not be related to that day's lesson. The Reference Notes are notes from the lesson. 

The videos are not long. The ones I checked were all less than 10 minutes. Apple said they were not boring at all and that each video was very easy to understand. Matthew and Alesia Blackwood have created this program. Alesia is the teacher on all the videos. She brings her experience as a math teacher to the homeschool community through UnLock Math. Apple says,"she shows a lot of examples on the video and she covers everything". I think the videos are the key to this curriculum. The instructor is right there in front of the student (just like in a classroom setting), and she is using a touchscreen to show the examples of each lesson. She is very animated and excited about math. There are some subjects that I feel confident that I can teach my children with ease and patience. Math ain't one of them. With UnLock Math, I'm not the teacher. Alesia Blackwood is the teacher and the program even does all the grading. That's a win-win for me!

We've had one issue while using the program. Apple took a unit test and made a score lower than desired. She re-took the unit test and made a slightly higher score but still less than the grade she was capable of making. Now logically two times to take a test should (and would) be enough for most students. I believe the curriculum was thorough and that Apple understood the material based on the scores she had made on the practice problems, quizzes, and unit review. I asked her to take it a third time. She tried and was unable to do so. I went onto the program with her and found there was no way to override and allow her to take it again. I sent an email to customer service and received a very fast response from Matthew Blackwood himself. We were able to talk on the phone about the issue and another question I had. He is so nice y'all! The level of customer service I received is just not found very often these days. By the next day, the whole program was changed to allow students to take the tests more than 2 times. I am so appreciative of the way our issue was handled. Apple and I were both very impressed. 

UnLock Pre-Algebra provides a whole year of Pre-Algebra curriculum. The price is higher than we would normally pay for a year's worth of math, but I've gotta say it looks well worth the cost from the time we've spent with the program. There is a monthly plan available as well. Apple loves that the lessons are broken down into small, easy to learn portions. She likes the format of the videos and practice questions. The 15-20 practice questions for each daily lesson were quick to do, and she never felt like she had busy work with this program. The Stay Sharp portion averaged about 20 questions as well and did a good job of keeping her fresh on all the material. Apple feels very mature as she takes responsibility for using this program and instantly seeing her grades without mom's help. This curriculum has made our transition into middle school math a success!

See what other Crew members thought of UnLock Math:
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