Some time ago, my family was asked by TOS Crew to use and review IXL.com. IXL.com is an interesting online curriculum that comprises both math (the Online Math Membership, for grades pre-K to 12) and language arts (the Online Language Arts Membership, for grades 2-4). We were blessed to receive free of charge a year’s membership to both (normally $79 for a year for one subject/$129 for both; or $9.95 per month per subject/$15.95 for both). Since Jackson is in 6th grade, we limited our IXL.com work to the math curriculum. I have found much to recommend with IXL.com math, as well as a couple of challenges our son experienced. Let me share some of that with you!
First of all, the membership is extremely user-friendly and easy to set up. The parent holds the custodial account and can set up separate accounts for multiple children, assigning grade levels for each child. If you click on this link for the Online Math Membership of IXL.com, you’ll arrive at this page which links to complete listings of the topics covered in each of the grade levels:
Parents can view the different levels to see what kinds of problems are included, to better verify which level or grade their children should be working at. When the level has been selected, the child can be assigned a certain number of problems, sections or an amount of time for each day’s math work.
Once the program has begun, parents receive emails each week that tell them:
- how much time the child spent working problems
- how many problems were solved correctly out of the total worked
- the skills attempted and mastered
- a “grade” average for the week
In addition, reports can be run and either viewed or printed that give a little more information. Here is an example of what one of these reports looks like:
- the child’s work done during a selected period of time (week, month, semester, year)
- the number of problems attempted and skills practiced
- total time spent
- medals earned (more on that later!)
- a graph at the bottom that shows the total time spent each month at IXL.com
The math problems are segmented into groups, and skills are designated by A.1, A.2, B.1 and so forth. Each skill is represented by one of these designations, and children work problems until they can score 100% and complete that skill. The graphics are attractive and problems are presented in an interesting way, both as word problems and number problems. As the child works through the problems up to 100, colored medals appear on the side as they are worked correctly. When a child misses a problem, the website explains the error, shows how to work the problem correctly, and adds more of that type of problem until the child shows that he understands it by not missing any more.
As I mentioned earlier, we did not use the language arts program but Jackson did use IXL.com’s Online Math Membership in addition to his regular math curriculum. I believe that the Online Math Membership could truly be used for either a stand-alone math curriculum or an additional curriculum for practice, review and reinforcement of skills. Generally, he spent time on IXL.com about four times each week. I’d usually assign him a couple of skills per day to work on (A.1, A.2 and so forth). We started out very well, and he was encouraged and enjoying his time on the math problems. He really liked the encouraging emails and the “awards” he could win for completing sections, for time spent or skills mastered. However, our difficulty began when a particularly challenging topic was presented. He began to answer questions and got all the way up to 80 (the children work until they reach 100, when the topic is considered to be understood) when he made a miscalculation and got the problem wrong. That dropped his score from 80 to 67, and he had to answer 10 more problems to even get back up to 80. This was both positive and negative for us. It was positive, because requiring him to work those additional problems really ensured that he understood what was wrong and why. It was negative for my son because the extra problems started to feel not like extra work to help him, but a painful punishment! This obviously isn’t going to be the case for every child, though; some children are obviously going to thrive with that kind of challenge…but for our child, it was not a positive reinforcement.
Here’s what Jackson has to say about IXL.com’s Online Math Membership:
“It gives me fun awards when I do certain things for a certain amount of time. And, they come up with interesting problems for me to work. I didn’t like how many points it takes off when you get a problem wrong, and I do not like that some of the problems are extremely hard.”
IXL.com’s curricula are correlated to both the Common Core and to U.S. State Standards.
All in all, I’d say that IXL.com can be a wonderful tool for children who really enjoy and are gifted in math or who love a hard challenge. It isn’t something that we will personally use for a main math curriculum, but we will definitely keep working on it here so that Jackson can continue to strengthen his math skills. I do appreciate the feedback the website gives both to parents and to children.
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