Recently, Jackson and I received a full year’s subscription to UnLock Math‘s excellent UnLock Pre-Algebra to review, via the Schoolhouse Review Crew. We’ve really benefited from this online pre-algebra course. I’d love to share our experiences with you!
What is UnLock Pre-Algebra?
Creators Matthew and Alesia Blackwood (who were not only homeschooled themselves, but are currently teaching their own children at home) have created a most unusual, and excellent math program. UnLock Pre-Algebra is a complete online pre-algebra course for students in grades 7-8. It covers a full scope and sequence of pre-algebra. (Just scroll to the bottom of that link to view everything this course covers.) Lessons are clearly taught (by a human teacher, not just an automated voice!) and students have immediate opportunities not only to put their new knowledge into practice, but to review recent facts and lessons. And all of this is accomplished in a calm and enjoyable manner and environment.
How does this course work?
This online course itself is well-organized and easy to use. Once the parent has set up a student account, the student logs into his dashboard. The dashboard enables the student to access everything from the lessons themselves, to his cumulative score, to his overall progress in the course. It also allows the student (or parent) to access his gradebook and progress reports, which break down his scores on each type of problem, lesson, or test. UnLock Math records the lessons (and their scores) that the students complete, and each day when they log into the dashboard, the column on the left side will show them which lessons they’ve completed and which one they should work on next.
The online lessons are taught by Alesia Blackwood, a competent and enjoyable high school math instructor. She is very experienced in taking math concepts and teaching them in such a way that students who’ve disliked math or even feared it, can understand and excel at it.
The lessons are organized so that each day, students: practice what they’ve already learned; watch a new online lesson; work problems on the new concepts; and even attempt an extra credit problem. Here’s the format each lesson follows:
- Warmup: 5 questions for the student to “get into” math mode
- Video Lesson: Alesia Blackwood presents the lesson/concept of the day. These lessons tend to range anywhere from 5-15 minutes long, depending on what’s being taught.
- Practice Problems: Here, the student puts into practice what he’s just learned from the video lesson. There are usually around 20 questions and they are scored.
- Stay Sharp: This section includes problems from previous lessons. This practice helps students to solidify prior concepts and continue to build good problem-solving skills.
- Challenge: Each lesson contains one Challenge problem for extra credit. These are, as the name implies, challenging math questions which really make the student think. (If the question is missed, however, the student doesn’t lose any points.)
Tests and quizzes are also part of this curriculum, as are midterm and final exams.
How we used it:
This summer, we used UnLock Pre-Algebra as our main and only math curriculum. We did about three lessons per week (except for the week we were on vacation). Actually, since it was summer and Jackson (who’s going into 8th grade) wanted to get his homeschool lessons done as quickly as he could, he did all three lessons on one day most weeks. This actually worked well for us, although during the fall/spring school year we’d spread them out to one lesson per day (or 5 per week), just so that Jackson’s math muscles get used every day. It generally took him about 15-35 minutes to complete a lesson. I would sit nearby and watch the lessons so that I knew what he was learning and how Alesia was teaching each concept.
The gradebook and progress reports are perhaps the best I’ve ever seen in a math curriculum! I love being able to see how well Jackson did on every area (they both show how much time he spent on each type of problem, and the scores he made on them all), and knowing at a glance which areas we need to spend more time on. UnLock Pre-Algebra can even give your student more practice in different areas, as needed!
Our impressions and conclusions:
I really liked Alesia’s methods and manner of teaching. She is so interesting and so clear. She also uses some amazing graphics and a touch screen board (to write on, display problems and work problems on) as she teaches the lesson, which I think will appeal to today’s teens. I found this curriculum to be more challenging than the one we used last year, but it wasn’t too difficult for Jackson. I think it just made him work a bit smarter and harder.
One issue that I sometimes have with online math curricula was completely set aside by UnLock Pre-Algebra. Often, when we’ve done online math in the past, I have missed having a paper textbook that Jackson could use for review and just have alongside him when the lessons were taught. I’ve felt that the lack of an actual textbook impaired the learning of new topics from time to time. However, UnLock Math has instructional notes for each lesson, so you can print them out, keep them in a notebook and use them for reference. That is great for review and further study, and he found it so useful.
And I will also tell you that we’re so impressed with this that we plan to continue with it throughout the year! I love its format, the challenge it provides to Jackson, and how thorough each lesson is. I give high marks to UnLock Pre-Algebra!
You can visit UnLock Math at the company’s social media hangouts:
You may purchase UnLock Pre-Algebra from UnLock Math for $299 annually, or $49 monthly. And, the Blackwoods are offering a $50 coupon for any of our readers who purchase the annual course of either UnLock Pre-Algebra or UnLock Algebra 1. Check out UnLock Math’s pre-algebra course. I think you’ll be impressed…and your students will really learn!
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