Krystina Smith is a high school math teacher at John F. Kennedy Memorial High School. She implemented the online math program ALEKS® to differentiate instruction in the classroom. Krystina shares how ALEKS not only helped to improve math skills, but also increased student confidence for state testing.
Hi! My name is Krystina Smith. This is my fifth year teaching at John F. Kennedy Memorial High School in the Woodbridge Township School District in New Jersey. For the past two years, I have been teaching Algebra 1 S track courses and last year, had the opportunity to teach in-class support with a special education teacher.
Prior to using ALEKS, I struggled with differentiating in my classroom. My students come from diverse backgrounds, and some of them struggle with mathematics. It was also difficult for some of my students to understand what I was teaching due to a language barrier.
ALEKS has helped to differentiate for each of my students! Students that understand the lesson can work on ALEKS topics while I teach smaller groups. In my class, students are able to choose which topics in the ALEKS Pie interests them and they work on it. Additionally, because ALEKS is fully bilingual in English and Spanish, my Spanish speaking students are able to go on ALEKS, switch their account to Spanish, and learn the lesson.
Last year, my students were preparing for the new state testing, specifically PARCC. In preparation, students viewed a YouTube video of how to access and use the tools seen on the PARCC assessment. As the students were watching the video, they thought that the tools on the PARCC were similar to those in ALEKS.
The topics in ALEKS also prepare students for state testing as it ensures students have fully understood each topic. After a student has learned a certain amount of topics, the program will assess the student to ensure the topic was learned and not forgotten. It is essential that students retain the knowledge that they learned, and this program ensures student success! By implementing ALEKS, students felt comfortable with completing new state testing. Students in my class were worried about taking the exam but they felt more prepared than the other students who were not working on the ALEKS program.
ALEKS is used in my classroom every day. First, students learn the lesson I am teaching through the textbook. Once the lesson is completed, students complete a classwork assignment. After the assignment, they work on ALEKS. If I see students are struggling with their classwork assignment, I either do small group instruction with them in the back of the classroom or I have them try to learn the topic on ALEKS.
In using the program, I have seen numerous positive outcomes and results! Students who began the program with knowledge of 20 topics have ended the course mastering 300 topics! One of my students last year came into my class and worked extremely hard on ALEKS every day. With about three months left in the semester, she completed 80% of the Algebra 1 pie. I decided to move her to the Geometry pie to expose her to what she would be learning next. With about one month left in the semester, she completed 90% of her Geometry pie and asked me if she could move to the Algebra 2 pie! This student pushed herself and taught herself lessons because she was interested in learning more! Isn’t this what our 21st century learners need? This young lady taught herself almost 3 courses due to her motivation and love for the program!
My recommendation is to use the program, motivate your students, and encourage a love for learning through this program! These 21st century students need a program such as ALEKS to increase their level of knowledge and engagement. Students need to be engaged through a program that is individualized and web-based!
Here is what my students say. (Some of the students did not LOVE the program, but they LEARNED and that is my GOAL!)
“ALEKS is an online program that helps student as extra help. In ALEKS, there are topics that the teacher teaches in class. If we want to review the topics, we can do it at home too. I had this ALEKS program when I was in Algebra 1. At first, I did not know anything about it. I was just doing random topics. But then my teacher Ms. Smith told me that there are topics that I have to do and also which are related to your study. By the time, I completed ALEKS before the time, then she gave me Geometry in ALEKS. And this helped me a lot in Geometry class now. So I understand easily in my Geometry class this semester. Then I completed Geometry in ALEKS too. Then she gave me Algebra 2 in ALEKS. So, ALEKS is the best online program to understand math easily. There is an also assessment about the topics that we covered. After the assessments done, they give us a report card to saw how much we progressed.”
“The ALEKS program was very stressful. Although I hated it, it taught me a lot. The fact that it wouldn’t let me leave a topic until you mastered it was very helpful. ALEKS has helped me on tests and with lessons. Sometimes our teacher would be teaching something I already learned on ALEKS and it would make it so much easier. It isn’t a program I would use voluntarily but I am glad Ms. Smith pushed me to finish the program. It brought up my grade so much.”
“In my Algebra 1 class this year, one of our main goals and focus was to do and finish the ALEKS program. Every day we were given half of the block to work on ALEKS, specifically 5 topics a day which would reach us to our goal of the week with 25 topics. ALEKS is a program for individuals that focuses on your personal weaknesses as well as strengths in math. ALEKS was an annoying and stressful program, but it was very helpful and hands on. It did help me better understand topics and different and easier ways to solve problems.”
“The ALEKS program does not just help one out of five students but it teachers the whole class. Algebra 1 is not the hardest class but the ALEKS program helps students understand more math. With ALEKS students go at their own pace. You can do any topics you want and if you do not understand it you can click the explain button so you understand how to do the next problem. ALEKS makes the class much easier to understand. ALEKS is a wonderful program and it is very useful for students in Algebra 1.”
“ALEKS is a great program. It is a web-based learning system. I learned many things from ALEKS when I was in my Algebra 1 class in my last semester. My teacher, Miss Smith told us about the ALEKS program. There is a pie in ALEKS that shows our learning progress. As we learn new topics the pie slices are filled with the darker colors. Everyone’s goal was to fill the whole pie. When I completed my Algebra 1 in ALEKS, Ms. Smith gave me Geometry in ALEKS. Before working with ALEKS, I always thought that geometry is a very hard subject. But this program helps a lot. I learned many new topics about geometry which really helps me in this semester in my geometry class. I think ALEKS is a very good program for students who are having trouble with learning math. So, my experience with ALEKS was very very good. ALEKS is the best program that I have worked with. ALEKS is the best thing to having a math tutor at home. I really enjoyed working with it.”
“To be honest ALEKS was not my favorite thing to do and at times it got me really annoyed but it also helped me out a lot. It taught me a lot of stuff. Miss Smith pushed me every day to work hard on the topics and told me it would pay off at the end and it did.”
“ALEKS for me wasn’t always the funnest thing to do, but when I tried the problems it wasn’t that bad. Sometimes I spent hours on ALEKS because it helped me learn or get a better understanding of what I was having trouble with. There was always a number of topics to be complete at the end of each week, most of the times the problems were easy but going further into the lessons and other sections the problems got harder, which meant that I had to work harder to get the problems done. Math was never my best subject, I always struggled with math, but doing ALEKS consistently every night helped me A LOT. I started to show improvement slowly and finals week was coming up so I kept doing my ALEKS and surprisingly I passed by final with a B-. Therefore, ALEKS was not fun but I learned a lot from it.“