UnlockMath.com offers online courses for Pre-Algebra, Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II that students can access at any time—no live classes to work into your schedule. This review is based upon the Pre-Algebra course, but other courses are similar.
UnlockMath includes online problem solving, interactive and adaptive testing, grading, and reporting. In addition, there are unlimited Practice Problems on each lesson’s topic plus continuous review with Stay Sharp problems. If students want to do more than one set of Practice Problems or Stay Sharp problems, the program generates new sets of problems and the student’s best score is recorded. For each lesson, there is an optional Challenge question to stretch students’ critical thinking skills. If students answer a challenge question correctly, they receive extra credit, but it does not count against them if they try and fail. There are no “do-overs” with the challenge question.
Reference notes summarize key points in each lesson and help students review without going back through all of the videos. In addition, the reference notes list pertinent vocabulary words but do not define them.
The format of the course is very easy to follow. Each lesson comes up on a screen showing all lesson components. Students start with a warm-up activity with five problems to solve based on previously-learned material. The video lesson is next. Alesia, the instructor for this course, presents video lessons standing in front of an animated screen rather than a whiteboard. She teaches one problem at a time teaching and demonstrating with numerous examples. Alesia is a lively and animated presenter who is easy to understand.
While some problems require students to either enter a numeric answer into a box or select a multiple choice answer, at least four other types of student response formats are used. For example, some questions require that students sketch the answer with drawing tools provided in the program. (Students might need to play with the tools for a few minutes to figure out how they work since they are fairly sophisticated.) Students are most likely to use sketching tools for answering questions that require them to graph lines or inequalities on a coordinate plane.
There are 16 units in the course. The first five units (the first 40 lessons) review material that students should have learned prior to pre-algebra, topics such as adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing both integers and fractions; order of operations; prime numbers; factors; exponents; and greatest common factors. You can always skip any or all of these lessons if students don’t need them.
From there the course progresses through units on equations, inequalities, the coordinate plane, decimals, percent, polynomials, triangles, two-dimensional geometry, three-dimensional geometry, analyzing data, and probability and statistics. While plenty of attention is given to review, the course covers challenging course content that should prepare students well for any first-year algebra course.
Adaptive problems begin in the fifth unit. If a student misses a question, the program will take them back through the problem step by step, starting by giving them the first step then allowing them to either attempt to complete it or ask for the next step. Students can still earn partial credit for the question after working through this process. While some programs adapt by presenting easier or more challenging problems, UnlockMath adapts by guiding students through questions that present difficulties, reteaching them in the process.
A midterm and a final exam are included. There are also review questions for students to practice in advance of each test, and both exams have a Questions Reference Guide that tells students the topics for questions on each test as well as the lessons from which they are drawn.
Both parents and students can log into the student dashboard and view their progress. The gradebook has extensive reporting features, and details of a student’s progress can be exported into a database format that should be able to be read on Excel or similar programs. While it records student progress, the gradebook also makes it easy to see where students might need additional practice. It can show you particular questions that a student has answered as well as the complete solutions and explanations for those questions—a big help for the parent who is stumped along with the student.
The QuickStart Guide on the site will help you quickly see how the program functions. Similarly, the Gradebook Guide demonstrates the features of the gradebook so that you can make proper use of its features.
UnlockMath.com is pricier than some other options, but it does an excellent job. It’s very professionally designed with great graphics. Alesia’s use of the large digital screen to teach is much nicer than the whiteboard approach used by many courses. The lessons are very clearly laid out and easy to follow, and they include everything you need—plenty of practice problems, cumulative review, ability to review any lesson, tests, and complete solutions along with the answers.