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Thursday, June 21, 2012

IXL Review

IXL is an online math site that offers "comprehensive, dynamic content for the left and right brain".  I've heard it being raved about by members of different homeschool groups that I'm in, in addition to seeing many ads for it on homeschool sites that I trust, so I was eager for a chance to check it out.

The site offers math practice for grades Pre-K through 9th grade (with more coming).  Below are some of the skills that are covered for the grades my kids and I checked out.



IXL Algebra

After you set up your account, your student clicks on their name and enters their password.  Then, they are taken to a screen with a list of the skills for their grade level.  They can begin working anywhere.  Start at the very beginning or just jump in at an area they need more practice at.  Below are some screen shots with sample problems.  IXL offers multiple questions on each skill with a dynamic assessment program that tracks how well the student does answering problems about that skill with a goal of earning 100 points and thereby showing mastery.   Missed problems offer the opportunity to click for a detailed explanation of what the correct answer is and why.  Thus, the program offers instruction as well as practice.

IXL Screen Samples

Below, you can see the charts students get that track their progress.  They are awarded icons for each achievement (i.e. a ladybug for practicing 5 minutes or a tree for answering 100 questions).  The right hand box offers a less "fluffy" report, giving them a breakdown of what awards they've earned, how long they've worked, how many questions they've answered, etc.

IXL Awards and Games

Certain achievements are celebrated with certificates like the one below.
IXL Certificate of Achievement

Parents are given a login as well, and detailed reporting is available.  You can see exactly how long each child has worked, what skills they practiced, what trouble spots they might have, how they are lining up with your state standards, and many, many more reports.
IXL Family Reports

The "Parents" pricing stated below is for one child.  Additional children are $2/month each or $20 more a year each.
IXL Fees

The pros:  IXL is easy to use.  It's colorful without being overstimulating.  Feedback as they answer questions is instantaneous.  The content is comprehensive-from Pre-K to 9th grade- and students can move between levels with ease.  I especially like all the reports available to parents. And best of all, I love the option to have my students' practice choices presented as "levels" instead of "grades" if I want so that my daughter who struggles with math is not aware that she's working problems 2 levels below her "grade".    Lastly, I really appreciate that practice for level Pre-K through 1st grade offers the option of having the text read aloud to the student for my 1st grader could work independently.

The cons:  The only one I have has to do with their super duper "SmartScore" system.  The way it works if I understand it (and I don't really understand it) is it's supposed to award points based on the difficulty of the problem and problems the student answers in a row without error, and a myriad of other things.  It also deducts points for incorrect answers.  100 points is meant to indicate mastery, and is the pinnacle the student is aiming for.  The problem?  Based on our experience, early answers are awarded large point values- like 8 points per question at first, and early mistakes are deducted lightly- like 1 point.  But the closer you get to 100 points, the more that reverses, until the point in the 90s where you really are gaining 1 point for a correct answer and losing 8 for an incorrect answer.  That means if you are at 99 and miss one, you must now get 9 more right to get 100 where before you were 1 point away.  This system had my "small boy" in tears.  He is such a people (and machine) pleaser, and so goal oriented, and he just HAD to get 100 points...but he'd get SO close and then miss one problem and drop so many points and then get discouraged so he'd make a careless mistake and then drop so many more points that he'd just want to give up.  It was not fun for him AT ALL!!!  Just for example, here's a tracking of MY progress trying to get 100 points in Algebra in a lesson about numbers- you know, which ones are real, rational, irrational, whole, natural,or integers.  I'm good with math, but HORRIBLE at remembering the fine lines in these distinctions (nor have I ever needed to know them one day in my life after completing all my math education).  I won't bore you with all the scoring details, just from the half way to 100 mark:
56, 61, 65, 69, 63, 67, 71, 74, 77, 80, 74, 76, 79, 4, 86, 88, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96... you get the idea.  It's very, very discouraging to DROP points, especially for children who really strive to get things right!

The bottom line:  I think IXL is one of the best online math sites I've seen, and I've reviewed quite a few.  The biggest drawback to me is the SmartScore system I mentioned above.   I wish it did not penalize wrong answers by visibly decreasing the score.  It would be way better in my opinion if it just did not ADD to the score, or maybe required more questions to be answered to get to that magical "100 points" without visibly beating up the egos of children who really take heart in getting to 100.  Or reported progress with a "pie chart" instead of numbers so missed answers weren't as devastating visually.  Anything but the way it works now!  Everything else about the site is all I hoped it would be and more.  I plan to continue using IXL with my girls, but have a feeling it will be a tough sell for my defeated-feeling son who delights in learning but dreads IXL.

To check out IXL for yourself, go to  To see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew had to say, go to the Crew blog.

Legal Disclaimer:  As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received a free 6 month membership for IXL for 3 children for the purpose of being able to provide my honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own based on our experiences using IXL.

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Lori Schuetz said...

The smartscore system is exactly why I stopped using it for my son and yours sound like they are one and the same! Thanks for reviewing.

Lori Schuetz said...

The smartscore system is exactly why I stopped using it for my son and yours sound like they are one and the same! Thanks for reviewing.

Dissatisfied User said...

IXL is terrible for those participating in higher level skills. The system will give less points if too much time is taken even on the hardest questions that require calculations. They also do not seem to allow even the slightest nuance in the answers. If an answer is a fraction or decimal it cannot be answered the other way. Also, if a question is answered wrong it will usually take a lot of points and the next questions will continue to become harder. I agree it is helpful for younger children, but for anything involving large sums of money or slightly complicated decimals and fractions, IXL is an unfair cheat. I recommend for students past fifth grade. They have a more extensive math skill library and have videos for all of them if the student needs help.

S Ann said...

Thank you for sharing