This post is about middle and high school summer math, and it’s going to be short, because let’s face it, teens don’t have a ton of time for complicated programs. It’s difficult for busy families to find the time to supplement their child’s math education, even if the student is highly motivated and loves math. This is especially true for middle and high school students who often have busy social lives, jobs, activities, and their own opinions about where their education should be headed.
I believe in the power of doing small amounts of regular practice: 15 minutes of problem-solving, done consistently, is far more valuable than a marathon session once a month. However, my problem-a-day approach for elementary students – cutting out word problems and putting them on the fridge – may not seem quite so cute to a teenager. Also, unless you have a particularly strong math background yourself, it can be tough to know where to direct your older students and to correct their work. Fortunately there is a great tool out their for this age group called Alcumus.
Art of Problem solving is my favorite math eduction organization, and Alcumus is their free online learning tool, with over 13,000 problems. Students select a subject at their level (such as pre-Algebra), pick a topic within that subject (such as decimals), then start solving problems in order to gain experience points, work on quests, and earn badges all with unique art work and goals. For instance, the “Third Times a Charm” quest gets completed when 3 new topics are mastered, and the “Life of Pi” badge gets earned when correctly answering a question in terms of pi.
Statistics on student performance are displayed in a similarly fun manner, as Dungeons and Dragon-style character attributes. Experience points are earned for playing regularly, power points are earned for solving problems consistently above level, and resilience points for not giving up after wrong answers. The look and feel of Alcumus is ideal for teen students: fun and motivating, but without being cute or overly gimmicky.
Alcumus is adaptive and gives extremely detailed and complete solutions to problems. The detailed solutions help students understand their answers, where they went wrong, and alternative ways to think about the problem. When students get answers right, the challenge level increases, while incorrect ones dial back the difficulty to give practice at lower levels. This keeps the frustration level low while still stretching student learning.
To get started with Alcumus go to the Art of Problem Solving website here, register for an account, and jump right in!
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