For the past few weeks, Seahawk (13 years old) has been working on his first real foray into upper-level math: Pre-Algebra. To do this, we asked to review UnLock Pre-Algebra from UnLock Math. This program has been an absolute blessing to us! Let me tell you more about it.
UnLock Math was created by Alesia and Matthew Blackwood. Both were homeschooled as children, and Alesia went on to become a school teacher, holding certification from Georgia Professional Standards Commission to teach upper level mathematics (grades 7-12). She and Matthew met in 2001 and married in 2002, and as they started having children they decided they wanted to work together, doing their own business. They recognized a need for quality math curriculum in the homeschool community, so they worked to develop a revolutionary complete, online math curriculum that does everything for you (the teacher/parent): it teaches using entertaining videos; it offers quizzes and tests; and it self-grades. The only thing you as the parent need to do is make sure your child logs on (the site is 100% free from ads and other distractions) regularly, and check in on their progress periodically. The program does absolutely everything else.
As I said, we’ve been using this with Seahawk. As he’s finishing up 7th grade, looking forward to 8th grade this fall, he’s the same age that I was when I did these maths, so I decided it was time to have him step up and start working on more advanced concepts. I know he’s bright enough to manage, so I eagerly requested this review. For us, it’s become his core math curriculum. Each school day (4-5 days per week), he’s working on one lesson, using my iPad. The program would also work on a computer, of course, but we only have one computer available for school stuff, and since math doesn’t require a real keyboard like, say, typing does, math happens on the iPad. I love that it works there! It’s great to have the computer free for my other son to do different lessons while his older brother is working on math.
The lessons each have five parts. First is the “Math Warm Up,” which is a short online worksheet designed to get the student in math mode. Next is the teaching video, which is Alesia explaining a bite-sized math nugget. So far, the videos have been about 7-10 minutes long. I’m not sure if they’ll stay that short throughout the entire program, but I can imagine that they’ll get longer as new and more advanced topics are introduced (so far, the program has been mostly review but with new vocabulary for the concepts for Seahawk). After the video is a worksheet to practice the concepts taught in the video. Then comes the “Challenge,” which is a single difficult problem based on things the student should already know. The final element is Reference Notes, which is a downloadable PDF that shows what a student might have taken notes on during the lesson, if he’s a note-taking type. We haven’t used this section very much because Seahawk is very much an auditory learner; seeing the information written out wouldn’t help him much. The lesson page has all of these elements on it, and there’s a path showing students which order they need to work in. This makes it really easy for kids to do the program completely independently, especially since it’s older kids that the curriculum is geared toward.
The icon for each lesson is a padlock, and when the lesson has been completed, it opens up – it UnLocks. This gives the student a clear visual representation of how much they’ve completed and how much they still have to go. It also serves as an easy reminder of where they need to pick up at the beginning of the new day. In addition to the lock icons, there’s a large chart on the same page as the lesson list, and this tells the student how far into the program they are and what their average grade is. At the time of this posting, Seahawk has completed 9% of the class with an average score of 89%.
I’ve talked to my son at a few different points during this review period to ask him what he thinks of UnLock Math, and he’s told me that it’s his absolute favorite math program by far. He’s even gone so far as to say that he “really likes it.” He never balks when I tell him it’s time to do his math lesson, and he never asks to be done early. He (usually) does all four parts of the lesson without a fight – and for a strong-minded 13-year-old, that’s really saying something.
UnLock Math is adding more upper-level math, too. They currently have Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1, Algebra 2, and their newest offering is Geometry. Members of the Homeschool Review Crew are reviewing all of those levels. They’re also in the process of developing Pre-Calculus (coming in 2018) and Calculus (coming in 2019). This is exciting news for parents of high schoolers who want to homeschool those upper grades but are afraid of what that means in terms of getting a good enough math education.
Based on the hands-off nature of the program (from me), and the fact that my student loves it, I can definitely recommend this program, especially if you have multiple children who need your attention. This gives you a few minutes each day where you can focus on another kid while not wasting the time of your older child. Win-win!