Before becoming a freshman at Wittenberg University, students are required to take placement tests in two subjects: math and a foreign language. If students don’t place high enough on the foreign language test, then they are required take two semesters of a language of their choosing. However, math is much more complicated than that. If students don’t score high enough on the math placement test, then they have to buy an online program known as ALEKS.
The math placement test deals with algebraic manipulation skills needed for minimal algebra, statistics and pre-calculus classes. The purpose of this placement is to assess the knowledge that each student has in math. Depending on how well they do, their score will be either a 1, 2, 3 or 4. The student’s major will determine what number they need to take their required Q or M course. If their number is not high enough, then they can work to raise it through the ALEKS program.
The ALEKS program is used to raise the math placement score one to three points. Once the online access code has been purchased, tutors in the math workshop will help students with the initial set-up. After that, all other work with ALEKS can be done from any computer with internet capabilities both on or off-campus. ALEKS then instructs the student on topics that they are most ready to learn. As a student works through the course, ALEKS periodically reassesses the student to ensure that topics learned are also retained.
This program sounds simple enough, right? For many Wittenberg students, they seem to disagree.
“I can see how ALEKS helps with basic math, but once you get into the more advanced stuff, it’s extremely difficult to learn the information by reading about it on a computer,” Mike Carluccio, ’19, said. “The program seems more like busy work rather than helping me learn how to do the problems.”
The program is supposed to give students a refresher on high school algebra and other topics, but many students don’t begin the ALEKS program until they have been removed from high school for several years. Whether it’s because they chose to procrastinate on raising their score, like I did, or they decided to change majors and now need a higher score for their new field of study, like Carluccio, it’s difficult to remember the information taught in high school math classes.
The next downfall to ALEKS is that students must purchase the program. Depending on how much time they need to complete it, it can cost anywhere from $40 to $75. Most full-time college students don’t have a primary source of income and this can cause someone to be unable to raise their placement score.
The final downfall to the ALEKS program is that the time constraint causes students to try and complete the assignments as fast as possible so they might not fully understand the material. Even if they can master the online requirements, once they get to the final test, students can’t always remember how to do the excessive amount of algebra that they learned in six-plus weeks.
It’s important to make sure that students have a basic understanding of algebra, statistics and pre-calculus before taking a math class at Wittenberg, but many students, like myself, feel that the ALEKS program could use some improvements in its teaching methods.