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Review of IXL - online math practice system

IXL.com homepage screenshot IXL.com (from "I excel") is a math practice website for elementary and middle school school children (subscription based). It has unlimited questions on hundreds of math topics and a comprehensive reporting system. I was invited to write a review of it in May 2008, and given a free trial account for me and my kids.

The first thing I noticed about IXL was their use of color and the illustrations of smiling kids. I really like the colors and the pictures; they make the site appear very inviting and friendly. Overall, the layout is very good, and navigation within the site is very easy.

For each grade (currently PreK-Geometry) there are over a hundred of skills listed, organized into categories. These are quite comprehensive, and like the site notes, there is breadth and depth present in the quantity and quality of topics.

practice problem from IXL math: Complete addition sentence; third grade
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The skills to be practiced do not only cover calculations but are quite varied. For example, for each grade, there are plenty of topics within the time, measuring, geometry, graphing, and money sections.

By the way, you can see the list of topics for each grade yourself, without subscribing, and see a sample question for each skill by hovering your mouse of the links.

In first grade we see lots of addition and subtraction related skills. There are "skill builders": questions which provide lots of practice, but also skills that practice and test a student's understanding of the concepts, such as finding a related subtraction fact, or using a 100-chart to answer questions.

Practice problem from IXL: coordinage graphs; second grade
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In second grade, besides the many addition and subtraction topics, we find lists of topics for geometry, time, measurement, money, data & graphs, fractions, probability, estimating and comparing.

In third grade, besides simple calculations, kids also fill in subtraction patterns, find missing numbers OR missing operation symbols in equations, or solve multi-step word problems. Some practice logical reasoning, such as the skip-counting puzzles or age puzzles, or other "guess the number" type puzzles. My daughter enjoyed these a lot.

The system also has separate sections for kindergarten and preschool, which age-appropriate skills to practice. My younger child seemed to enjoy the number line activities on kindergarten level. Here, a parent's help is probably needed to read the questions.

So, the breadth of skills covered is indeed quite impressive. In fact, a few topics in each grade seem quite advanced (such as long division or mean and median on third grade). That probably just adds to the variety and depth so that the practice environment can be used by anyone, no matter what curriculum or standards they are following. You can basically just go by what topics your curriculum has, and ignore those that it doesn't.

Practice problem from IXL: input output table; second grade
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While browsing the skills, you can mouse over any skill name to see a sample question - and this works even if you haven't subscribed.

Once a child has completed some questions in any particular skill, the little color symbol next to that link will change, indicating the progress. The questions also adapt to the child's ability, increasing in difficulty as they improve. The system is measuring how much time the child spends on any particular skill and that shows up in the reports; however it is not setting time limits on any questions.

Very detailed reports are also available. They show you the number of questions attempted and missed, and how well any particular skill has been mastered (provisional/needs improvement/satisfactory/good/excellent/mastered). The program even tracks the time spent on any skill. Kids also earn awards once they complete a skill!

Go take a look! You can practice and answer 20 questions for free. But even if that was all used up, you can hover over the links to see a sample question in each skill, which basically lets you preview the whole site.

I didn't really find anything negative to write about. The site delivers what it says it does, the questions were good, my kids liked it - everything was just fine. Just remember IXL is not a curriculum; it does not have lessons or tutorials but just practice questions. The only negative I experienced was that logging in seemed to be slow sometimes.

Practice problem from IXL: make a number by subtraction, first grade
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Overall, I think IXL is an excellent math practice website. It has a good variety of problem types, good reporting, and is easy to use. It can supplement any math curriculum you currently use, be used for review/reinforcement - or even for some summer "fun" math time.

IXL.com math practice website. Subscriptions: $9.95/month for one child; each additional child $2.00/month. Yearly plan: $79/year.

Review by Maria Miller, MSc, author of HomeschoolMath.net

Practice makes perfect. Practice math at IXL.com

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