# ALEKS our “friend”

Posted on December 19, 2012

This is a sample size of one.

However, when all of my samples of one and all of my anecdotes point the same direction and it’s supported by research…

… procedural instruction is hard to make stick, good people.

Case in point:   student comes in – having been accepted into Nursing program having gone through our ALEKS-delivered course content very speedily, at the beginning of the semester, having performed well.   Student  “knew it.”    Hadn’t looked at it since September.   It’s the end of December  — and   … oops…  needs to take the comprehensive final.

Time to refresh!

Just one example of the review session:

“Factor by completing the square.”

Remembered: Factoring involved putting two pairs of parentheses down, and putting x’s at the beginning of each pair.

Isaid  that this was a special kind of factoring, that would have been easy to forget… and walked through it, expecting memory to resurface.   It didn’t.

Most confusing:  where you take the square root of both sides.

Remembered:  something about writing a blank space on both sides of the equation after moving “c” to the other side, and the procedure of taking half of B and squaring it made sense … but what’s with that square root thing?
There was no connection at all made between what the phrase “completing the square” meant and the procedure being performed.   Squares on both sides?   Square roots?   Nope.    All  references were to what moving the symbols around looked like.   Stated, for the first of many times: “I forget the little things.”

Things got even better when the problem ended up saying that (x + 3) ^2 = -16.   I broke it into square root of 16 and square root of -1… no recall… “i?”

Oh, right, that was confusing in another problem too… we wento that other problem:  i^2007.

Wasn’t that where if the power was even, the answer was positive?

I gave what I thought was a reminder: i^2 was negative one.

The unequivocal response?     never seen/gotten that little detail before, and again… “I forget the little things.”

ALEKS   presents a problem, and if you ask shows a page with the procedure for getting the answer.  The what it means part?   I haven’t seen where that happens.   Maybe it’s in there somewhere?   Or, maybe, they’re expected to intuit it…

So, the idea that i squared is negative one… is one of those “little things;” just one detail among so many.

Unfortunately, for me, this is a pretty typical experience with ALEKS.  Had  the final been taken in a more timely manner, excellent visual and procedural memory would have yielded a good grade, and it will again, I’m sure, with a little more review time spent.   However… You will have to give me at least a miniscule shred of something resembling evidence before I believe that understanding is happening…

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