Frustrations with IXL Math – A Review

See update below

Homeschooler @Ser3nd1pity requested my thoughts on the math program from IXL via twitter a few days ago.

So I checked it out.

When looking at the IXL sample page, I started having some concerns. Here are some screenshots that I’m running into, as well as my thoughts:

Kindergarten Skills

Some people say “dinner” for “lunch.” They reserve the word “supper” for the evening meal. Instead of using terms that might be cultural, perhaps they could have used breakfast.

 

I was so confused by this one. I’ve never seen a graph made of two objects. Nor have I seen graphs made with giant Xs. I think a graph with lines or bars instead of Xs would be clearer. As well as having a few of the objects, not just one of each.

 

These suitcases appear to be the same but zoomed in. A reference object would certainly help this.

 

I didn’t know what plane geometry was until college. I’m pretty sure that five-year-olds and their parents will figure out what the answer is, but the question stem is written at a really high level.

 

Grade 2 Skills

The right answer (the pens) are very very hard to see here. And the various colors and objects are confusing. Better would be the same objects, or bigger or with more space between the lines.

 

These pies really look the same to me. If I look and count really, or look at the fractions, I can see they’re different. This might be more effective without the pictures.  For a seven year old (and for me), if you had 2/10 of that pie and he (or I) had 2/11 of that pie and it looked like these pictures, they could easily be perceived as the same.

 

Stopping Now

Of course I haven’t really gotten into the curriculum. These are merely samples. I don’t know how they teach this in the IXL Math Practice program. I worry, though, that these examples might be representative of the way it is taught.

I welcome a view into the curriculum, if they’re interested in more thoughts on their offering.


Update March 29, 2012: IXL has communicated to me that they’ve been making changes – including some based on this article. They’ve also hired me to take a deeper look at their product and give them feedback. I look forward to seeing what they’ve got.

I’ll post updates, so stay tuned!




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135 Responses to Frustrations with IXL Math – A Review

  1. Great comments, Bonnie. I agree with all of them. These pictures seem surprisingly confusing or poorly drawn if the intention is to teach math. Hopefully the producers will read your comments and revise the product; the ideas behind the pictures seem sound enough.

    • I sure hope they fix it. They are advertised everywhere which means (statistically) lots of people are probably buying it. Would be great to write a “wow this product is amazing” review someday.

      Thanks for your comments, Peter!

  2. Having looked at the program myself, I think you hit the nail on the head – they do NOT teach math, they just quiz kids on it, and with such vague and confusing questions, too. These were the samples, for heck’s sake!

    Not for me or mine, TYVM!

    • Thanks for your input, Siggi. I was hoping that perhaps the samples didn’t give any indication of their actual program.

      In my mind, it’s better to have the worst marketing team in the world than do that to math.

      Such a bummer, really.

    • I agree IXL does not teach math I a child dislikes the program myself. Although with the motivational comments and awards, it is just straight up boring and does not make me want to learn math. My mom says that I “play” IXL, but then I say it is basically a test. I like IXL because of one reason, the awards. I like the awards because of the good feeling it gives you. For example I like awards because when you walk away and finish something and you get nothing when you worked really hard to get it and you don’t, then you feel like you unaccomplished it. But if you get an award you think “Oh I got it!”

  3. The problems with IXL are several. The foremost issue is that Boards of Education generally have no mechanism for vetting good sites versus bad, unlike textbook rules which are typically quite stringent.

    The most serious problem with IXL is their patented SmartScore algorithm. Yes, they patented math. But if you read on their website it’s clear it’s not a score at all (percentage correct vs total question pool * any weights that may be added to questions).

    Whenever you reach a SmartScore of 100, you can feel confident that you have truly mastered that skill. Any student who achieves mastery on IXL has completed an ample number of questions, including the most difficult ones for that skill.

    So, when kids attempt to reach a score of 100 on a newer skill they are doomed to always fail. Teachers need to be warned never to rely on score under IXL as it really isn’t a score – you can never see that. It’s an algorithm of certain failure by their own account. Mastery, which is never the point of exercises, is what their score really seeks to measure.

    So… good luck. Petition your local board of education and insist proper vetting of any educational website that is paid for with your tax dollars.

    • Wow, Rick. Thanks for the information!

      Having only seen the samples, I had no idea. It’s a great idea to make sure that any program tax dollars are paying for is straight forward.

      Thanks for taking the time to share this.

      Bon

    • Wow…I could not disagree more. The SmartScore system is a fantastic teaching and measuring tool — definitely worthy of patenting. Doomed to fail? Doomed to learn, maybe — but hardly doomed to fail….

      • I think Rick’s point was that if 100 is labeled as success and you can’t get a 100, some people would see that as being doomed to fail.

        It’s also a testament to our training over many years that if you don’t get a 100, then you haven’t done the best you can. i.e. number grades are more important than actual learning.

        • I think Rick must have some axe to grind — he seems to have pre-judged IXL in a very negative light. I’ve been using IXL as a supplement to math instruction with four of my children for the past year. I require my kids to reach mastery (a Smartscore of 100) on each and every skill in their grade level. Sometimes they encounter a skill that they have never learned, and so they miss a few questions up front. Then they read over the explanations and usually figure it out — or they come to me and I work through it with them. My youngest daughter (age 10) has finished grades 3 and 4 and is well on her way to finishing grade 5 in the last year — mastering all skills for each grade with a 100 SmartScore.

          • I wonder how your daughter feels about all that work… Is making her get a 100 on everything really necessary?

          • Is it really good to make them get quizzed on things they never learned. I would rather let my children do stuff that they learned and they should at least get a 80 – 90. If they get 100 then they get a treat but If they get a 80 or 90 then it shows that they know it but should practice a bit more. If you make them reach 100 then sometimes they might think they are so good that they do not learn it from school and slack off or they don’t go to KhanAcademy.com which is a true math website and is better for everyone. IXL has some skills that kids do not even learn until they are in High School or College which I teach them bit by bit. You are pushing your kids too hard and one day they might get stressed because if they do not get 100 they get sad and think they are not smart but they really are. Lower the SmartScore to at least 90. It easier for kids.
            Drake T. recently posted..Learning is Hard – And Scary!

          • Thanks for commenting the site Drake! That really helped me out and its enjoyful to have just right skills and the I haven’t learned this button! it will give you a mix of skills and if you haven’t learned it, No Problem! especially with the different curriculums

      • Wow…I could not disagree more. The SmartScore system is a horrible teaching and measuring tool — definitely unworthy of patenting. Doomed to learn? Doomed to fail, maybe — but hardly doomed to learn….

    • I know that my comment is 3 years after this post was presented, but my son is in 7th grade and he is required to get a score of 92 or higher on the IXL website. one major problem that I see his IXL is demotivating. The closer he gets to a score of 100, the higher the cost of a mistake.
      For example, every question he gets right adds a few points. But as he advances, every question he gets wrong subtracts a lot of points! This does not encourage the child to continue but rather strikes fear in the heart of the child knowing that any wrong answer could send him back to doing 4 or 5 more problems!
      the program assumes that if you make a mistake you must not understand the problems. There is no incentive to ever go higher.

      • It is frustrating, Mike. I think they’re working to improve the algorithms so this is less of a factor.

        Why is he required to get a 92?

      • I am shocked the child psychologists would buy off on this scoring method. It doesn’t matter if the goal is 75, 92, or 100. The child has to build up to the goal. One wrong answer (or even a correct answer, given cultural experiences) sets the child back 5 questions. The child does not learn math, the child learns that anything short of perfection according to an inanimate computer’s programming is failure that requires more work. Then the experience devolves to the parent approving the child’s every answer while the child suffers from “analysis paralysis.”

      • I can’t agree more! We can’t stand IXL at our house! My daughter must work 14 hours a six weeks and she tries to get a 94 or above. There is something wrong with a program that bumps a student back so many points but only gives one or two points for a correct answer. She is now afraid to put an answer in. She literally closes her eyes and takes a deep breath when answering questions.

  4. I understand some of these concerns. However, after using the site for several weeks I have noticed significant improvement in my child’s confidence level. You have to keep in mind, the website advertises “math practice,” not “teaching”. The exercices are intended to strengthen skills that the child should already have based on thier grade level, and identify areas that need improvement.

    Essentialy, the site is great for practice, and evaluation; it is not a replacement for lessons taught at school or home.

    • Kyle! Thank you so much for sharing this!

      An increase in confidence is huge. Looking at this briefly as a grownup (which I did) doesn’t compare to actual results for a child.

      Do whatever works for your child – that’s the bottom line. And clearly you are. Yay you!

  5. I agree with Kyle. That is a practicing website, and a way to improve already learned skills. Or even to take them to the next level. These sights are more difficult then what we are learning and for that I am glad.
    But they do also teach. Since if your child looks for the explanation and sometimes with your help can learn. My child was never taught roman numerals in school but simply by doing Mathixl we have learned.
    What my child finds frustrating is if he makes a terrible mistake they push your score back sometimes 4 to 10 points. Then he thinks he is never going to get 100.
    The only sight that i found the drawings very confusing was the money. Those are too small and not that clear. Also the colors seem to be confusing to me as a parent, but don’t bother my child.

    • I noticed that this year the ixl penalty for wrong answer has gotten less — much to our daughter’s relief. She has definitely learned to slow down and think through before hitting the return key when she is at 99 and on her last problem!!! PS — she’s reported to me that they added Geometry.

  6. I wish IXL provides a way to mix modules when doing practice. My kid is learning geometry. He did fine when practicing each module separately. However, when mixing area/parameter/volume… together, he gets confused easily.

    • Good idea, John! It is indeed a smooth ride sometimes when all the problems in a set match each other – or the text from which it came.

      But deciding on what to use is a bit more difficult – and they aren’t used to doing it.

      Thanks for stopping by John!

      • @ John, if that the case then your child need more practice to really master each module. Mixing is the good way to test the student understanding and so is the real world application.

  7. What you need to understand is that IXL is only writing problems according to state standards. The last two problems make sense but you have to know what you’re looking for. As a 6th grade teacher, I get it but most people would not. The standards are the issue, they can be very confusing. The IXL program is excellent. I have some of the highest scores around with my class doing close to 100,000 problems in a year. 98% of the content lines up perfectly with the standards.

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Joe.

      I agree that the state standards have some serious issues. And I’m so glad that IXL is fitting the bill. It’s great to see that your classes are doing well!

  8. I found your website because I wanted to see what other’s thoughts were on using IXL past 2nd grade.

    We actually are really enjoying it at the moment, but I think it’s days in our house are numbered. I homeschool and chose IXL as my primary math curriculum from the start. My boys are techno-philes, so they love IXL and fly through the skills. My 3 year old even likes to complete tasks because pre-K and K levels will “read” him the problems. All of my boys are at least one year ahead of their grade level because of IXL. The self-paced aspect is a huge win in my book.

    Some of the “cons” mentioned in the other comments don’t bother me, or are actualy a pro if viewed from a different perspective.

    As a homeschooler, I take a different approach to teaching math. For me, it is all about the mastery and not so much about test scores. The IXL score system reflects mastery quite well. I really could care less if my boys only get 75 problems right out of 100. It just means they had to practice a lot of times before they finally got the concept. If a child takes a regular test and scores 75 out of 100, chances are they got the most difficult problems wrong and are not ready to move on. Yet they technically passed and most likely will move on unprepared.

    A score of 100 in IXL cannot be achieved by getting all the hard ones wrong. It is called “mastery” because it means the student got a certain number of problems right in a row, including the final, most difficult problems, which does inded denote mastery. It can be frustrating to lose points, but students don’t waste time on ideas they master quickly, and can’t fudge their way through concepts that they don’t grasp.

    I will say though that there are times we have to get problems wrong deliberately to get an “explanation.” That can be very de-motivational for my sons. It would be so great to have a couple sample problems with explanations right off the bat before their scores gets dinged because of misunderstanding.

    Since you are consulting for IXL, I want to give some detailed FB. Sorry so wordy, but I would love to see IXL improve so we can keep using it.

    Nitpicks:

    –Coins are indeed very confusing but we can blame the U.S. Mint I guess. I had NO idea we had that many types of nickels out there!

    –Some steps needed to complete some skills seem above their grade level. Just yesterday my son was working on 2nd grade perimeter word problems. He was given the perimeter and the length of one side of a rectangle and asked to find the length of the other side. He was fine doubling the length of one side and subtracting it from the perimeter. He also got that he had to divide what was left in half… but he had no idea how to do that! And I am not talking about dividing 8 or 12 (which he could do by making hash marks or using manipulatives). At one point he had to divide 118! The explanation does not give a grade appropriate method, so I taught him to use the calculator. He was thrilled at that, but it went against ALL my old school instincts!

    –Skills are grouped by topic, but topics are not in any particular order. It would be nice to add another view that orders the skills in a logical sequence for the entire grade (e.g. a review, the 2 digit addition problems, then the 2 digit subtraction problems, then some money problems that utilize 2 digits, then the 3 digit skills, 3 digit money problems, etc.).

    –The explanations for problems are already written, so why not give the kids access to them before they start the skill. I guess IXL is not targeting the homeschool crowd, but they easily could and many of us would embrace it. Expecially since it is so easy for those of who live in reporting states to print up the standards and demonstrate our children’s progress.

    –If you use IXL from the beginning, kids don’t transition very well to using pencil and paper.

    –It would be nice if IXL had a field/character checker before answers were submitted. My young boys have very often hit an apostrophe or slash while hitting the enter key and gotten answers wrong because they typed 24′ or 24\. My 6 year old has actually broken down crying because he worked for 10 minutes calculating all the answers for a subtraction table, only to type in all but the last one then hitting “Enter”. IXL could easily pop up a message that says “one field is blank, are you sure you want to submit?” (As it does if only one field is given and left blank).

    –Speaking of tables… they have no rhyme or reason. I remember the point of tables was for the child to see some type of pattern. I would expect a table to be something like add 12 to the following numbers: 24, 34, 44, 54. That repetition helps them make connections. But IXL’s tables are completely random. Add 12 to 24, 147, 93, 102. These types of skills take a VERY long time to complete (4 times the work with no apparent logic) and seem to have no obvious benefit.

    –Once kids need to start writing down the problems in order to solve, IXL loses a lot of appeal… I don’t know if there is a fix for this, but at this point, I would prefer to have a workbook.

    Okay… I could nitpick more about individual problems, but I better stop! Thanks for your review!

    • Wow, Heather! Great information – thank you so much for taking the time to write it out.

      The mastery aspect is nice. I do find it difficult when working through that I’m not getting full credit. I guess I have to do the whole thing in order to finally get up to 100. This isn’t intuitive. I’ve been getting 9/10 points for the first ones and that’s been really bugging me – as a competitive type. :D

      I will mention to IXL all your comments. And I’ll be digging into them more too, so I can share possible work-arounds for them to implement.

      Thanks again, Heather!

    • Heather E — your comments are spot on, exactly our experience. Our daughter jumped from 3rd grade ixl to now completing 7th grade Ixl and doing some of the 8th & Geometry modules. This is over a two year period. She’s now in honors math 7 at school. We don’t expect Ixl to directly teach math — our daughter approaches it as learning through problem solving, like a detective project. If she really can not self-discover the math concept, then she asks for help. For kids who can’t take a lot of teaching or are getting over taught, it seems like a way for them to learn in a more self-reliant way. Really, given the US low standing in math (25th out of 130 countries), I think IXL exposed our family to the very basic and systematic flaw in US math curriculum for middle-school years. It seems this flaw has been around since at least the late ’60’s or early ’70’s — but it seems impossible to fix — it would require a national curriculum rewrite of 5th-8th grade approach to math.

      • I’m curious to what the flaw is in the curriculum. I agree there are flaws, but I’m not sure which one was exposed with the use of IXL.

        It’s awesome to hear that your daughter is doing so well!

  9. I’ve just joined the program, and realised they do not have the most simple basic requirement – the ability for a parent to print out practise sums so that the child can practise it the way they do in most schools – using pencil and paper.

    I have written to cust service and got some mis-leading reply – my impression is that they might be using the print ability to sell higher priced teacher subscriptions – I may be wrong But that is silly – its so basic a need, I plan to dis-continue from next month.

    They probably need to rationalize their pricing based on number of students – it should not matter if you are a student or parent – you should pay premium for premium features as required.

    thanks.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Rani. I will pass this along to them. It is strange that you can’t get a printout.

  10. I just wanted to chime in.

    One of my girls is entering 2nd grade now, and has been using IXL for quite some time.

    I find that with a really hectic schedule, it becomes very easy to simply give my daughter a goal of “finish 2 IXL tonight”, and frankly, IXL often times takes it from there.

    One of the commenters made a legitimate comment about how it is really first and foremost a quiz and not a teaching tool. As a result, I will absolutely need to spend a bit of time and explain to my daughter how something is done. I’m sure I’m not alone in that I’m using IXL to propel my daughter ahead of her grade-level – so she hasn’t typically had such instruction in her classroom.

    My daughter falls under the “autism-spectrum disorder” (my wife refers to it as aspergers); and this sort of quiz really does seem to work out really well for her. I would say that it can be very frustrating for her when she’s in the 90s and gets one or two wrong, but in some ways that’s a good thing to have to work through.

    As of this moment, she’s completed all kindergarten, all 150+ 1st grade tests, and 87 of her 200+ second grade IXL tests. Up to this point IXL has been absolutely worth the price (fortunately our school district has provided access for free each year so far). I would have absolutely paid for it if they had stopped providing it.

    The article mentions some really unclear questions; I absolutely concur with them. There are definitely some questions that seem a little silly to ask a 1st grader. I think the one that made me chuckle the most is something about the length of a golf tournament or something. Basically a question my daughter would have had no clue about.

    The most frustrating test in 1st grade, BTW, was absolutely counting the vertices and sides of these 3 dimensional figures… after creating 3d replicas out of paper and tape we got through that (even if it wasn’t entirely faithful to the test)!

    Anyway, I just wanted to chime in and say IXL was worth it for us. It has its flaws but it has certainly been worth it.

    • Thanks so much, Chris, for sharing! It does seem funny that they use golf tournaments for questions.

      Also, I think many people would need to make 3D replicas of things before being able to count sides and vertices. That’s a tough question – especially if you’re not inclined to know how to visualize things.

      I’m really glad IXL is working for y’all!

    • I think Ixl shouldn’t use sports, because my daughter gets really confused when they give a question about a sport she doesn’t know about. She’s in 2nd grade.

      • Indeed there are times when questions (in textbooks too) tap into an area for which a student has limited knowledge.

        It might be a good opportunity to learn about something new, though. In the meantime, she might have to miss the problem – which could be frustrating.

        Thanks for your comment, Johnny.

  11. Just wondering if anyone has used IXL as a competition?? Our 4th grade used to try and complete a program called PLATO math and the students goal was to complete before the end of the year. Since this is my first experience with IXL, is it logical to expect them to complete an entire grade??

  12. IXL is great for a couple of reasons.

    1. It allows you to drill down into problem areas or skill gaps that your child has, and it draws from a broad and comprehensive syllabus of topics.

    2. Each unit enforces mastery. You don’t get to pass until you’ve earned it. Smartscore isn’t perfect, but it is a far better indicator of mastery than anything I saw in elementary school. Put it this way, if your child gets a 100 in a topic in IXL, they will do great in school on the same subject matter.

    3. It does (2) by using practice, practice, practice.

    Math is learned and mastered through practice, and lot of the best learning is by making a mistake and learning from it.

    Today’s schools don’t give any meaningful amount of homework or math practice whatsoever.
    Most go by “ten minutes per grade level” rule which is ridiculous.

    Small amounts of math homework is one of the core reasons why American students are so far behind on mathematics. Whether you are a homeschooler or a public schooler, IXL gives you a tool which you can use to create a consistent mathematics practice regime for your child. It’s also comprehensive and tiered.

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Kanishka.

      I’m not sure practice is what’s holding American students back, though. But certainly enjoyable practice that allows children to feel a sense of mastery is important.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your insight.

  13. I have been using IXL with my son (7th grade) for about a year and a half. IXL has been the most effective math practice tool I have ever used with my son–and he has been homeschooled for his entire school career!

    I use a traditional text to introduce new concepts, along with videos from Khan Academy for extra explanation. My son then practices his lesson on IXL. His practice sessions on IXL are much more productive than on pencil and paper; it’s not unusual for him to complete between 100 and 120 problems in a single session online (about 60 minutes). I do have him do some written practice from his text every few days, and he is generally only able to complete about 35 written problems in the same amount of practice time.

    I love the fact that IXL is focused on mastery and doesn’t follow a traditional grading system. My son masters some concepts in one sitting, and other concepts may take several practice sessions to master. It really forces my son to slow down and think about his work, especially when he is about to reach the ‘mastery’ SmartScore of 100.

    I also love the reporting feature, which I use daily. I can see exactly how many problems he attempted, which gives extra meaning to the SmartScore. For example, if you have a low SmartScore of 30, but you only spent 5 minutes on a topic and completed 10 problems, then the student simply needs more time to build up their score. However, if the student gets a SmartScore of 30, but they have practiced for 30 minutes and done 50 problems, then they likely require extra personal instruction on the topic.

    Sorry for the long post. IXL is part of our everyday math routine, and I feel like I could talk a blue streak about it. It’s definitely been worth the subscription cost for our family.

    • Thanks so much for sharing, Kelly. It seems like it’s definitely a great addition to your blended teaching strategy!

  14. I’m a student at a I go to a school that uses IXL. Honestly, this is the worst website to practice and hone your “skills”. I have been doing the same practice for over 5 hour, nearing the 100% until I get a question wrong and get downed all the way to 80 or something. Now I have to climb up all way back to the agonizing top level, but I always end up getting screwed up and I lose a bunch of points. This not a creative system to level students such as I, all it does it create frustration towards the mind. Even when I get a problem wrong and click on the Explain button, all it does is state the answer. Their questions involve some activities some of us may not know, such as gold. In the practice it used golf scores as an example to do integers. I have no idea what the golf scores are set as, so I have no idea what the question meant. They should have used more familiar activities or subjects, such as temperature. Taking a chunk of points away when someone gets it wrong won’t “help” anyone, it just stresses the person more until they end up on the floor crying.

    • I’m so sorry to hear about that, Jonathan. It sounds like you’re the same type of learner as I am. Sometimes getting a score on something is helpful (when you can max out and get a super score) but when there are things that prevent you from getting the highest score, then it’s really frustrating.

      I hope this doesn’t discourage you from pursuing math, though!

  15. Bon, You are on it Lady! So glad they hired you to help them fine tune their offerings. Many parents, teachers, and students are visiting their site to “fix” what ails them in math and I just didn’t understand the hype. But, I love the fact that they offered something to peek the interest of these important stakeholders in a child’s learning community.

    • I normally wouldn’t have looked at it to begin with (I have a backlog of math products to keep me busy for a century), but a reader asked about it. I’ll never turn down a request from a reader!

      Thanks for stopping by, Toni.

  16. good, bad and ugly about ixl

    ixl is good, it has a big pool of questions offering to students. nice reports. It’s especial good to see some tester never get 100 points, simply because the tester is NOT good enough. Don’t complain IXL, you should blame yourself not good enough, you don’t deserve 100 point by committing mistakes.

    ixl is bad, (1) there’s no assessment before and during the testing. (2) there is no adaptive process (3) so IXL fails to individualize each student

    ixl is ugly because I experience many repetitions of the same questions asked again and again. IXL should build bigger database with more questions. The other thing is that there is no smart questions in IXL database, all the questions are mediocre and boring. IXL needs to include difficult questions with creative thinking.

    • I didn’t work in the system long enough to be able to experience any repetitions. Thanks for stopping in to share that information, Jack!

  17. you guys are all wrong
    I am 9 yrs and I figured out all of the problems easily.
    Use your mathematical thinking,
    NOT your subjective thinking

  18. I agree with it not being a teaching tool. I started educating my son because he missed the cut off for kindergarten by 3 weeks. IXL is an excellent tool. However, I’m by my child’s side every time we do it and coach him on what it wants from him. He loves the prizes he gets and is acquiring lots of knowledge. If you’re able to do it on a daily basis with your child it is worth every penny.

    • Thanks for the information, Richard.

      My daughter is in the same boat as your son. She missed the cut off by 10 days. My husband finds it rather annoying, but everything I read seems to indicate that the older a child is in a group, the better they end up doing. It mostly has to do with the way grown-ups perceive a child in relation to the others in the group. If the child is older, he/she is viewed as more skilled (because by nature they are – after all they’re older) and then the grown-ups pay a little more attention to them.

      This creates a cycle that continues to benefit the child.

      It sounds like the real advantage your son has with IXL is getting lots of interaction with you. IXL provides him with the problem set and the cool prizes. It’s a win-win all around.

  19. I found your site while looking up reviews on IXL. My first grader is struggling in math and was wondering if this would be worth the extra money. I also have a son in seventh grade. When you sign up for this do you have to pay for each individual child? In other words would I have to pay two fees for two children? Thanks for your help.

  20. The thing I find frustrating about iXL is the fact that when it comes to more advanced math, such as algebra or geometry, a simple mistake such as not exiting the square root sign, mis-interpretting the question, or getting an answer wrong can be exrrememely frustrating. I have spent up to three hours attempting to finish an iXL lesson, eventually begging my parents (who majored in math) to help me. They ended up bringing down my score. Often when you get up into the 90’s, missing a single problem could result in another half-an-hour of problems to regain the same score. At the same time, we are assigned multiple lessons per night which results in a huge workload, and some lessons require adobe flash so I am forced to use the extrememly slow computer in the house. I also find that I am not learning much from completing iXL lessons, it is just useless reqpeating of the same concepts which I could easily have learned in a much shorter time period. iXL is a waste of our schools money.

  21. Hello guys. I just wanted to say that Ixl is very sorry about your troubles and we hope that, eventually, Ixl will be loved by all, and will provide a good education.

  22. IXL’s a great site. I’m going to Grade 9 soon and I’m already studying for Grade 9 through Ontario. I’m loving the site. But recently I’ve been very frustrated. To cut it short, I’m very frustrated because it takes about 4 incorrect answers to go from 99 to 80, and it takes about 15 correct answers to go from 80 to 99. But I think that’s just how maths works, right? IXL might be about being accurate and careful, and it prepares students that way, so that they’ll be careful in math exams and tests.

    • Indeed Sagar, it’s frustrating. But I think they’re fixing this.

      But some teachers love it – it definitely gets students to slow down and really think before clicking.

  23. My kids hate the IXL scoring system. Early questions are awarded many points. Later ones few. It reminds me of the learn to swim method where the parent stands six feet from the child clutching the pool edge, then when the child starts to swim, the parent takes big steps backward. I’ve seen that cause panic in swimming from a child who feels he’ll never get to the moving target, and now I see it in math, where the 100% completion score seems just out of reach for half the session.

  24. This is a useful debate with some good views. From a UK perspective: The UK is currently engaged in a debate about whether our educational standards have become too “soft”. I believe that they have and that we have forgotten about the importance of practice. We have used IXL to address that in maths. Our children are flying and we have been able to track their progression up through the ranks in their classes. It is correct that IXL does not set out to “teach” but it is also wrong to think that it does not encourage learning. My 9 year old has used IXL to catch up with and then overtake the current teaching in his class. He is now more than a year ahead. His report said “J is regularly working on concepts not normally taught in his year group”. My 11 year old is 2 to 3 years ahead of UK “expected” levels, whereas 3 years ago (when he started IXL) he was sitting just above those levels.
    Yes, we do get the howls of anguish when they enter a wrong answer in the high 90s. However, this has encouraged them to do something most kids struggle to learn: check your answers. They also get a massive sense of achievement when they get to 100 in the dreaded “elapsed time word problems” and other really challenging (and sometimes picky) topics. They have also learned some interesting things about American life and terminology – e.g. I did not know what a “teeter-totter” was before IXL! In short, I think IXL blows away the myth of talent in maths and simply proves the importance of practice. I would recommend this book to anyone interested: Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice by Matthew Syed.

  25. Interesting topic here folks. I could not disagree more. IXL is designed with the Iowa test in mind! The Iowa test is generally considered the most difficult of all. All the ambiguous question are exactly like you will find on the IOWA test. My child’s Iowa math test was in the 99% Which means perfect score. All we have used is the IXL program.

    • Great, lovebroker! Alas, many people are not required to take this test – even though it’s offered to schools in other states.

      Of course your comment also brings up the question of learning vs. testing too. Another huge discussion!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  26. As an 8th grade student who uses this program on a nightly basis I do not like it. Most of the sections in Algebra 1 require a lot of written work to get right. I understand the skill, but if I make one little mistake due to trying to get it done in my head quickly when I’m at, say a 99, I have to get like 8 more questions right just to get back to he spot I was at before. It really isn’t practical to move the smart score down so much for such a stupid mistake (like maybe I was trying to get it done quickly because I understand and accidentally say 2+2= 5).

    • Indeed, those little mistakes can get you – and with IXL they can get you hard!

      Good for you that you’re understanding though. That’s the really important thing.

  27. I am a 6th grader doing the 8th grade math and i feel sooo pressured and i am new to this and i hate scoring system not smart at all. The reason i got into advanced math was because of ixl but i hate it. it is also very boring.

  28. I teach using IXL and have for four years. I go over problems, have time for students to work problems in class and complete for homework.

    I have found it takes as much time to get to 80% as it does from 80 to 100. If someone is spending more than 30 minutes a night on one lesson, they THEY DO NOT KNOW THE MATERIAL and have no business on IXL.

    I usually give homework to the 80 per cent level. If I am working three sets, I enter in 240 points available in my scoring program (Engrade). I then enter the scores, that are easy to view in IXL and very easy to download and put on a spreadsheet.

    Sometimes I do 90%, sometimes 100%.

    When I do 80%, and say it is two sets, so 160 points are in play. I normally say, OK, if you go to 100 on each one, but only if 100 on each one, I will give you a 200. That is 40 points extra credit! That generally fires them up.

    Last year we worked in the hundred thousands of problems. I wish they problems were more rigorous.

    Again, if you have not learned the material, you are gonna be in for a long night. I don’t find the help screens as bad as some have said, but a HUGE DESIGN FLAW is having the “I GET IT” button above the help screen. It should be below it on the web page. Then at least 8th graders would see there is help available.

    I have embarrassed several irate moms and dads in conferences, folks that had no idea there was any help at all.

    THE ONLY NEGATIVE I HAVE IS THAT I NEED THE ABILITY TO SEE THE PROBLEMS, OR ALL TYPES OF PROBLEMS BEFORE ASSIGNING THEM.

    I have twice been “burned” by working a set to 100%, which is sometimes a pain in the butt, depending on how busy I am, but not seeing a type of problem which then appears on a students’ assignment. This is, at least twice, been not helpful. We really need this feature, badly. Very badly.

    Overall, I think it is a great program. I could sure make some more tweaks, but being able to preview every problem type in a set is a “must have.”

  29. My son is five, i started with ixl as a complement to school homework, which in kinder is inexistent.
    In one month he moved up to grade 1, in 40 hours of practice he is a few skill away from finishing grade 1. I ask him to get two medals a day in any skill or module that he chooses.
    I do some initial teaching ( 1 to 2 minute ) before he starts with a skill.

    I want to start doing grade 2, but i am not sure if this strategy is the best…
    Where to begin? What is the logical sequence?
    Maybe all the a.1, b.1,c.1 etc first, then go to the .2, .3, .4 etc?
    Or keep doing what i am doing?
    Or working in one module first, then the next, and so on….

    Any recommendations?

    • Good question, Renee. Theoretically you could start anywhere. I would suggest picking something and if he likes it, keep on that track. If he gets frustrated, try something else.

      Follow his lead.

      Good luck and let us know how it goes.

  30. As an elementary teacher and mother of two boys (age 8 & 10), I have a great appreciation for this site. My boys use it almost daily and enjoy earning the points, watching their time, and clicking on the prizes they earn. They use it with out pressure though they have had very limited computer use, so they see this as ‘special’.

    My youngest son has some trouble navigating the keyboard, which can cause frustration, while my oldest son (gifted) can be impulsive and answer problems much, much too quickly. Remarkably, this program has taught him to SLOW DOWN and check his work, especially near the end. This is something I have tried to teach him for years!

    I decided to invite the children in my classroom to work on the site and give me feedback. Aside from navigating the keyboard, the feedback has been 100% positive. As their teacher, I can go in and look at the work that has been done. Over the holiday break the children have answered over 3,000 questions! That is 3,000 questions that the children worked on but did NOT require teacher time to correct. The children receive immediate feedback and I have access to trouble spots which will guide review lessons when we return. It is win/win.

    As a review-and-drill website, I could not be more pleased.

    Beth

    • Thanks so much for your thoughts, Beth! This is a great way to look at it. And I’m so glad to hear your boys are using it stress-free.

  31. Hi I’m Jim I’m a middle school student. This is a great example of why IXL is a bad place for kids to use. For building up confidence, it is like a joke. Every time you get one single problem wrong especially in the “challenge zone” you drop about 4-10 points sometimes. I would like to think I have no anger issues because I almost never do and you won’t find me mad usually but no ixl is just a pain in the ass. This puts a lot of stress on me and I’m sure for others too when they make 1 simple mistake like not adding a negative for example. That’s my fault I know but the point drop is just ridiculous and it becomes more repetitive.

    • I’m sorry to hear about your frustrations, Jim. I think IXL is working on making it a little less point-heavy, though.

      Hang in there.

  32. Im not enjoying it, when I was in grade three, I had to do 100,000 on addition and are yu kidding me, why would they put 54 x 5 on grade 3, I would ask my parents to stop it but NOOOO

    • I’m sorry to hear that, kiddo. I think someday you’ll look back on this and see more of the challenge and less of the pain. Good luck!

  33. I think it is a good program. I have used it with success.

    The plane geometry question is a great introduction to an advanced geometry topic, but as you said it is one that can easily be “figured” out. This is great scaffolding.

    And 2/10 is .20, while 2/11 is .181
    The difference between these two values is .0181

    They are extremely similar in value. In fact, most human beings would not be able to tell them apart via a concrete model (2/10 of a gram of dirt vs. 2/11?). The learner then has to resort to a different way to tell the values apart (either the denominator or counting the pie). That is the whole point…

    Scaffolding. And IXL does this very, very well.

    • Thanks for your comments, Brian.

      But if it’s about learning, then why the big push on the scores?

      I’m cool with scaffolding. But that’s to help learning along. And IXL is designed for practice, not teaching. By their own admission:

      “IXL provides comprehensive, standards-aligned math and language arts practice for K–12.”

  34. I couldn’t agree more. My teacher is forcing us to do it. WE tried to explain what was happening, but the lady just wouldn’t listen!!! And the “smartscore” thing is kind of insulting. Because when it gets low, It sort of saying that your dumb. Who does that!!!!!!!!!? WE’RE JUST KIDS!!!this has happened a couple times before: It changed the question after I answered it. which made my answer wrong! I mean seriously there have got to be better math websites than this. P.S. The questions are just plain confusing. Will somebody please help me.

    • I’m so sorry to hear that, Mike.

      If you can do a screenshot of this question change thing and send it to customer service, I’m sure they’d be happy to look into the code. It’s only a computer program after all. (Which doesn’t make it less frustrating, no doubt!)

  35. I try to do IXL. I was behind for the second trimester in school. My teacher brought IXL to our school and is crazy about. My friends in a different 5th Grade class only has to do 1 mandatory IXL skill and if they want one bonus IXL skill. I have to do about the whole skill set (e.g. whole of I skill or something), but to be certain I usually get about 1 – 2 weeks but some of the skills TAKE SO LONG! Now my parents have made me do about six skills a day. Now the skills are really long. I only do about three a day but they are okay with that. One time my mom made me do 10 skills in one day. I just stress out at the end of the so called Smart Score. I get one wrong and go down to 85. Then they have this new thing in IXL where at the end (90) you only go up 1. SO do 10 problems from 90 to get to 100. I get one wrong and goes down to 85 AND EVEN THAT GOES UP ONE SO AN EXTRA 15 PROBLEMS!

  36. We have been using IXL for many years with our kids. Not imposed by any school. My kids get 99 and 100s in the math tests. My son got the top scholarship for a private school, and he is doing Algebra II on his own in 9th grade.

    It is obviously true that IXL is not a tool to learn math. You kids need to learn math from a good math textbook. You can use IXL to practice your skills, to know your strengths, and to identify the areas where you need to improve (read improve by studying from the textbook and asking your teachers for help if needed.)

    For the person that wrote this review, I find it amazing that you only found out about plane geometry in college. That is a symptom of the poor high school education in your country, whatever that might be.

    In my country, we learn this basic concepts early in life.
    Victor S recently posted..Learning is Hard – And Scary!

    • Thanks for your comments, Victor.

      I think I had a pretty good high school education. But plane geometry sounds like “plain” geometry to kids. So they tend to ignore the word.

      It would occur to me occasionally to wonder what “fancy” geometry was. But it didn’t go past that until college.

  37. I have twins in 2nd grade in public school. Last year I helped
    In the class room and was concerned by some of the IXL questions one being “how long did it take to paint the Mona lisa?” How would a first grader know that. There were a few more like that. Also having to know roman numerals didn’t make sense to me. Now the biggest confusion in 2nd grade is money. It is impossible for kids to tell the difference between coins on a computer. The coins are not even the right size. So far though my biggest complaint is kids feelings of dread and stress of getting an answer wrong and undoing all their hard work. Going forward one and back three would drive adults crazy but we are expecting our kids to deal with it and keep going. IXL really needs to take a closer look at the damage this does to kids and them wanting to use the program.

    • Thanks, Melina, for your thoughts. I had not seen the Mona Lisa type questions. I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled for them.

  38. I have just sat and read the entirety of this stream of reviews, and noted that the complaint about the scoring system that demotivates so many, has been answered with a hope that IXL will improve it (and hints that they are working on it) for roughly 3 YEARS, without apparent change in it as of a few weeks ago. If IXL has no intention of changing that scoring system, they ought to be frank about it.

    • Thanks for commenting, Meg,

      I think they did change it a bit. But I haven’t looked at it in detail in a while, so I’m not sure exactly how much it was changed.

  39. We adopted a girl from the foster care system. Needless to say she is really behind academically. She’s going in to 10th grade this fall and still has a hard time with subtraction on up. School personnel have recommended IXL program but I have been reluctant to start it. Does anyone have any recommendations for remedial math?

  40. I absolutly hate the SmartScore system! As you get closer to 100, the correct answers are worth less and less, until they are worth only 1 point. Incorrect answers, however, are worth about 7 points! It’s very frustrating to get merely one question wrong, and to lose so much, while one right answer has very little reward. I understand the idea. They want to make sure you get a lot of practice. But it’s really annoying! It’s unreasonable to expect anyone to make 0 mistakes to avoid, well, being punished severely. As a student, I find it really frustrating to get so close to the end, and then get tossed back really far.

    • Thanks, S for pointing that out. I can see how that could beat you up and wear you down. I think they’re working on improving that, though.

  41. My 10y.o. daughter has used IXL maths (for 2 years now) to help her get her GCSE (grade 11 exams) Maths (got an A* result). Overall its great for practice.

    But recently (September), they switched off “Proficiency” certificates for “Family” memberships, but still appear to be sending them for “school” memberships, and they don’t appear to want this matter discussed on their blog (2 weeks now waiting for my post to be moderated).

    Also, their “help” team have not replied to my latest email (2 weeks ago) about the subject.

    This is what happens when companies get big and they stop responding to customers.

    Its such a shame.

    • Glad to hear she was doing well but I’m sorry about the lack of customer service.

      I’ll forward your comment to them and see if they can follow up.

  42. I am doing IXL every single day (School makes me do it). Whenever I get a question wrong it takes me back a lot of points like from 94 to 81 (seriously?) and i stress so much and I’m a child, my brain hurts after it and when I get Questions wrong and the description comes and I barely understand it and I need Adult help 24/7 and I am in grade 6 and it seems like they give us year 12 work ’cause i dont even learn this in my school!! I WISH THEY WOULD JUST STOP MAKING US DO ONLINE MATH AND STICK TO GOOD OLE BOOKS, every school is going technological and it’s frustrating cause our teachers spend periods trying to fix the problem from the technology. TABLESMASTER ROCKS but IXL makes me stress and I start getting faded tears. MAYBE THEY SHOULD DO KHAN ACADEMY a free math site and it helps better than IXL, it’s easier and when you need a hint it will help ya!! I USED TO LOVE LIFE, BUT WHEN THE SCHOOL SAYS IXL SKILLS i become sad. Btw im the only kid in class that finishes his IXL…lol

    • Hey there, sad student. I’m sorry you’re so bummed about it. But it’s cool to hear you’re finishing your IXL – that’s a good thing!

  43. How many skills should a third grader be required to master weekly? IXL is a source of much stress and anxiety in our house weekly, and I’m trying to determine how much should be required to to be completed at home. We are spending hours (often over the weekend) on my son’s IXL skills each week.

    • Teacher Mom,

      Thanks for your question. Math should not be a source of stress and anxiety. There is no need to pressure for the skills – they will come with time and practice IF that practice is enjoyable.

      Take the requirement of mastery off the table and ask him to do 30 minutes or so a night. Celebrate the successes as they come and when there is failure, celebrate is as, “Yay, that’s something for you to learn eventually.”

      Let me know how it goes.

    • I feel your pain. We have to have 14 hours a six weeks. Most of my daughter’s grades are from ixl. She had 27 grades from ixl this six weeks. We are on a 6 point grading scale so she tries to get to a 94 at least. Sometimes it takes a long time to get there because we keep getting bumped back.

  44. Thanks for your response, Bon. I wish I had that option. Unfortunately, my son is required by his teacher to complete at least seven skills a week.

    • ARG! I’m so sorry to hear that. Perhaps she and I should visit?

      I know – probably a bad idea. But hey, I’m trying.

      I’ll keep you in my prayers, send chi and sacrifice a chicken for y’all.

  45. I think IXL creates math anxiety that stay with students for life. My daughter has to work 14 hours a six weeks and whatever grade she gets is recorded. We have a six point grading scale so she tries to get 94 or better on each skill. I would like IXL if it gave credit for correct answers but did not penalize for wrong answers. There is something inherently wrong with a program that penalizes more for wrong answers than gives credit for correct answers. My daughter is so nervous every time she clicks the answer. I have seen other more exciting learning programs that are much better than IXL. I will be glad when she is in another grade that doesn’t use IXL in this manner.

    • I agree! That is awful :( These websites and all of the screen time being mandated to children is an abomination of the educational system. I hate it and the more the schools impose these types of gauges of intellect, the more I want to homeschool. My kids are learning nothing but how to be robots who worry more about the bottom line than the process it took them to get there.

    • Gosh, Tracie, I hope you’re wrong. Alas, you might be right, though. Which scares the crap out of me. Thanks for chiming in.

  46. Our GED students enjoy IXL math! Some of them began working on 4th grade math and gradually moves to 8th grade math.
    I am happy to know that this tool is available for all age groups. Thanks,

    • Maybe, Ellen, it’s good for the GED students because they don’t worry about the points. Great that they’re doing well.

  47. I have set up a parental control account for the special needs teenager that I nanny. WHY is SCHOOL CENTERED PROGRAM insisting that I allow FACEBOOK?! Also, I called customer service and had to leave message. That is the worst. Now I have a kid that needs to do his homework and cannot unless I allow Facebook? NO.

  48. Thank you for your informatino.I would like to share another web-based math program called Beestar with you. Based on our personal experience, this program is way better than IXL.
    My son used IXL before but I didn’t want to see him driven crazy by IXL’s frustrating point system. He became very impatient when working on too many math problems just because of one mistake. After comparing several choices, we selected Beestar. It provides many core subject programs and most surprisingly, its math program is always free.
    Although free, the quality of math exercises is beyond our expectation. Easy to use, fun, typical, and can be applied to state standards in most states, that’s why we find it valuable. Many of my son’s classmates are using it as well so my son is motivated to win the weekly ribbons and he feels very proud every time he gets on honor roll.
    Beestar helped him build very solid math foundation so his math improves very fast. At the same time, he really produced strong interest for math. I am happy to see that.

    • Thanks for the info, Catherine. I looked it up. It’s not near as “cute” as IXL, but that’s as far as I got with it.

      However, I did notice it was based in Sugar Land, Texas – right down the road from me. And where my brother was born!

  49. I’m an 8th grader the uses IXL. I see your concerns, but the levels of math being taught to us kids these days is much higher than ever, so the questions are fitting to the lessons. However, I don’t like IXL(which I should be doing now) because during the “challenge round”, if you get one question wrong, you are set back many, many points, and it takes forever to finish. Also, I agree that the colours are quite confusing, and I do wish that IXL had lessons, not just practices. Simply put, I enjoy learning, but would rather not use IXL because it is just so time consuming.

    • Thanks so much, Bob, for stopping by – even though you should be doing your math homework. :D

      I’m glad to hear you enjoy learning. I hope you continue this and don’t let anything (even apps) get you away from that attitude.

  50. My son started kindergarten this year, and is advanced in reading and math. His teacher started him on IXL, and just yesterday he came home telling me he hasn’t been doing it, he missed some, and his teacher wants to talk to me. It got me to investigating this IXL, which I have discovered IS common core, contrary to what his teacher told me. I wondered, why would a smart kid have trouble with IXL? I created a free trial and had him sit down and do it in front of me. I selected counting by two’s. The very first question was “How many swimming fins are there? Count by twos.” There were 3 sets of flippers pictured. My son said, “Hmm…I wonder which ones are swimming ones, mommy.” He thought “swimming” was an adjective and that he was supposed to identify which ones were for swimming and which ones were not. I have never heard them called swimming fins before, and I explained to him they were those flippers in the pictures. He goes, “Oh, ok.” And counts them and gets it right. He then whizzes through 20 more questions getting them all right. Every other section he did, he aced except for the one about time: “Jen’s dad is getting ready for work, what time is it.” He got some of those wrong. His grandpa leaves for work at 3, the time the computer generated answer decided was wrong! I don’t know what the teacher wants to talk to me about, but most of the questions were too easy for him, and he only got stumped when the swimming question threw him off and with what times of day people do things. He aced ALL the money questions, counting by 2’s, 5’s, adding/subtracting, etc….
    I’m thinking, if she things he is too “stupid” for IXL, I think he’s too smart for it. Sorry for my rant, but this site is making a sweet and smart child feel discouraged and I don’t want him using it any more.

    • Oh, Suze, that breaks my heart.

      When grownups write questions often they fail to consider things that kids might be thinking. And indeed, your son (like so many other kids) is probably not just too smart for the system, but also far smarter than most of us grownups. It’s a shame they don’t have them writing the questions. Or at least have them analyze them before publishing them.

      I certainly hope you can get this worked out with his teacher.

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