IXL – our review of them

A while ago, some UK home educators tried to arrange a school discount with IXL as a group of about 200 home educators. IXL initially agreed to a truly remarkable discounted price of £5 per child per year for them, under a classroom license. IXL must have earned about £1000+ from home educators under this agreement.

Then about a month after that agreement and after all families have paid up this amount, IXL sent out emails to every family saying their accounts have been cancelled because they have suddenly found that the classroom license originally agreed upon for the group of 200 home educators was found to be in “violation of their selling regulations”. Now they said  that each family had to pay IXL around £50 more in order to continue using IXL or else their entire accounts would simply be cancelled. By this time, many home educated children who had taken up this offer had already started their IXL use and built up a record of achievement. It seemed cruel to suddenly be told well, pay more to keep the account or all your children’s progress on IXL so far would be completely erased.

Clearly someone in IXL decided that earning £1000+ from home educators for this classroom license wasn’t enough profit, and thought what a money spinner it would be if they charged everyone almost £50 more! Never mind the fact that by doing well this, they’ve essentially backtracked on their word, a month after agreeing on it.

Numbers of home educators, outraged at this sudden change of agreement by IXL, took to Facebook to leave negative complaints on their IXL Facebook page. Their ratings on Facebook dropped to 1 star out of 5 and they were inundated with complaints from disgruntled families.

After a few days, IXL decided to renege on what they’ve said and sent an email to everyone to “make things right” again, and they agreed to allow all 200+ home educating families who originally subscribed under the classroom license to continue with their £5 per child subscription for a whole year before that deal stops, after which they would not be renewing it. As a gesture of goodwill in response, many home educating families also decided to retract their complaints on IXL’s Facebook page.

As you can tell, IXL’s behaviour towards the UK home educators as far as this deal was concerned left much to be desired. Many have lost faith in this company. We would not have had an issue with them if they had not even granted us a discount in the first place. It was the way they had conducted their business towards us – first agreeing on the discount, then upon the popular uptake of that discount, deciding to renege on the deal they’ve agreed by asking people to pay a lot more to keep their accounts.

But… Putting their business ethics aside, I wanted to offer my review of what the IXL Maths program itself is like for our family. I’m not about to throw the baby out of the bathwater. Is IXL Maths itself any good for us? Is it worth it’s price?

Well for my eldest daughter who has always struggled a bit with Maths because she is naturally evasive to challenge and takes it really personally whenever she finds she cannot do something “right” – floods of tears and anger for instance – Maths has proven to be a sticking point for her over the years as it has such a clearcut distinction between right and wrong answers that there is absolutely no leeway for her if she didn’t get the answer required in a Maths question. It has always either been right or wrong, my way or the highway when it comes to Maths for her… I don’t know why but she’s always been like this about Maths since her days at school before home ed.

We’ve tried a lot of book and online resources for Maths in our home ed over the years. There was always a difficulty for her mastering Maths topics she finds tricky, simply because of the limited number of Maths practice questions she gets in the Maths resources we’ve tried. She’d get questions wrong, get told the right answer and shown the right way of doing it, then what? There were usually no more questions left to test her, to find out if she can do any further Maths questions on that topic of that level of difficulty, if she had gotten them wrong.

Here is where IXL Maths really shines. It offers unlimited practice questions, plus its questions are all graded on level of difficulty and IXL Maths monitors children’s progress and ability and adjusts the level of difficulty of the Maths questions in order to suit each individual child. If it finds that a child can correctly complete Maths questions of a certain level of difficulty in a specific Maths topic, it will then start giving the child more challenging Maths questions on that topic, and the child has to work them all out correctly or else the child’s achievement scores on that topic will drop.

So basically for drilling and mastery of Maths topics, IXL is doing it right. No other resources we’ve tried, and that includes Conquermaths, even comes close to doing this, especially for high school level Maths. Plus the way it is done is less upsetting for my daughter. It runs by a reward system, where she unlocks “prizes” with mastery of each Maths skill, so she is less likely to take it really personally if she fails. What’s most promising about her use of IXL Maths is that she has been growing in her ability to figure out her mistakes on her own whereas previously she was a bit “spoonfed” in mentality – she used to prefer to ask others to tell her why she got questions wrong and how to do them correctly.

And now with IXL Maths, she no longer has gaps in her knowledge, as IXL Maths’s scoring and achievement monitoring makes sure there are no gaps and makes sure she has always mastered easier skills before giving her more challenging questions.

For these reasons, we have continued with our IXL Maths subscriptions for her, even though we paid full price for it (£59 a year). That price alone could price out some families. I get that. It would be great of course, if IXL ever really agreed to a £5 per child per year deal again, but as long as we can still afford it, we’d continue to go with IXL Maths for her until she takes her GCSE Maths exam.

We’ve found IXL Maths invaluable for our eldest daughter for this reason.

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