Self-Paced Prealgebra: Everything You Need to Know about the Newest AoPS Online Course
May 8, 2019
Art of Problem Solving has connected outstanding students with amazing teachers for years through our online courses. We’ve taught tens of thousands of students since our first online class 16 years ago, but we’ve missed out on teaching many of the students who wanted to learn at their own pace, or those whose schedules conflicted with live sessions.
For years, we’ve been limited by the logistical needs of getting high-caliber teachers, teacher’s aides, support staff, and eager students all together in one digital place at the same time to teach and learn. Historically, this has been effective for the most students and teachers with a class start time of 4:30 pm PT, or 7:30 pm ET, once a week.
But what about the students who can’t make that time work?
Enter: self-paced classes
We’ve been working on our first self-paced class for over a year. This includes building a new delivery system for our lessons and adapting our curriculum to that new technology. Each of these lessons takes a team of 5 curriculum developers over 20 hours to build and refine. And there are 50 lessons in Prealgebra 1 alone!
For us to offer a self-paced option, we had to be sure that students would get the rigorous instruction we’re known for without losing the engaging delivery that students thrive on. And that’s exactly what we’ve done with Self-Paced Prealgebra 1. Our interactive lessons guide students through problem solving and challenging problems at their own pace. The lessons adapt to student responses, so every student gets a personalized lesson. If students need extra help, we have accomplished faculty available to answer any extra questions students might have on our class message board. Our self-paced students, like our standard course students, receive instruction from our world-class teaching staff!
The rest of the course is very similar to our courses that have trained tens of thousands of eager students from around the world since 2003. Students have Alcumus homework to focus on specific problem-solving tactics, challenge problems to extend those strategies to more complex situations, writing problems to develop mathematical writing skills, office hours with live instructors, and a discussion board to facilitate conversations about the coursework.
Who are self-paced courses good for?
For many of the people who have heard about our self-paced courses already, their first thought is that students who can’t meet during our usual class times can now attend courses. This is one reason for this course style, but it opens the door for far more students than that.
Our weekly live Prealgebra 1 course is taught with live sessions that meet once a week for 16 weeks. Each 75-minute lesson devours the content in our textbooks. Students in our Online classes go through half of our Prealgebra textbook in only 4 months! Many students find that pace to be a refreshing contrast to what often feels like a snail’s pace in their regular school math class, but the pace set in our live classes can be blistering for a student new to AoPS.
Because the live classes are so fast, they can be pretty intimidating for students who might relish the challenge, but just aren’t quick to type or solve the problems presented. Some students may not have the time or patience to sit through a full class, at least not in one sitting.
Self-paced courses help with that. They offer the same caliber of instruction (our curriculum developers have spent months fine-tuning the lessons for these courses!), but students have more control over the pace. This can be extremely beneficial for less confident students or younger learners who have completed Beast Academy and are looking for the next step.
And it works just as well in the other direction: students who, incredibly, find our standard pace to be too slow can complete the self-paced course as quickly as they’d like. In beta tests, some students completed the course in just a few weeks (!!!), while others took a more moderate 6 months. That immense variation is precisely what this class is meant to help with. Students are able to learn this challenging material at a pace they feel most comfortable with.
So just how does self-paced work, anyway?
Once a student is enrolled and the class has started, the student will be able to navigate to their classes from the “Online School” menu on AoPS.com. Tutorial lessons teach new students how to use the class platform.
Students can set their own schedule for how much (or how little) they want to work each day, using 15 minute increments. At the upper right of the schedule page, there will be a readout telling you about how long it’ll take to complete the entire course at the schedule pace you’ve chosen.
The self-paced class introduces new topics with an interactive lesson structured as a mathematical conversation. Students then deepen their understanding with assigned readings, supplemental videos, and homework problems. When students need teacher support, or just want to spend a little time interacting with their fellow classmates, they can turn to the class message board. Instructors check the message boards regularly and are available for live support in office hours each weekday.
Learning math is not a spectator sport. Students should have a pencil in hand throughout their learning experience, whether they’re working through the interactive lessons, solving problems in the textbook, tackling homework problems, or talking math on the course message board. Students will be expected to participate in class discussions and to ask their instructors and classmates questions about the material. Plus, there are office hours every weekday if students would like to talk to a live instructor for guidance.
It’s also very, very important to note: self-paced or not, this class is HARD! It’s intentional and important that students get some problems wrong. If a student is in a course and not getting anything wrong, then they’re in a course that’s too easy for them!
Ready to enroll?
Enrolling in the self-paced course is almost identical to enrolling in a standard course. You’ll still want to have a copy of the book and solutions guide (the online book works well for this course), and will need an AoPS account to enroll. If you don’t have one already, it’s easy to make one during the enrollment process!
The main difference is that with self-paced, you won’t be picking the day of the week for your student to attend live classes. Instead, you’ll want to get started by taking a look at the schedule and figuring out how much time should be devoted to working on the class each day. Then just dive right in! If you’re waiting for your physical books to arrive, your student can go through the tutorial, watch some videos, and try their hand at Alcumus and the discussion boards.
Because the lessons are conducted online, yes, a connection to the internet will be required to complete the course.
If you’re new to AoPS, you may not be sure if your student is even ready for our Prealgebra 1 course! We have some diagnostic tests you can print and use to test your student to find out if this course is right for them. The “Are You Ready?” test is what you should use if your student has completed an elementary (grades 1–5) curriculum, or if they’ve already started another Prealgebra 1 course. Because our material is much more challenging and teaches students problem-solving as well as mathematics, we find that even students who’ve completed a standard Prealgebra class can benefit from starting at the beginning with our courses.
If your student completed Prealgebra 1 already, and you’re not quite sure they’re ready to move to the next course, you can try the “Do You Need This?” diagnostic test to be sure. Both diagnostic tests include instructions on how to use the results to assess your student’s readiness for the course.