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What is adaptive learning?

By Atom | Jan 4, 2024, 3:02 PM

Many online learning platforms – including Atom Home – use adaptive learning. But what is adaptive learning, and how does it work?

What is adaptive learning?

Adaptive learning combines technology and artificial intelligence (AI) to create personalised learning paths. It detects the child's knowledge and tailors questions to suit their learning level.

At Atom, we use AI to create an effective learning experience for our students. We believe that children should be challenged but not demotivated by difficulty. Atom's algorithm challenges children in their stronger topics while supporting them in topics they find more difficult.

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How does it work?

Laying the foundation

When you register your child with Atom, the platform asks for your child's date of birth. This is an important factor that the algorithm takes into account when presenting questions to your child. Your child's age and year group lays the foundation for the objectives they'll cover as they learn.

Atom's content is aligned to the national curriculum for Key Stage 2 and early Key Stage 3. Atom knows which topics each child needs to cover in their year group to stay on track and to challenge and extend their learning.


After activating your account, your child needs to begin using the platform to let the AI work its magic. Every time a child answers a question on Atom, the algorithm uses their answers to measure their progress and display questions at an optimal level of difficulty. This method is designed to inspire confidence and independence. The algorithm aims for students to answer approximately 80% of questions correctly to encourage active engagement.

Each question on Atom is given a level of difficulty by experienced practitioners. If your child answers a question correctly, they will see a more challenging question for the same topic later on. If they answer the question incorrectly, they will see an easier question (and so on). The AI evaluates every question so that modifications can be made. For example, if most students answer a grade 3 question incorrectly, it gets reassigned to grade 4.

Atom pulls questions from a vast question bank – over 90,000 and counting! These questions are standardised based on all Atom users. The more questions that are answered, the better the learning pathway!

Tutor Mode

Atom uses the data from every answer to produce tailored and challenging content. Children should work independently to answer questions.

Parents and tutors can still support children while they use the platform. Switching on 'Tutor Mode' when setting a practice means that the questions answered will not factor into recommended content on Atom. This ensures that it has no effect on the progress measured and will not increase or decrease their difficulty level.

Viewing and interpreting progress

As children work through each question on Atom, the AI tracks their performance. This performance data is split up by topic for parents to view on the Parent Portal.

By continuing to use Atom, your child will get tailored and engaging learning – and you'll get granular insights.

What about adaptive exams?

If your child is applying to a grammar school or selective independent school, they will need to take an entrance exam. Some entrance exams (more commonly for entry to independent schools) are adaptive. Adaptive tests use the same principles as adaptive learning and all have the same features:

  • They are always taken online. The questions need to be marked immediately so that the adaptive algorithm knows what question to ask next based on the child's answer.

  • There is no skip button. The answer to each question is used to determine the next one. This means that your child will not be able to skip a question and come back to it later. Children need to answer every question in the order they are presented before moving on.

  • There is no back button. Similarly, once your child submits their answer and moves on, that will be their final answer. They cannot go back and change it.

  • The exact number of questions might be unknown. Adaptive tests are tailored to each child's performance. This means that in some adaptive tests, children who do very well might finish early because it doesn't take the algorithm as long to gauge their ability.

Common adaptive entrance exams include Atom Assessments and the ISEB Common Pre-Test.

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