TiltonTec is a small company committed to the development of sophisticated eLearning software that leverages expert-system technology and long personal experience in teaching and tutoring to provide learning environments that go beyond the standard on-line experience.
Our initial offering proved highly efficacious in the 90s when marketed as a desktop app ("I was excited about how quickly the students who had been struggling got to the same level as my better students.").
We moved onto other projects but more than one teacher wrote to us ten years later to see if a version for new computers was available ("We are frustrated that all the programs we find online, or for purchase, solve the equations for the students or provide too much assistance.")
A couple of years ago we started a complete re-write from scratch for the Web, and added many features to support and encourage strugglers: embedded video; a hierarchy of so-called "missions" to let learners self-assess and provide the self-directed with structure; a math-friendly public forum where teachers and students can collaborate; and fun elements like (optional!) sound effects after each step and victory music for completed missions.
That version is in late-beta and has just completed its first pilot/study. Student engagement was exceptional (one of the control groups was lost when the kids heard about the app from the treatment group and begged their way onto the app) and their exit surveys confirmed it: http://tiltonsalgebra.com/#quotations (full survey results available on request).
A nice surprise from the survey was the strong affective response to the app. One in four used an open question on what they liked best to comment on how good the app's avatar tutors made them feel. ("It made me feel proud.", "It cheers you up and it is kind.")
Our hope is that we have successfully tapped the energy of video games (failure without consequence, reward for small progress, the excitement of missions) to motivate student effort on rigorous mathematics.
Currently we are continuing to enhance the app and seek other opportunities to help folks master the basics of Algebra. We believe the app will be especially effective for adult learners because (a) it's step-by-step support lets those who have not studied math for years rebuild their fundamentals even as they tackle more challenging Algebra (no one likes facing the same fractions worksheet again and again) and (b) success with Algebra will empower them with new confidence in themselves as learners.