All about time and money

LIFESKILLS TIME AND MONEY. PC and Apple Pounds 39.99 plus VATSCET, 74 Victoria Road, Glasgow G12 9JN. Tel: 0141 337 5000.

We soon learn that hours and pounds are two of life's scarce resources. "We haven't got time" and "It doesn't grow on trees, y'know" are moans that almost all kids recognise early on, even if they can't work out what all the fuss is about. Using Lifeskills Time and Money probably won't lessen their bewilderment, but it will at least help them share the numerical language that underlies adult preoccupations.

This first-rate program presents several familiar sites - the home, supermarket, playing field and others - where they can learn about time and money. All the sites require simple tasks to be understood and completed, after which a voice either offers congratulations ("That's correct!", "You got it!") or gentle reproof ("No, that's wrong. Have another go"). This patient, cheerful approach makes it an ideal tool for pupils with special educational needs.

"Home Sweet Home", the site that deals with domestic matters, has a fairly typical approach. Users set the time on an analogue cuckoo clock to match that on an adjacent digital clock by clicking onbuttons that advance the hour and minute hands. The right answer gets bird plus song.

Of the sites that show how to handle cash, "Luncherama" is probably the best. Again, the activity is uncomplicated but instructive. Users select from a vending machine any one of several items - sandwiches, a bunch of grapes, a hot dog - they wish to buy. They are then given a choice of coins with which to feed the vending machine. "Enjoy" and "Yum!" says a voice when they get their sums right; "That was too much. This machine does not give change" when they don't.

Other activities are similarly attractive: a clock with numbers that users replace as they fall from the dial; a scoreboard that flashes, and a crowd that cheers, when the time of day is registered in words; and, set in a supermarket, an excellent buying game that shows how to count money and check change. A number of the activities can be made more or less difficult, and printed sheets offer interesting tasks. In sum, a program that is itself a great advertisement for time and money well spent.

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