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High tech ways to make primary maths fun

It has been difficult for many primary teachers to exploit fully the benefits of information and communications technology in mathematics lessons, but it is getting easier.

Most teachers now have at least baseline ICT skills, which gives them the confidence to incorporate computers into their lessons.

There is also plenty of cost-effective, sometimes free, software targeting the maths curriculum, which can be used flexibly across stages and attainment groups and provide a dynamic, interactive learning environment.

Syllabus-specific packages such as Maths Pack 1 and 2 from Interactive Resources provide teachers with the tools to conduct whole-class interactive lessons using number lines, number squares and so on. Primary Games Volume 1 and 2 from the same source offer a range of stimulating challenges through which children can investigate maths concepts.

If you wish to improve your problem solving programme - as HM Inspectorate of Education regularly recommends - you could invest in Maths Circus Acts 1, 2 and 3 from 4Mation Software. This is one of the best software series in this area of maths. Each CD-Rom contains 12 programs; all can be used flexibly with small groups or individuals and many can be used to support whole-class interactive teaching.

The Learning Company's renowned package The Logical Journey of the Zoombinis and its sequel, Zoombinis Island Odyssey, offer stimulating quests in which children have to use mathematical problem solving skills to navigate a band of Zoombinis safely through a series of challenges. Beware, however: children (and teachers) easily become attached to the Zoombinis and emotional if any are lost.

A couple of years ago the Department for Education and Skills distributed to all primary schools in England an excellent software pack entitled Using ICT to Support Mathematics in Primary Schools. It includes a compilation CD-Rom of quality programs from branded sources such as Sherston Software, as well as individual contributors such as Mark Robinson from Ambleside Primary in Cumbria, covering such topics as money, angles, problem solving, information handling and shapes.

The programs are simple to use and can be employed flexibly with whole classes, groups or individuals. The pack offers exemplar lessons using the software, with simple instructions and a video for continuing professional development sessions.

The DfES will normally provide up to four copies of the dual platform (Mac and PC) materials free of charge on request. A further 20 interactive programs for primary maths can be downloaded from its website.

At long last, the Internet is beginning to provide quality maths sites which teachers and children can access at sufficiently high speed. Top sites include Cambridge University's NRICH website, which is part of the Millennium Mathematics Project. Numerous problems, games and puzzles are available to tax young minds.

Ambleside Primary's website is an award-winning jewel in the Internet. It has is an excellent range of interactive lessons, games and activities to support numeracy, some designed by the school's pupils.

The BBC site is also one to watch. There is an extensive range of quality activities available and a range of webguides covering many areas of the curriculum. These cross-reference quality websites to the national guidelines and provide brief commentary on their use.

The former Maths Year 2000 site continues to provide a wealth of interactive games and other activities under its new guise, Count On.

The GoFigure site provides a challenge mountain where the difficulty of the challenge increases with height up the mountain. As children near the summit, even high attainers will be taxed by the problems.

Finally, try the sites of the Centre for Innovation in Mathematics Teaching at Exeter University, Brain Boosters and the RHL school, which offer impressive ranges of mathematical problems and puzzles.

John Tease is education officer for West;NIPgt;

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