The use of IT in the mathematics classroom has broadened over the years to include not just commercial packages designed to teach or illustrate an aspect of maths, but also generic packages such as spreadsheets or drawing programs.
More adventurous teachers regularly use the Internet to access software and activities, and there is no sign of the flow of ideas and programs drying up. One of the best sources of general information about the use of IT is the National Council for Educational Technology (NCET), which publishes some free guides, including a useful list, Software for Mathematics (Second Edition 1996). This gives examples of the software available in areas as diverse as dynamic geometry, Logo, and symbol manipulators.
Many commercial packages are available, and more will be launched at BETT 97. SMILE, long recognised as being among the best of the publishers, will unveil Pack 6 - Mathematical Puzzles, another of its versions which runs under Windows.
Well-written programs such as these are an excellent introduction to the use of IT within maths. You could, for example, begin by using the Mystic Rose program from SMILE to see how it helps pupils to explore the salient points of the investigation without being held up by the need to keep redrawing the roses.
Many versions of software give practice and examples, and much of it should be avoided. But Iota Software has brought out Primary Maths CD-Rom 1 and will launch CD-Rom 2 at the show. This has exercises based on the Cambridge Primary Maths series and should be worth evaluating. And watch out for the Mathematical Association's seminar on January 9 on the use of computers in primary schools.
The general purpose utilities, such as databases and drawing programs, are essential in the maths classroom. Many databases can be used with pupils of all ages.
Iota Software will demonstrate the new version of DataPower Maths pack, which has been designed to run across all three main platforms (Acorn, Mac and PC) and so will be useful in schools that have a mixture of machines.
Some packages come with their own data. With others, pupils can collect and record data, which offers great scope for cross-curricular work.
The NCET has published a free guide on the use of dynamic geometry packs in maths. Three main packs are available: Cabri II (Chartwell-Bratt), The Geometer's Sketchpad (Capedia) and Geometry Inventor (TAG). These allow pupils to explore points, lines, lengths, angles and distances in a dynamic way.
Some of the packages can be used to learn about transformation geometry as well as constructions.
If you are still sceptical about how essential it has become to use a spreadsheet in the maths classroom, the NCET publishes Thinking about Spreadsheets (Pounds 2.50), a guide to the use of the software within the classroom. Claire Publications has just published Study Suite, which promises to provide not only a spreadsheet that is compatible with many of the industry standard spreadsheets, but also software that bridges the gap between numeric and algebraic forms.
Two integrated learning systems used in schools are being evaluated by NCET. Heinemann intended to launch Jostens' ILS, called Learning Expedition. This is designed for pupils aged five to 14, to introduce, reinforce, and practise skills in maths, as well as in grammar and reading. Heinemann pulled out of the deal but look out for Learning Expedition on other stands.
Finally, a reminder that the Internet has useful sites which can point you to sources of ideas. One of the best places to start, with links to other sites, is the Shell Centre at Nottingham University. Plenty of people at BETT 97 will be willing to show you what the Internet can do for you, and you can try it out. But if you can't get along, don't worry - ask one of your pupils to help you get started.
* BETT connections Association Teachers of Maths stand A3
Capedia Ltd stand 428. Harford Centre, Hall Road, Norwich NR4 6DG
Claire Publications stand C17
Iota Software stand 331
Mathematical Association stand A12
NCET stands 545560SMILE stand C50
TAG Developments stand 170
* Chartwell-Bratt Ltd, Old Orchard, Bickley Road, Bromley BR1 2NE. Tel 0181 467 1956Shell Centre Website http:acorn.educ.nottingham.ac.ukShellCent