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Profit margins for big spenders

LIFESKILLS - Smartspender. CD-Rom pack, pound;39.99. Learning and Teaching Scotland, 74 Victoria Crescent Road, Glasgow, G12 9JN, tel: 0141 337 5000

The Smart money's on the children in this interactive pack which encourages budding entrepreneurs to do their sums properly, writes Anna Clarke

Smartspender aims to be a fun way of building budgeting skills. Seven different activities are included in the resource, from choosing toppings and buying a pizza to running a profitable ice-cream van.

Designed for a wide range of learning abilities - from Scottish national guidelines levels A to C, to English national curriculum keystages 1 and 2 - it focuses on numeracy and information technology skills.

Smartspender would suit all primary stages as a diversity of settings can be selected to meet individual learning needs. In the section entitled Money Machine, children can identify and then pick out coins from 1p to pound;2 to make up different sums of money. The range of coins can be selected by the teacher to suit ability, gradually adjusting it as the children's confidence grows.

Set in the real world, all the activities involve the children spending money in ways they enjoy, from planning a trip around European cities - flying from place to place - to trying different foods which they then use to identify the countries and cities. The information can also be displayed on a spreadsheet, which enables them to develop graph and spreadsheet skills (making and reading) to illustrate their results.

Board game-style activities, such as Monkey Puzzle, link several of the learning areas covered. Lunchbox allows children to choose five items for their packed lunch, giving the cost of each item but setting a roof on the amount they can spend.

In addition to using and counting money, children are encouraged to choose from a healthy rnge of foods, but are also left the option of the popular sweet and fizzy drinks they usually plump for in the school dinner hall.

Ice Cream Van builds enterprise skills. Children are encouraged to think and plan ahead, through useful graphs for stock control, profit and loss accounts and so on. Adult learners would also learn how to order stock and predict sales. The cartoon graphics which accompany it, however, seem infantile and became somewhat irritating.

Dual platform for Mac or PC, a sound card and speakers are also necessary. Mouse skills include pointing the arrow or cursor at the screen, clicking the mouse to select an option, and dragging it to another part of the screen.

All the instructions are given clearly in both printed and spoken form, using a voice which is pleasant and encouraging. When a correct answer is given to, say, a quiz question, it will congratulate with "Well done" or "That's right". To hear the instructions repeated, simply click the text again.

Results can be saved in a text file, allowing the teacher to review progress and pinpoint areas which require further practice. There are also activity sheets which provide more teaching ideas on handling money. Had these been included in the software, they could have been adapted or personalised but if you have a scanner it still may be possible to run these on the computer.

Children will enjoy this program because it enables them to learn to use money while essentially playing.

Each activity is simple yet aims towards specific targets set by the teacher who can decide the level of difficulty, the speed at which information is displayed, and the time allowed to answer questions.

Colourful and interesting, there is also a lot of movement and music included.

Anna Clarke is assistant headteacher at St John's Primary, Ayr

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