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Pulling ideas into shape

TRANSFORM, By SMILE. Maths software for Research Machines Nimbus or PC, Pounds 25 standalone, Pounds 50 network, Pounds 75 stand-alone site licence, Pounds 100 network and stand-alone site licence. SMILE Centre, 108a Lancaster Road, London W11 1QS SMILE describes this as a resource program; that and its title give you an excellent indication of what to expect. It is designed for levels 4-10 of the national curriculum, and provides a very useful tool for exploring the geometry of transformations.

The starting screen is divided into four quadrants, and a grid can be superimposed if desired. Four simple shapes are provided, but the user can define a shape with up to 10 sides by giving the co-ordinates of the vertices in turn, either entering them directly or by pointing and clicking with the mouse. The starting position of the shape must be entered, and the student is also prompted to give the shape a label.

Each time the shape is transformed, a new label can be given to the transformed shape. At the right of the screen, panels show information about the original and transformed shapes. If the transformation will take the new shape off the screen, you are prompted to choose new, re-scaled axes which will display the complete picture.

Up to 40 successive transformations can be applied, which should be enough for all but the most demanding pupils! It is possible to print out the shapes display or the full screen, as well as saving to disc.

The program is easy to use but, perhaps because of the limitations of running under Dos, it looks rather bare and austere. Even when using a high-quality monitor, I found some of the straight lines very jagged. It would have been useful to have a description of the transformation placed in the right-hand panels. At the bottom of these panels are up and down buttons, but when you click on the up button, the text moves down and vice versa!

The booklet which comes with the program is clear and pupils will have little difficulty following its instructions. It also contains several pages of photocopiable worksheets with some interesting puzzles and investigations. A final thought - SMILE has started to produce programs in Windows format, and if they decide to convert Transform, it could be very attractive indeed.

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