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Robots for the little people

PIXIE NUMBER ACTIVITY PACK. PIXIE SHAPE ACTIVITY PACK. Northamptonshire Inspection and Advisory Service. 01604 587441 - Pounds 13.50 each, inc pp.

PIXIE ROBOT. Swallow Systems. High Wycombe. 01494 813471. Pounds 118.70, inc pp.

Pixie, if you see one at the end of your classroom, is a programmable floor robot. Children love the little creatures. They are friendly, affectionate, with a touch of magic in their appeal. They can also help children develop a wide range of mathematical concepts, as can several others that are currently on the market.

If you put yours away because you didn't know what to do after you put the batteries in, don't worry. The Northamptonshire Inspection and Advisory Service (NIAS) has a super pack out to guide you. NIAS recommends Pixie for primary schools, but in my view the pack pertains to other robots as well.

The format of each pack is just what we need - ready-to-go resources. For less than Pounds 15, you get an A5 plastic wallet, a spiral-bound teacher's notebook, two dozen activity cards and various cut-out-and-go bits and bobs.The teacher's notes list what you need, what to do and what you're covering when you do it. The organisation takes account of differentation, provides real challenges and includes some neat problems to be solved, for example, a Pixie version of Postman's Knock (not the kissing version) that involves making house calls at a sequence of numbers.

Each activity card outlines the tasks, the maths, the curriculum coverage and the knowledge needed. To make life even easier, a grid correlates the work to the national curriculum and to maths concepts and operations.

The number activities will help children deal with positive and negative number operations, sequences and patterns and much more besides. The shape package covers turning, patterns, creating and using pictorial diagrams, co-ordinates and - yes - much more besides. The pupil activity cards are uncluttered, use straightforward text and demand productive mental effort from pupils rather than teachers.

Reports of the demise of local education authorities are a little premature - certainly when, like NIAS, they provide such simple, effective curriculum materials. Team points all round.

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