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Space program covers all angles

SUPER FACTORY. Software (on floppy disc) for Apple Macintosh, Pounds 39. 95 for single user (site licences available) TAG Developments Tel 01474 357350.

Like its predecessor, Factory, this program explores spatial understanding and helps to develop problem-solving techniques. The link between the two processes is made by challenging students to place pictures on the sides of a cube.

In the first section, Research, pupils can view their 3D cube, and rotate it around the x and y axes in 90-degree increments. They can place pictures on each face and see how certain rotations affect which face will be visible and what the orientation of the picture on a particular face will be.

In Design, you start with a blank cube and, using a linear plan, see the relationship between the plan and the final object, and how changes to the plan result in changes to the product.

In the final section, Challenge, the pupil is challenged with either a randomly generated cube or one designed by a teacher or another pupil. To solve the problem, pupils must appreciate how rotations affect the cube and how their linear plan will produce the right results.

Rotational symmetry is a key element here. The program allows you to place one of three sets of pictures on a face. One set has 90-degree symmetry (for example, a circle will not look different if viewed upside down or sideways). The next set has 180-degree symmetry, so that the shape of the letter S is distorted by rotations. Finally, there is a picture set that comprises a pair of spectacles and a torch. This offers the greatest challenge.

If you remember Rubik's cube, you will have an idea of what is in store. The teachers' guide has full instructions, suggestions on how to introduce and use the program in class, and photocopiable activity sheets. It is a wonderful, unique product that incorporates looking for patterns, symmetrical analysis and working from a 2D plan to a 3D result.

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