Start simplel

Mike Levy

Interactive Oral and Mental Starters

By Mary Pardoe

Hodder Murray

Year 8 and 9 CD-Rom packages are about pound;150 plus VAT each

Interactive Oral and Mental Starters offers ready-made activities to help pep up key stage 3 maths. The package for Year 7s came out a year or two ago. Now Mary Pardoe has produced new products for Years 8 and 9.

The CD-Roms help teachers implement the oral and mental starters required by the framework for teaching maths at KS3. The nice thing about the 30 sets of whole-class activities on each CD is that they can be used as starters or at any other stage. The aim is that each activity provides a different experience, building from the previous one.

The emphasis is on mental imagery. Pardoe emphasises the need to give each child enough time to establish strong mental pictures and use them to reach conclusions. Perhaps unusually, the software is designed to be used after the pupils have worked mentally on a situation. They can compare what they were "seeing" in their mind's eye with what actually happens. Pardoe suggests it may be appropriate to demonstrate what they have been visualising on a computer or whiteboard.

The software is deliberately non-prescriptive and gives a lot of flexibility in using the activities. You can work at many different levels, from simple to complex problems. For example, activity one for Year 8 sets a task involving placing value, ordering and rounding. Pupils are challenged to combine four numbers, using multiplication and division by 0.1 or 0.01 to make results equal or close to target numbers (good preparation for a spot on Countdown, too).

Each activity comes with a series of helpful clickable teachers' notes. You are given guidance on how they can be presented in class, as well as examples of how pupils might tackle the challenges that have been set, as well as useful class scenarios on the lines of "a pupil might say this" and "you could then show them that".

The notes also show how to start simply and gradually become complex. Each screen shows the activity and a bar including a link to teachers' notes, a number pad, a timer and a useful set of technical notes which explains how the activity can be carried out.

The graphics are simple and colourful (some may find them a little old-fashioned in their chunkiness). The activities are varied and fun, with names such as "Dice and Spinners" and "Travel to School".

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Mike Levy

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