All set for take off

6th January 2006 at 00:00
Essential Mathematics part 1. OATmedia Interactive Training. Oxford Aviation Training, Oxford Airport, Kidlington, Oxford OX5 1QX. pound;19.95. Tel: 01865 840384. Email:

Essential Mathematics is a slick, interactive teach-yourself CD-Rom from OATmedia, a subsidiary of one of the world's most famous pilot training organisations.

This extensive and well-crafted course in number, algebra and geometry doesn't tie itself down to one target audience. Students preparing for GCSE will find it extremely helpful in key concepts and it will also be invaluable to anyone who needs to brush up on their maths or crib for a selection test in the world of work.

The 32 lessons are somewhat aphoristically described and the prosaic narration may be too dry to engage some learners. This is a key but tricky issue to get right in DIY courses like this. A greater range of tutor voices would certainly enhance the series.

This aside, there is much to extol. The menu of lessons is impressive and students can access them in any order they wish, but a suggested order is recommended from the basics to more challenging concepts. Each lesson covers a considerable amount of ground. Aims are clearly stated from the outset, previous learning is linked to new objectives and the fundamentals are revised where appropriate. There are lots of worked examples with clear and coherent explanations, although one section describing mathematicians as "fussy and lazy" doesn't help the image problem.

Key points are summarised in a mini-plenary which neatly rounds up the lesson. A really helpful feature in each lesson is the navigation wheel which allows users to fast-forward or rewind the content covered. It can also be paused at any time too. Another feature is the comprehensive question section which enables you to test what you have just learnt. The scope of these formal tests can be specified so that one single subject is covered or a combination of subjects assessed. The answers are given, some with explanations.

The lessons have all been expertly put together. They are short and snappy and get the key concepts over, allowing students to grasp points swiftly and competently. However, novice students would be well advised to mesh this resource with others to fill in the inevitable gaps in their knowledge.

Information and help is a click away, although this feature is unlikely to get many visits because the course is so easy to use: the last thing you want to be concerned with is how to use the software. Essential Maths is hassle-free and easily gets the thumbs up. The troubleshooting section is there as a reassurance as much as anything. A quick-nav feature is also a handy addition as it allows you to skip through the lessons readily and effortlessly.

But the real joy of this resource is the quality of its design and graphics. While some resources are garish and over-dressed, Essential Maths is cool, calm and composed and boasts some sharp graphics and animations.

Essential Maths is a professional, extremely well-designed package that represents outstanding value for money. It has been well written, carefully thought through and clearly benefits from a top-class design and programming team. Shame about the mouthpieces and values.

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