Break the ice in the new year
The BBC chooses to go big on maths with two new versions of old timers: Megamaths and Numbertime. The latter concentrates on teaching young children how to tell the time, using a combination of real people and cartoons to introduce concepts such as estimating, duration and speed. Megamaths looks at money and division in a more boisterous manner for slightly older children. Both series are accompanied by activity books and audio cassettes.
To encourage slow readers and those with special needs, there's a BBC Look and Read special. The Legend of the Lost Keys is a multimedia resource combining the TV series with poem and song book, storybook, photocopiable masters, novel, software and audio cassette all based on a ripping yarn involving a gateway in time, children on the run and some suitably nasty evil doers.
For secondary pupils, Shakespeare takes centre stage for much of the term. Channel 4 dazzles us with a stellar cast for Michael Bogdanov's made-for-education Macbeth (beginning January 15 and reviewed next week) with Sean Pertwee and Greta Scacchi in the roles of the Scotsman and his scheming wife. The BBC's series Shakespeare Shorts also focuses on "the Scottish play" and looks at various interpretations of key scenes through the ages. Clearly anyone teaching this as a set text this year is going to be spoilt for choice.
BBC's English Time looks at Shakespeare's audience ("apprentices, tradesmen, prostitutes and vagabonds") as well the type of people you would have found treading the boards in the 16th and 17th centuries. This is set in and around the reconstructed Globe, which is turning into a genuine People's Playhouse, much as it would have been in its heyday.
Channel 4's Eureka!: People of the Ice examines the world of the Inuit indians, at once both cold and colourful. This enterprising series brings not only arts and culture but science and technology too. For A-level students the arcane language of maps is explored in Place and People: On the Map. It goes to show how aerial filming, satellite imagery and computer graphics have shrunk the world from the uncharted days of "here be dragons". The Geography Programme on BBC2 continues its 2000 series with a look at France and for the first time, there is a French version for A-level language students to accompany it.
The BBC is offering a new magazine series for GCSE Spanish students called Voces Espa$olas, which covers familiar ground such as home, work, food and free time and, as it's Spain, fiestas. There is also a new Spanish strand to the Top! language series on Channel 4.
One of the most delightful of this term's offerings will undoubtedly be Quest: Animated World Faiths. After last year's animated Bible stories, Channel 4 now brings us classical stories which underpin the major faiths: Moses, Guru Nanak, Muhammed, Krishna, Confucius, Buddha and Christ.
For those whose minds are on other things the BBC will launch its new revision service GCSE Bitesize. This is another multimedia package combining television, books and the Internet to help students who are preparing for exams. Beginning on February 28, it will offer information linked to seven subjects in small, digestible chunks, user-friendly for students, parents and teachers.
* Thanks to everyone who responded to our survey on television listings and reviews. Congratulations and a Pounds 50 book token go to Mrs Belinda Keep whose name was first out of the hat. She teachers at Coten End Primary School in Warwick.