Learning you can count on

1st November 2002 at 00:00
Headstart Mathematics is well known for the quality of its learning system, previously available just for key stage 4. This September saw the release of Foundation Maths, covering curriculum levels 2 to 6 and incorporating the Numeracy Framework. The program is applicable to secondary at KS3 and primary at KS2, but it will also be useful for special needs pupils across the key stages. There are some subtle changes to the look of the program - for example, a new navigation device to free up more space and a changed font to make reading easier.

Headstart is not only ideal for whole-class teaching using whiteboards, etc, but it's also great for individualised study programmes. The development process has been undertaken through a close partnership with schools and this has undoubtedly helped to make the program attuned to the needs of students.

The program is divided into four areas: Syllabus, Tutorial, Lab and Test. In the Syllabus area, there are 640 interactive screens. All topics start with an objectives page indicating what the student is going to study along with key words. Particularly good features include a wider use of animations (around 250 compared to the original 40 in the GCSE program) and the graphics are also better - 3D-rendered images bring them up to date and add immediate impact. A voice option is available so that when a student clicks on a paragraph it is spoken to reinforce literacy. The final screen is always a plenary - clicking on sentences in the plenary immediately takes the student back to the relevant page.

The Tutorial section comprises around 1,600 questions, mostly randomised. It is very well presented - no answering in grey boxes as in the GCSE program. Questions can be expanded with help parts and further assistance on these parts. Graphics on the questions are crisp.

The Lab contains activities which are investigative - such as plotting graphs, estimating angles, making bar charts and so forth - but it also includes quick 10-minute starters like the multiplication grid and target boards.

In the Test area, questions can be selected from a list always on screen or they can be rolled through sequentially. The students answer the questions on screen and the whole layout is designed to look like an exam script. Creating tests is easy. Simply dragging a question to wherever you want within the script changes the question ordering. Teachers can also view the test in its own window, which has the answers included.

For all areas of the program, a selection of tools is provided. These include a new direct logic calculator, formula sheets, a trail showing the path the student has taken in that session, an index and a glossary.

The ease of management by the teacher is one of the aspects of such systems which is sometimes overlooked. Headstart, however, has not neglected this and now has one of the best management systems I have seen. The whole structure runs off an expandable tree graphic which mirrors the school set-up. You just click and drag to reorganise. Not only is this simple, but you can also see relevant administration data at a glance. Creating lessons (workplans) allows the teacher to view each element and run them from within the teacher program rather than having to go back out to the student program. And the defaults allow tutorial help to be turned off if you wish and tests to be created with or without randomised numbers - ideal for retaking a test. The tracking and monitoring program allows you to measure "value added" in a straightforward way.

The reports on student progress are comprehensive, clear and have options to export to other reporting systems. The system also includes the home-school link developed by Ravens Wood School in Bromley, Kent, designed to allow workplans to be sent to students via email and performance data to be sent by return.

The improvements in presentation and management will be incorporated in the GCSE program and, together, the two programs are set to become the standard against which others will be measured.

Foundation Maths

Fitness for purpose *****

Ease of use ****

Features ****

Design ****

Value for money ****

Maths software for key stages 2 and 3.

Site licence

Cost: pound;8,995

This option includes the simultaneous use of unlimited workstations, installation, one day's staff training and technical support for 12 months.

Limited Workstation Network

Cost: pound;2,225

This option includes the simultaneous use of a maximum of five workstations, plus installation, staff training for one day and technical support for 12 months.

Cost per licence: pound;215

Headstart Software Marketing

Tel: 01978 810000

www.headstartsoftware.co,uk

END

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