16th April 1999 at 01:00
We've moved a long way since the days when only mathematics teachers were expected to know how to use computers. The assumptions of 15 years ago meant that mathematics got a head start over most in thinking about how to use ICT.

You can use ICT in mathematics in three main ways: commercial packages designed to teach or illustrate a particular aspect of mathematics; using generic packages such as spreadsheets or drawing programs; and using languages such as LOGO to explore concepts of sequencing and control. To get started, practice using some of the programs in the first category. There are many programs available, but do try to avoid those which just offer "drill".

As you gain confidence you should move on to using the general purpose utilities such as databases, spreadsheets and drawing programs. Data-handling has assumed greater importance in mathematics in recent years, and there are many databases available which can be used with pupils of all ages.

One of the more interesting developments in using ICT in mathematics has been the increased use of spreadsheets. The great power of the spreadsheet comes from its ability to update linked cells when the figures in one or more other cells are changed. There are many things you can do with a spreadsheet; for example, you could simply use it to record the results of a simple probability exercise, updating it as more and more repetitions are made, and using the graphing facility to display the results. You could enter the formula for a solid, and explore how changes in the parameters affect the volume. With older pupils, spreadsheets have been successfully used to explore functions and iterative processes. Searching for square roots, or for the roots of a quadratic equation can also be easily accomplished with a spreadsheet.

One of the earliest uses of micros in mathematics was to explore geometry. Young pupils can be introduced to concepts of angle and distance by using LOGO to move turtles, either on the screen or "actual" turtles on the floor or table. The power and simplicity of LOGO make it a wonderful way of exploring mathematics, including number work and algebra as well as geometry.

Finally, now you are looking for other ways of using ICT, don't forget the Internet. There are several sites to point you to sources of ideas.


1 Use Logo to draw regular polygons 2 Use a graphic calculator to explore what happens to graphs as you change the coefficients 3 A good introduction to spreadsheets is to set up a simple spreadsheet to record income and expenditure.

4 Set up a spreadsheet with simple formulae (3a, b4, 2c etc) and change the values of a, b, c 5 Use a spreadsheet to demonstrate the "max box" problem 6 Use a drawing program such as Omnigraph to find out the effects of transformations on shapes 7 Devise an electronic version of a maths trail 8 Integrated Learning Systems - research has shown some impressive gains by children regularly using them 9 With programs offering basic skills practice, only buy those which can be adjusted for different ability levels 10 Visit websites that offer mathematical ideas, such as Mathsphere (

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