14th April 2000 at 01:00
How to tame ICT's insatiable appetite for your school computers.

Using ICT in mathematics need not be ruinously expensive; you can achieve a lot with a few basic pieces of software provided you think about how best to use ICT to improve students.

You should consider acquiring three main types of software: commercial packages designed to teach or illustrate a particular aspect of mathematics; generic packages such as spreadsheets or drawing programs; and LOGO to explore concepts of geometry and sequencing.

Some of the programs in the first category are not expensive, such as the Maths Explorer series from Granada which combines elements of challenge and exploration with use of mathematical ideas. Programs produced by SMILE have long been recognised as being excellent components of an ICT "library" and have the great advantage of being reasonably priced.

I would also want a drawing program such as SPA's excellent Omnigraph. It basically draws graphs, but can do much more than that. It can help students bridge the gap between an algebraic and graphical realisation of a situation. In work on transformations, student can concentrate on identifying the result of the transformation rather than on the plotting of points.

Licences for general-purpose utilities such as databases and spreadsheets will probably be available for the whole school site and should therefore cost the department nothing extra. Data handling is an important aspect of the mathematics curriculum, and students need to learn that the accuracy of their results and validity of the conclusions they draw are very dependent on the care with which the categories of data have been initially defined.

The Internet can be a source of ideas and of material which can be downloaded at little cost. MathsNet is one of the best places to start, and from there you will find links to other useful sites.

Ian Wilson is headteacher at Rydens School, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey

Maths Explorer series from Granada Learning. Price: from pound;49.

SMILE Mathematics - various collections.

Omnigraph 2 from SPA can be ordered from REM. Price: pound;42,


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