Maths

6th January 2006 at 00:00
With the rapid increase in the number of interactive whiteboards installed in schools has come a similar increase in the number of software products on offer to make use of the new technology. While some of these are little more than old programs in new packaging, there are plenty which are worth seeking out.

A-level Maths from Boardworks (pound;199 per unit, pound;499 for three) covers the syllabuses of the main examination boards, and at present contains units on Core 1 and 2, Mechanics 1 and Statistics 1, with more to follow in the spring. The interactive animations are used to good effect in demonstrating concepts in calculus and mechanics, and the content is presented in the same engaging way as with the company's previously released products for key stages 3 and 4.

Another program which is suited to the potential of the whiteboard is Maths Lesson Starters from Virtual Image (pound;75 per CD), a set of four CDs each containing 25 lesson starters. There are links to internet sites, puzzles and ideas which could be developed into investigations. The range of topics covered is comprehensive and I particularly liked the one which deals with different ways of proving Pythagoras' Theorem.

The same company will also be presenting a CD called Great Mathematicians (pound;50), covering the lives and work of 12 mathematicians from Pythagoras to Ada Lovelace. The CD contains teachers' notes as well as the ability to create multiple choice tests, and the interactive activities will test pupils' understanding of the concepts which were discovered or developed by the mathematicians.

Assessment is an area in which several new products are on offer.

NFER-Nelson has Progress in Maths Digital (pound;225 per level per annum for whole school licence), an online version of Nelson's standardised test series for KS2-3. The questions are set out in a straightforward way which minimises the need for intervention, and pupils answer the questions in a variety of ways, including selecting from multiple-choice options, manipulating graphics and dragging and dropping. The analysis of results can be presented in different ways, including, of course, the pupil's current curriculum level. Although this product is relatively expensive, the reduction in the teacher's burden is very welcome and the assessment is thorough and reliable.

Alta Maths for Schools (from pound;150 per school, pound;10 per pupil for primary) provides an assessment product for KS2 and KS3. It is an online system which contains an extremely useful report, with a diagnosis of strengths and weaknesses. Pupils practise answering questions on a topic or can try a "confirm-level-assessment" when they or the teacher think they are ready to show mastery at a level. Another significant feature is the option for pupils to receive detailed feedback on their understanding of a topic, thus providing them with formative feedback.

Games remain popular as a means of practising mathematical skills. From Grid Learning come additions to the subscription-only website GridClub (pound;3 per pupil per annum). These are in the format of adventure games in which questions have to be answered for the characters to make progress.

The animations are fun and of high quality and the games are suitable for pupils in KS1 and KS2. I enjoyed playing Radius of the Lost Arc and will be interested to see if Secret Agent, to be launched at the show, is of the same high standard.

Measure up! With Ollie and Ellie from Sherston (single user pound;49.95) is intended for five to seven-years-olds and contains nine activities designed to introduce and reinforce aspects of measuring and estimating.

The activities, each with two levels of difficulty, can be worked on alone or as part of an adventure.

An interesting approach to the use of games is provided by Caspian Learning, with its KS2 Problem Solving (KS2 bundle from pound;399). This 3D game contains 22 thinking tasks, which typically involve the student in gathering information from characters in the game, evaluating answers and deciding on a solution. The approach starts from defining the cognitive tasks to be performed which will map to the required learning outcomes, and feedback on the pupil's performance highlights how well the pupil has used and evaluated the information.

Don't miss

A level Maths Boardworks Stand F70 Excellent use of the interactive whiteboard to introduce and illustrate concepts at higher levels Tel: 08703 505560 www.theboardworks.co.uk

Maths Lesson Starters Virtual Image Stand SW4 With this huge collection of lesson starters for the whiteboard your lessons can get off to a great start.

Tel: 0161 480 1915 www.virtualimage.co.uk

Alta Maths for Schools Alta Systems Stand M10 A thorough online assessment system which provides immediate detailed feedback on performance.

Tel: 02890 240985 www.alta-systems.com

Other contacts

Caspian Learning Stand C100 Tel: 0191 5561043 www.caspianlearning.co.uk

Grid Learning Stand C90 Tel: 020 7812 6600 www.gridclub.com

NFER-Nelson Stand E40 Tel: 0845 602 1937 www.nfer-nelson.co.uk

Sherston Stand E60 Tel: 01666 843200 www.sherston.com

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