With the imminent extension of numeracy into Key Stage 3, and its consolidation in Key Stage 1 and 2, publishers have seen a ready market for programs which can be used to enliven the numeracy hour. But you do need to be very careful - some of the activities, however attractively packaged, amount to little more than illustrated drill exercises.
You will be able to see many of the new products at the BETT educational technology show in Olympia, London. Jojo in Numberland from Learning Land (PC, CD-Rom, pound;59.99) is fun to work with, taking young children on a series of adventures which reinforce understanding of place value. The activities are well designed and the help provided is good. Lenny Henry, fresh from saving Hope Park, provides one of the voices, and even poor readers can use the program without teacher intervention. Primary teacher Richard Moore was enthusiastic about the program, finding the references to the National Curriculum helpful and up to date.
N-E Learning's new CD-Rom Learn your times tables (PC, single-user pound;20) tackles this essential task in an interesting way, using artificial intelligence to analyse the child's progress and to skip areas where the pupil is competent. Visual clues are provided as well as a good selection of tests.
Another approach to learning tables comes from Tag, who have devised a book and CD package, The Mathemagician's Apprentice (PC and Mac, pound;14.99). The book requires a fairly high reading ability but the disc is provided with a voice option which makes it easier to use. As with Jojo, the program on the disc is an adventure which takes the pupil on a quest, in which various problems have to be solved in order to rescue the Mathemagician's apprentice from the wicked wizard. A dedicated website has links to further maths websites, competitions and puzzles.
Planning lessons and keeping records can be a time-consuming process, and The Skills Factory has updated its popular Numeracy Complete (PC, from pound;29) to harness the power of the Internet. Numeracy Complete Online will give teachers access to thousands of lesson plans and teaching ideas created by other schools. Other online resources are provided by Computer Kids, and by Cadbury. Files from Computer Kids are available for both PC and Mac, in a variety of formats, priced from under pound;1. The free access Cadbury site shows how mathematics is used in a chocolate factory, and 40 activities are available online or for download.
When I asked secondary Maths teacher Emma Carter what new software she would most welcome, she particularly mentioned graphing programs, and spreadsheet packages that include workbooks. There's no sign of the latter being available yet, but I think Emma will be very interested in Autograph (PC, CD-Rom from pound;50), written by Douglas Butler, a teacher at Oundl School. The program draws dynamically linked co-ordinate geometry, probability and statistics "objects". A wide range of functions are offered from simple plotting up to numerical methods such as Newton-Raphson, and the statistical functions include box and whisker plots, Poisson and Normal distributions.
Smile can always be relied upon to produce exciting new software and this year, following the theme of numeracy, it is releasing a package of three programs, Enriching Number (PC CD-Rom from pound;25). The programs cover equivalence of decimals, percentages and fractions, and mental division, and are suitable for Key Stages 2, 3 and 4.
Many teachers will be aware of Espresso, which provides teaching resources for primary schools via the Internet. Espresso is now expanding into secondary education with lesson resources that incorporate high quality video footage, activities and tests to support learning and teacher support. The sample materials for Key Stage 3 look very useful, but they come at a price: you need a satellite dish and an Espresso box (pound;1,500), and you then pay a subscription per pupil (pound;4.50 per year for Primary pupils).
I have not come across DLK before, but their MathsWork suite of 78 modules looks particularly interesting. You can buy each module (PC, CD-Rom or disk) for pound;8.51 but the more you buy, the cheaper it becomes - the full set is pound;290 for a full site licence. The modules cover all aspects of the mathematics curriculum, and include a selection of problems such as the Tower of Hanoi, Sim and river crossings. The modules are not suitable for teaching topics, but certainly would provide useful practice.
Finally, whole-class teaching using interactive whiteboards and the like is becoming increasingly popular. Easiteach Maths from RM was designed with teachers for this kind of use in primary schools, even though it can be used on an ordinary PC. RM will also be showing its RM Maths Quest, an interactive learning system for 15 and 16-year-olds.
Ian Wilson is headteacher of Rydens School, Walton-on-Thames
N-E Learning: Stand SW7 and SW94
Tel: 0207 224 3322
Tag Learning: Stand F50 and G10
Tel: 0800 591262
The Skills Factory: Stand C162
Tel: 01457 829105
Smile: Stand SW51
Tel: 0207 5984841
Espresso: Stand M85 and M87
Tel: 0208 2371200
DLK: Stand SW122 and SW130
Tel: 01724 720982
Computer Kids: Stand SN75
Tel: 0151 638129
Cadbury: Stand G84
Tel: 0121 4582000