Virtual shopping solves the problem of making maths fun

30th March 2007 at 01:00
Maths-Whizz. Numeracy software. Whizz Education. Reception and Y1-3P1-3: pound;750 initial cost plus first year site licence, with annual renewal of pound;150. This may soon divide into three packages, each at a third of the cost.

Y3, Y4, Y5P3, P4 P5: pound;375 initial cost plus first year site licence, with annual renewal of pound;75. Home use: subscription pound;27.50 monthly, pound;269 annual

Children who beg for maths homework are welcome in any classroom, but they are not an unusual phenomena when the "task" is working with Maths-Whizz (The TES, October 28, 2005).

The concept came from extraordinary Dutch graphic designer Ron van der Meer, best known as a creator of pop-up books, and it's full of the spirit of his pioneering work in interactive, visual-based learning.

Penguins on ice floes slurp down fish, illustrating division for Year 2P2.

A monkey swings and yelps with delight when Year 4P4 children complete a three-digit multiplication.

These animations - and there are hundreds of other delightful examples - have a purpose: bringing mathematical concepts to memorable life. Children come back to them, not just for the pleasurable look and feel of the thing, but because, by solving problems, they can gain credits to be spent in the virtual shop to furnish their virtual bedroom.

The shop now has nine shelves of desirable goodies - many added since December - including charming toys, plants that grow when you water them and football games set in space. Easter will bring eggs that split open to reveal unexpected wonders.

Children will soon be able to design their room from a furniture catalogue and keep their work organised on a wall planner.

With Government emphasis placed increasingly on personalised learning, Maths-Whizz, a BETT Award winner in 2006, is a welcome answer to teachers' and parents' prayers. You can get reports on what children have done, check out their maths age in all areas of activity and review any topics that need extra practice or reinforcement.

Differentiation is built into the fabric; children work in their sphere of interest and at their own speed. Teachers should feel happy to enlist the help of those joyful penguins and cheeky monkeys Tom Deveson. Maths-Whizz is offering a free, three-month subscription - with a personalised learning programme in key stages 1 to 3 for up to 10 children - for schools that take part in a pilot study. To register interest, call 0800 0669980 or visit www.whizz.comTES

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