A group of Year 9 pupils sit before a screen working on equations of lines. The software shows a straight line graph, the pupils input the graph's equation and graphical feedback shows whether they are correct. A few pupils are struggling with graphs of the form y=x+c, but most are working on straight-line graphs with variable gradients, while one pupil has moved on to explore quadratics.
In recent issues of the professional journal Micromath, teachers have been describing their move towards regular use of information and communications technology (ICT) in their teaching of mathematics. The tools they are using include Omnigraph, Derive, Dynamic Geometry software and spreadsheets. But if you don't know these tools, how can you visualise what these teachers are doing and assess the possibilities of the software tools for your own teaching?
One way is to hook up on the Internet, where you can find interactive software samples, classroom descriptions and can download demonstration copies of software which may benefit mathematics teaching.
The resources available to the discerning teacher of mathematics on the Internet are growing rapidly. Although there is always a danger of wasting time searching for material, some sites provide quick access to very useful material: the University of Exeter's Centre for Innovation in Mathematics Teaching has on-line worksheets such as Bar Codes and Pipelines (based on the oil pipe network centred on Fawley Power station); Brian Dye's MathsNet site offers many good ideas for using spreadsheets, graph plotters, dynamic geometry packages and so on; and there are some interesting datasets, such as the Lottery data, linked from the Oundle School site. And there is scope for more material of this quality. The University of Cambridge's NRICH website, for example, offers free maths magazines for school students of all ages with an emphasis on activity. NRICH publishes pupil's solutions to mathematical challenges and provides special interest discussion groups and a service to answer pupil questions.
The Internet's forte is that it enables good ideas to be shared across a wide audience. For example, Chance News is an idea for enhancing the teaching of probability which was born in US, but the Internet makes it available to all who have access.
NRICH Online Maths Club
The Association of Teachers of Mathematics
The Mathematical Association
The Math Forum
Oundle School maths page
Virtual Teacher Centre mathematics pages
University of Exeter's Centre for Innovation in Mathematics Teaching
History of Mathematics
Interactive Mathematics Miscellany and Puzzles
MicroSMILE for windows (eight titles), themed maths software for key stages 2, 3 and 4, prices from pound;22 to pound;49.50
Discus (Volume site under construction), interactive site, NoTel: 01203 236018 www.mis.coventry.ac.ukresearchdiscusdiscus_home.html
Graph plotters: Omnigraph, pound;39 from SPA, Tel: 01684 833700
http:www.spasoft.co.ukomnigraph.html; Autograph, pound;90 from Eastmond Publishing, Tel: 01832 273444
Coypu, pound;50 (free demonstration copies) from October Pen, Tel: 01705 592521 http:www.octpen.demon.co.ukcoypu
FX Draw, pound;49 (free demonstration copy)
MSW Logo, free http:www.softronix.comlogo.html
A spreadsheet such as Excel, comes with new machines additional material
free see under spreadsheets on MathsNet site
Derive, pound;55 (free demonstration copy) from Chartwell-Yorke Tel: 1204 811001 http:www.chartwellyorke.comderive.html
Dynamic geometry software such as Cabri Geometry II or Geometer's Sketchpad, free demonstration copies from