THE first four programs in this suite - Angle Estimation, Digit Addition, Dice Multiplication and Fraction Identification - were reviewed in the last CRASH COURSE, and SCETLANDER tell me that a fair amount of interest was generated. The final four programs again cover a range of skills in basic mathematics.
Units: This is a simple drill and practice program where the pupil has to identify the units, tens and hundreds in three-figure numbers. The pupil is presented with a series of questions and must type in the number of units, tens and hundreds, and the program finishes when ten questions have been answered correctly. A question might ask, for instance, how many units are in the number 365. It the pupil answers 365, he will be told that he is correct, but that this could also be expressed as three hundreds, six tens and five units. Three attempts are given at each question, and at the end of the program the number of questions asked is shown, together with the percentage correct. Although not particularly interesting or entertaining, this is quite a useful reinforcement aid for pupils with learning difficulties.
Reading A Scale: Another drill and practice program, the aim this time is to give pupils practice in reading a scale which is numbered 0 to 6 with divisions of 0-1. The pupil must first begin by choosing the type of questions to practise: he can select whether the arrow in the question is to point directly at one of the whole numbers on the scale, to a division such as 2-4 or 3-5, to have the arrow halfway between two of the divisions eg. 2-35 or 5-15, or to have a mixture of these types of question. Ten questions are asked and the pupil can have up to three attempts at each before the correct answer is shown. The program ends by displaying a score table thus providing some feedback on pupil performance.
This is another uninspiring type of program, but it does provide the sort of practice which some pupils need.
Join The Dots: A much more motivational program. Join The Dots is in the form of a game for two people who take it in turns to join the dots on a grid to make boxes. The winner is the one who makes the most boxes. The aim of the game is to provide practice in using co-ordinates, and to overcome a very common problem whereby pupils mix up the X and Y co-ordinates or fail to see the connection between a point and its numerical co-ordinates. The game format of this program is a way of giving pupils a means of rehearsing their knowledge of Cartesian co-ordinates (first quadrant only) without having to go through endless repetitive jotter exercises; it is not an attempt to teach co-ordinates from scratch.
At the start of the game, the pupils are presented with a 6 x 6 dot grid, and then take it in turn to join one pair of horizontally or vertically adjacent points with a straight line. The pupil specifies the end-points of the line to be joined by giving their co-ordinates, and any attempts to join diagonally- connected points or nonadjacent points will be rejected. The teacher can change the number of boxes required to finish the game, from t to 25. Pupils enjoy playing this game, and the program provides a welcome alternative to worksheet exercises.
Time: The final program in the suite, Time aims to provide practice in settling the hands of a clock, writing times in am/pm notation, and using the 24 hour clock. If the first of these alternatives is chosen, the pupil is presented with a time on the clock face and must type in the time am/pm and/or 24 hour notation as selected by the teacher. If the am/pm times option is chosen, the pupil is given a series of questions in this notation and must use the arrow keys to set the clock to that time, and then specify the time in 24 hour notation.
Conversely, using the 24 hour times option, the hands of the clock must again set before the time is convened to the correct ant/pm equivalent. In the final option, the pupil is given a series of questions in words (for example, half past six) and is required to set the clock and specify the time in the two different notations. The teacher can predetermine the number of questions to be asked and whether the time intervals are 15, 5 or 1 minute. There is also the option for the teacher to check pupil results and to print these out. This useful little program provides both reinforcement for pupils, and a diagnostic assessment for the teacher of areas of weakness.
The lull suite of eight programs represents a useful classroom resource for selective use by the teacher. Although no attempt is made in the drill and practice programs to inject a level of entertainment, and though the visual presentation of all the programs in terms of colour and use of graphics, is rather uninspiring, the Basic Mathematics suite does act as a very helpful reinforcement aid for the slower learner.