Software adds up for education

COMO software developer Matthew Jones has switched his focus from business and commerce to children’s education programs and will launch the first of his new programs this term.

And it is the data base knowledge learnt in the business world that he sees as giving him an edge ahead of the other specialist children’s educational programmers.

“There are some excellent educational computer programs on the market,” he said.

“But they all make the same mistake, they focus on the child and leave the teacher and parent out of the equation.”

His first program, Level Best Maths, due to be mailed to 300 primary school this week in CD ROM form, is a mental arithmetic learning process mainly targeted at primary school children but which could also be used in all ages up to 17.

Both parents and teachers can track the child’s performance over a period of months and if required the child’s performance can be analysed against its class, the school and theoretically the State.

And where the child is showing a weak trend, the teacher and/or parent can focus on coaching the child in that discipline.

Teachers have a special logon to enable them to browse all the children in the class while parents and children can only access their own file.

Mr Jones says it took around 1000 hours to write the program and it was extensively trialled in two primary schools towards the end of last school year with Manning Primary the most extensive.

“We have a daughter at that school and the headmaster has a particular interest in mathe-matics,” Mr Jones said.

“That’s what got me started. My daughter was coming home with math tests and it was that which gave me the idea for a computer program.”

His Level Best Maths program became so popular during its trial at Manning that the children were going to the library before school to compete against each other.

“Level Best quizzes students in mental arithmetic at their own individual level and auto-matically adjusts over time to suit the progress of each student,” Mr Jones said.

“At early levels, the program speaks questions aloud, helping students to associate audio prompts with visual symbols.

“They grow through the tests and a data base tracks their performance over the months and even years.”

As the pupil completes each section successfully the computer moves them up to the next level.

There are 17 levels and the computer distinguishes between the four disciplines, adding, subtraction, division and multi-plication, at each level.

So a pupil could be at level 10 in three disciplines and trailing at level 3 in another one.

The child and teacher can see this discrepancy using a range of three-dimensional graphs that the computer automatically creates to show the child’s performance.

Without disclosing what the other children are achieving it will also show the child/ parent/teacher what the pupil’s level is in relation to his class and school using statistical averages.

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