Middle/high School Software (Algebra Assistant; Exploring Ancient Cities, 2nd Edition; Brain Quest: 5th Grade)

Article excerpt

Algebra Assistant

Company: Mathpert Software/Recognix, Inc., 2211 Lawson Lane, Santa Clara, CA 95054; Phone: 800/361-1001; Fax: 408/567-0659; E-mail: info@mathpert.com; Web: http://www. mathpert.com/.

Price: $95--Windows 3.1/95/98, single user version; $499--10-user network license. Macintosh version scheduled for spring 2000 release.

Audience: High school to adult.

Format: CD-ROM, text, graphics.

System Requirements: 386 IBM-compatible or higher, DOS 3.3, Windows 3.1, 8 MB RAM (16 MB recommended), 10 MB hard drive space (17 MB for full installation), CD-ROM drive, VGA Monitor (256 colors), and a Windows-compatible mouse.

Description: Algebra Assistant, the first module of a three-program learning system, allows introductory and intermediate-level students to work through algebra problems in detail, step-by-step.

Reviewer Comments:

The products are cumulative in nature: Calculus Assistant contains all of the materials included in both Pre-Calculus Assistant and Algebra Assistant. Pre-Calculus Assistant contains all of the problems and materials found in the initial offering, Algebra Assistant. As might be expected, Calculus Assistant is the most expensive package ($195--single user; $995--10-user network license).

The features of all three products are identical. Students can quickly check their work on problems by comparing answers with the computer. The disks include more than 6,700 problems; teachers and students can add new problems or change existing problems. All of the work can be printed for student work away from a computer, and it can be saved on a disk to be revisited later.

Algebra Assistant can offer hints so that students see only a single step of a problem, or it can work the entire problem showing each step (complete with annotation). As many as six different graphs can be produced on the screen simultaneously.

The program differs from the more powerful computer algebra systems in that it allows simple step-by-step interaction with the student.

With the straightforward menu, a student may select what he or she believes to be the next best, most plausible, step toward a solution. This simplicity frees teachers from spending additional time teaching the special codes and syntax that computer algebraic manipulators require.

The program's strength is its ability to remove the fear that some students have. It can eliminate trivial mistakes, offer hints, show what operation to perform next, perform the next step automatically, or provide a complete step-by-step solution.

Some learners need to know that the last step they tried was correct before they can move on to the next stop in a problem. For students who fear math, fear being wrong, or fear uncertainty, Algebra Assistant can be a constant reassurance that doesn't add to the teacher's load.

My experience with the 800-phone number was terrible! It took four tries to reach someone who would answer my questions about pricing information. I left voice messages twice and never received a single response.

I did not try Internet support because the product worked the first time, and the included user's guide suggested simple solutions to the "How-to" questions.

Algebra Assistant can be used as an additional method of reaching math students who aren't responding to current approaches for any variety of reasons. It is a simple and inexpensive method to add another way to help students to understand mathematics.

Reviewer: John Nord, Math Chair, Saint George's School, 2929 West Waikiki Rd., Spokane, WA 99208; 509/466-1636; john_nord40@yahoo.com.

Exploring Ancient Cities, 2nd Edition

Company: Sumeria, 329 Bryant Street, Suite 3D, San Francisco, CA 94107; Phone: 415/904-0800; Fax: 415/904-0888; Web: http://www.sumeria.com/.

Price: $50--hybrid Mac/Win, single copy; $179--five-user lab pack; $599--25-user site license. …