Machine, Scales, Golfer, Bar Chart (Strawberry Fair) Review | The Micro User - Everygamegoing

The Micro User

Machine, Scales, Golfer, Bar Chart
By Strawberry Fair
BBC B/B+/Master 128

Published in The Micro User 4.03

Four for the classroom

These four programs are representative of much educational software in schools today. They are not at the glamorous end of the market but are there to do a job and, like many such programs, the quality can vary a great deal.

In Machine you input a number, the machine works on it, outputs it, and you work out what it did to the number. The program brings the concept to the micro admirably.

The machine can be set to work using numbers 1 to 10 or 10 to 20 and can use add, subtract, multiply or divide as required.

Adding and multiplying are fine and subtraction causes little misunderstanding as long as numbers higher than the one the machine is using are tested. Division, though, is best left until a reasonable degree of proficiency has been acquired.

Unless suitably large numbers are entered for the machine to operate upon the outputs and rejects can be quite confusing. On the whole, the program is well worth considering.

Scales is not quite up to the same standard. The program is "designed to improve the user's ability to estimate within the context of length".

A scale is displayed and the user asked to estimate the length of a line above and to the right of the scale. Unfortunately the scale can be marked to show, for example, two in ones, 100 in 20s or 1,000 in 200s. Too much for the user at that level to cope with.

Scores are shown as a red line shooting up a thermometer and as a percentage error. The ideas behind the program are sound but as always, and this is true for much educational software, it's not what you do but the way that you do it.

Bar Chart draws a bar chart to the user's specification. Information to plot and label the axes is entered followed by the data. The bars are then drawn as the data is entered.

If any alterations are needed they can be made easily, and again the result can be seen immediately. The chart, complete with a tide, can be dumped to a printer with a suitable screen dump.

Though not a substitute for drawing it yourself, this is a clever little program. The version sent for review, however, had quite poor error trapping and did not cope well with the sorts of errors to be expected in most classrooms.

The programs are a very mixed set in terms of quality, but worth a look at by anyone wanting maths programs to cover some basic groundwork.

If they are bought as a set of four they represent reasonable value for money, but the decision is more difficult on an individual level.

Frank Jules