Chris Drage starts a new exercise regime with NumberGym
NumberGym screen 1Now and again I stumble upon an ICT resource that really gets me buzzing. Like The Number Gym Suite when I first saw the software on NumberGym’s stand at this autumn’s TES Education Show.

After 15 minutes I knew that The NumberGym Suite was on a par with any of the best mathematics software I have seen over the past decade.

The key question I always apply to software is “Why use a computer to teach this? Are there not other, more effective means of engaging learners?” In the case of The NumberGym Suite the answer is clearly “No”. Employing interactivity to the full, and presenting the pupil with clear animations and graphics to demonstrate each mathematical topic, is almost certain to motivate and encourage even reluctant learners. To cap it all there’s a progressive set of achievable targets for each challenge offered.

The NumberGym Suite comprises sets of interactive activities to assist in the learning and teaching of mathematics through key stages 1 and 2. These are available individually or as a suite both on CD-Rom or as an online resource. The suite breaks down to:

  1. The award winning The Number Gym offers a set of 50 teaching tools, games and challenges across key stages 1 and 2, designed to make full use of interactive whiteboards. Most activities can be easily adapted to individual needs across an ability range and teachers will certainly appreciate the ease with which difficult concepts in fractions and decimals are visualised and can be demonstrated. If chosen, success can be measured by scoring points, sometimes with a time constraint.
  2. Early Maths combines The Number Gym's key stage 1 activities and adds a further eight which are suitable for foundation stage. They explore number and pattern through number rods, stick patterns, counters and pattern blocks.
  3. BondBuilder & TableTrainer offer graded challenges to assist and encourage pupils to learn their basic number bonds and multiplication facts. Class and individual record sheets are provided to enable pupils and teachers to closely monitor results from foundation through to key stage 2.
  4. Mental Maths Challenge follows BondBuilder & TableTrainer by offering 43 progressive mental strategies. Practice Mode will allow the learner to gain confidence and learn the strategy involved. In Challenge mode the learner must complete a test in less than a minute with far more randomness being applied.
  5. NumberGym Geometry offers a range of interactive activities best suited to 12 to 16-year-olds at secondary school. Topics here include the four transformations (with challenges), interactive circle geometry, understanding basic trigonometry with an interactive triangle and easy-to-use graphing tools allowing students to create and compare all major graph types, including the trigonometry functions.

Early Maths lays the foundations well and, as with all NumberGym Software’s products, the activities are age-neutral so older pupils who may require reinforcement of early maths concepts should suffer little or no potential embarrassment when engaged with them. I particularly like the way Number Gym encourages creative investigations in maths with its open-ended activities. Its informal and enjoyable approach to mathematics is to be applauded.

Screen numbergym 2BondBuilder & TableTrainer, used in a co-ordinated way across the whole primary school, could make a considerable difference to children’s knowledge and recall. I do like the way parents are encouraged to get involved as well. Mental Maths Challenge builds naturally on these two and should help children improve their arithmetic skills and ideas about number relationships that enable them to work things out in their heads. NumberGym Geometry is a strange inclusion as few primary schools will find a use for it other than with gifted and talented young mathematicians. Still at £59 (for a single user) for a CD-Rom of the whole suite, it’s amazing value for money.

All the activities represent open-ended teaching tools that can be used effectively as an introduction or plenary to a particular topic. They work well for whole class or as group activities but perhaps their greatest attribute is the way they should encourage young mathematicians to discuss what they see as the interactions take place, to identify the patterns and to be able to anticipate changes ahead of an interaction: key mathematical thinking skills.  Most important, with NumberGym Software pupils will spend 100 per cent of their time actually involved with maths!

As far as inclusion is concerned, as none the activities is age-group specific they could be used with younger gifted and talented pupils or with older students with SEN. Similarly, as the language content and text is minimal the activities should be largely accessible to all regardless of reading ability or levels of English.

Online access to the games and challenges also enables parents to get involved in their children's mathematics education too.

With The NumberGym Suite referencing the National Curriculum generally and the Primary Numeracy Strategy specifically and its total compatibility with just about everything, it is difficult to pick holes in this well-designed and fully accessibly software. In the hands of a good teacher it will help inspire and motivate children in mathematics.  I know for one thing, I wish I had access to it myself when I was a primary teacher. Thoroughly recommended!

Ratings (out of 5)
Fitness for purpose   5
Ease of use                5
Features                     5
Quality                        5
Value for money       5

The NumberGym Suite
Range of maths software titles
Site licences: The Number Gym £275; Early Maths £95 (if purchased with The Number Gym); BondBuilder & TableTrainer £145; Mental Maths Challenge £145; NumberGym Geometry £145
The one-off site licence price includes six months online access for staff and pupils and for parents as well. After that online access is optionally purchased on an annual basis: Up to 100 pupils £35: 101 to 200 pupils £45; 201 to 300 pupils £55; 301 to 400 pupils £65; more than 400 pupils £75.
As an alternative to site licences, there is an online only subscription: £220 per annum.

Bett 2011 logoBETT 2011, January 12-15
Olympia, London
NumberGym Software: stand SW3

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