SOFTWARE REVIEW
Measuring Up

BY TOM CIANCONE, TORONTO DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD

Measuring Up is an interactive program for teaching and applying metrics and measurement to real-life contexts through the learning areas of decimals, fractions, scales and the metric system.

The program is aimed at learners who have basic skills in adding, subtracting and multiplying whole numbers. Learners at higher levels would find the learning activities relevant and valuable for practice and revision purposes. The program is suitable for independent and group learning, with a minimum of assistance for those needing computer training.

In the four Learning Areas, a skill or concept is introduced and modelled using real life or visual models, then an opportunity is provided for practice before the learner proceeds to the next skill / knowledge area. A learner can repeat a modelling or practice activity at any time. In the section on adding decimals, the program models three ways to add, including estimation. The skills / knowledge areas have several explanations within reallife contexts; the explanations are very clear.

The five Scenes for Applying Skills and Knowledge allow learners to apply or assess what they have learned by interacting in the following real life situations: the Supermarket, the Barbeque, the Material Shop, the Mail Room and Sports Day. The scenes involve such activities as weighing packages, measuring ribbon, calculating prices of meat, vegetables and cloth, deciding the best buy, ranking athletes according to speed or distance, and interpreting recipes.

The activities provide the opportunity to deepen understanding of decimals and fractions, and plenty of practice in basic operations with decimals. Estimating skills are reinforced throughout the activities, along with practice in measuring and managing money. Above all, the activities are fun and truly related to everyday life.

When a learner has completed all the activities in one of the Scenes, the program generates a Summary. The Summary identifies the skill areas in which the learner has demonstrated competence as well as those requiring further practice. The learner may print the Summary to provide a permanent record of the learner's performance.

The program has clear menus ànd distinct buttons for navigating through the activities with instructions in both verbal and written form. In the Learning Areas, the learner is given specific feedback, such as "No, type two numbers after the decimal point", or simply, "No, that's not right. Try again." Unfortunately, as in any similar interactive program, it cannot interpret answers; only one answer is accepted as correct.

Learners will find Measuring Up very flexible. They can decide which activities they will do, and in which order. The program is completely self-paced, and provides numerous repetitions. The examples and practice exercises are different on each occasion that the learner accesses them. Accompanying the CD-ROM is an easy-to-read and thorough 24 page manual. It also includes a "Learner's Record Sheet" and suggested order for activities.

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