Monday, March 22, 2010

SMART Notebook Math Tools

If you've ever used a SMARTBoard interactive whiteboard, you know that SMART Notebook is an excellent piece of software for teaching in the 21st Century. Recently, SMARTtech came out with the Math Tools plug-in for their Notebook software. Out of the box, Notebook itself is already a fantastic tool for teaching math, especially if you've upgraded to version 10.6. Besides the standard geometric shapes in the toolbar, it's got dozens of math-related clip art images and interactive Flash files. You could easily cover all the strands of elementary math, and there was plenty of ways to use Notebook in secondary math (or any subject, actually) as well. So when I heard that SMARTtech was going to start charging extra for a Math plug-in, I didn't really think it would be worth buying the cow when you could get the milk for free. (A site licence of SMART Notebook is free if your institution owns a SMARTBoard.) However, when a representative from SMARTtech came to demo the Math Tools for me and my colleagues, I was sold. It's powerful software that's elegantly simple to use. It's got a unique feature set that any math teacher (possibly even university-level) would love to have. It's literally a math teacher's dream come true because it was designed based on a wish list from math teacher SMARTBoard users. In my current role, I don't really get to teach math any more; when I saw the demo of Math Tools, I yearned for the day that I can return to teaching math, hopefully with my own SMARTBoard and Math Tools. Rather than tell you about the features, which should really be seen to be appreciated, here's a link to a demo video from SMART's website.

As great as this software is for general education, this blog does tend to focus on Special Ed. So, how can SMART Notebook Math Tools be used for special ed students? First off, it's an engaging way to teach math. We all know that engagement with the curriculum increases a student's chances of success. Second, it's highly visual and tactile for kids who learn better that way. Third, it makes it easy for the student to review the lesson (or part of it) if needed. Fourth, a student can use the software on a PC or laptop for the virtual manipulatives. Students who can't properly hold a compass, for example, can use the virtual one. Fifth, students who have fine motor issues can show their work in math neatly using the equation editor, gallery images, and drawing tools.

These are my impressions after viewing the demonstration. As you can tell, I was impressed. However, I did not get a chance to try the software out myself in-depth. If this review sounds a little unbalanced, I just want you to know I'm not getting anything from SMARTtech. I might be a little biased because it's a Canadian company, but I don't think that would affect my opinion too much. What I'm trying to say is that this is not an advertorial or blogvertisement. SMART software has a pretty good reputation for being solid and easy to use. I think it's pretty safe to say that this piece of software is unlikely to disappoint. If you've tried it, I'd love to hear from you in the comments. Feel free to post your opinions, positive and negative.

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