Software programs for math education continue to improve, although the author states that programs for secondary-school levels are still a bit thin. Here are his recommendations for primary, middle, and secondary grades.

Primary school

1. I Love Math (DK Publishing, Designed for ages 7 to 11, the program engages children in a time-travel game to save the world. Along the way, they learn basic numeric skills, simple geometry, and spatial reasoning through contests with online characters. Only available in IBM-compatible version.

2. Math Blaster (Knowledge Adventure, Designed for ages 5 through 8 (there are separate grade one and grade two versions), these are excellent basic programs for teaching the simplest math concepts. Built upon themes of a zoo and a circus fair, the modules include counting, money, addition, subtraction, measuring, and telling time. The programs offer extensive tests of students’ skills, with more than 1,000 math problems. The program automatically tracks each student’s progress.

3. Math Concepts One … Two … Three! (Gamco/ Siboney Learning Group, Designed for ages 5 through 8, this is a comprehensive set of skills-building CDs for elementary school youngsters. Clever multimedia programming supports visual and auditory learners. It’s costly: $70 for each CD or $440 for the full seven-CD program, and $1,070 for a five-user lab pack.

4. Math Mysteries: Measurement (Tom Snyder Productions, Part of the Math Mysteries series designed for ages 9 to 12, Measurement is the best of the bunch, providing sophisticated education in distance, capacity, and weight conversions. This program requires significant support from in-classroom educators because using the software is fairly complex, as are the concepts.

5. Math Trek Level One Series (William K. Bradford Publishing Co., Designed for ages 9 to 11, this software provides modules on many topics: number sense, patterns, algebra, geometry, spatial sense, data management, probability, and measurement. It was designed by teachers to meet National Council of Teachers of Mathematics standards. It’s priced on the higher end, at $75 per title or $300 for the full set of CDs.

6. Mighty Math: Carnival Countdown (Edmark Corp., Designed for ages 5 to 8, this program takes direct aim at a concept that challenges students for years and years: geometry. By introducing geometry concepts in kindergarten, the program can provide students with a strong and intuitive sense of this topic. The program also includes addition, subtraction, and multiplication activities.

Middle school

7. The Cruncher 2.0 (Knowledge Adventure, Designed for ages 8 to 13, this program updates the popular, first-generation Cruncher animated spreadsheet. Cruncher 2.0 is easier to use and offers 20 demonstration projects that walk students through various spreadsheet activities. It also offers lesson plan suggestions for teachers.

8. Math Arena (Houghton Mifflin Interactive/Sunburst Technology, Designed for ages 9 to 11, this program is a quiz show that enables students to compete (three at time) against each other online. As would be expected in a quiz show, the program teaches quick thinking and mental calculations—important skills that are sometimes underdeveloped because student rely on electronic calculators today. Among the topics covered: geometry, Venn diagrams, addition, multiplication, circle graphs, adding and subtracting money, and percentages.

9. Mathville Grade 6 (Courseware Solutions Inc., Designed for ages 10 to 13, this is one of seven grade-specific Mathville programs. This program tells the story of space travelers who must use fractions, composite numbers, number lines, angles, coordinates, polygons, metric conversions, graph patterns, and ratios to find their way through the cosmos. Inexpensive, too.

High school

10. PrimeTime Math: Fire! (Tom Snyder Productions). Designed for ages 13 to 14, the story line of this software is a group of firefighters who are facing an out-of-control blaze. This theme introduces formulas, measurements and rates, triangles, and the Pythagorean Theorem. Teachers should note that the complexity of the program requires them to be comfortable working with students to complete the projects.

11. Mighty Math: Cosmic Geometry (Edmark Corp.). Designed for ages 12 to 15, this program offers a variety of activities designed to acquaint middle schoolers and young high schoolers with geometry. Its complexity is more akin to pre-geometry than geometry, as it provides simple definitions and explorations of shapes and key terminology in the field.

12. Calculus Assistant (MathXpert, Designed for ages 14 and up, this program offers an exhaustive array of calculus problems (2,100-plus), most of which are set at the first-year level. It comes with a 282-page user’s guide.

13. Mathville VIP (Courseware Solutions Inc.). Designed for ages 12 to 14, Mathville VIP follows a character who applies math concepts to real-world situations, such as commuting to work and going shopping.