Math-Kal's Math Teacher
Now that the digital revolution in education is a generation old - my high school in Rochester, NY got its first Apple II+ in 1984 - pundits from both the political Right and Left have begun to revise their ideas about it. In the 1970's, the era of both New Math and Programmed Learning, the role of technology in the classroom was often portrayed as being an end in itself, a replacement for actual teacher interaction - and many believed that this was in fact a good thing. In the 90's, when the actual implementation of these plans began to be carried out, it suddenly became apparent that educational theorists in fact felt threatened by the replacement model, and a great deal of emphasis was placed on ensuring that technology only be conceived as a complement to human instruction, and not a substitute.
Unfortunately, it turns out that, ironically, this latter movement has led to the reign of one of the most dehumanizing approaches to pedagogy of all: the "drill and kill" philosophy of mathematics training. To leave room for human teachers to present concepts, most math software I've seen in, say, the last two years, has focused almost exclusively on repetitive, mechanical calculation practice. Of course, there's a place for skill development, and some very high quality programs with this orientation are available on the market, like Carnegie Learning's Cognitive Tutor, for example.
But what there's been a serious lack of for some time now is equally well-designed tutorial packages, like those that were commonly marketed fifteen years ago. Teachers aren't always available, and, especially in large metropolitan public school classes, classes can't possibly move at one pace that can accommodate the needs of all their learners. There IS also a place for concept-based instruction as well.
Luckily, Math-Kal's Math Teacher does an excellent job of helping to fill this void. Strange to say, but true - there is very little commercially distributed software that presents mathematics tutorial at all, let alone at the secondary-to-higher-education level. But the Math Teacher suite offers not only typical topics from basic math in the grades 9-12 level like algebra and trigonometry, but lessons in subjects from probability and stat to introductory calculus and linear programming (in fact, the only consumer tutorials I've seen for the latter).
The suite is modular to allow customization of the individual learner's program as needed. The tutorials are fully interactive, with examinations that adjust their difficulty to each student depending on their progress and answers to the questions. What I liked most about the package is that, unlike a number of its competitors, Math Teacher accepts multiple solution methods for answer credit, so it only rarely penalizes a student for creativity.
Although the level of the material makes it most appropriate for older learners, any teacher, administrator, home-educating parent, or anyone else that would like to learn a little bit more about the foundations of higher mathematics really, should give serious consideration to this extremely well designed conceptual series.#