Symmetry and Transformations

I have to confess that I have a poorly developed awareness of spatial relationships and this is one aspect of shape and space that seems to be particularly poorly catered for in terms of ICT. So when I first came across this suite of programs at BETT this year I felt a sense of relief; I haven’t been disappointed.

The suite is simply crammed with carefully thought-out software that addresses most aspects of symmetry and transformation from Year 4 upwards.

Symmetry and Transformations comprises seven programs, two of which have been written at three levels providing clear progression. There are excellent teachers’ notes included on the CD; for each program the notes consist of a summary of the mathematical content of the program linked to the NNS Framework, an illustrated overview of the software, and a sample lesson for KS2 and KS3. An assessment task for each of the programs is provided, along with answers where necessary.

There are some features that are common to several programs.
Where appropriate pupils’ achievements are recorded on the left of the screen and at the end of each set of questions the option is given to print out the results. Pupils are given two chances to answer a question correctly before being shown the answer. Feedback is positive and helpful.

A closer look at some of the programs will demonstrate why I am so enthusiastic about this software.

Add a square and Remove a square are two programs conceptually linked. The former presents a grid with a pattern that has one square missing. In order to complete the symmetry pupils replace this square and then indicate the line of symmetry. These provide a good introduction to line symmetry. In Remove a square pupils remove the square that spoils the symmetry.

Mirror takes children’s learning forward by presenting them with three short progressive tasks on reflective symmetry.

The three levels of Centre point require pupils to identify a centre of rotation, a vertex at the simplest level, at the second level the centre of rotation is within the shape and at the third level it is outside the shape. I found this activity the hardest of all (even at level two) and longed for a help procedure that would show me how to identify the centre of rotation without having to resort to wild guesses.

Tiles and Rangoli are broadly creative. The opening screen of Tiles shows a most appealing tiling pattern based upon one to be found in the Alhambra in Spain. On clearing this, the user is presented with a 5 x 5 grid and some very basic shapes, squares and right-angled isosceles triangles in all four orientations. By clicking on a shape and one or more squares in the grid you can create a basic block. When you are satisfied with this the real fun begins! By reflecting this in various ways you can explore the many different possible ways to create an intricate pattern. If you have ever looked at patchwork quilts you’ll know what I mean. There is so much scope for discussing the different outcomes of transformations here. Begin with a very simple tile. What happens if… ? The designs are created in minimalist black and white. Print out and compare the final results.
My Year 6 class once attempted this sort of activity without the benefit of any software, and the results were disappointing in comparison.

Rangoli, as the name suggests, invites you to investigate and create patterns akin to those from the Indian subcontinent. These can be coloured using a limited palette of colours provided, or printed out as blanks. You may think that colouring Rangoli patterns lacks mathematical direction, but pupils must first identify the symmetry - this is not always as simple as it sounds. Alternatively try the Rangoli challenge. Can you complete the pattern?

The final section of programs is Transform, not all of which is applicable to KS2.
Within Transform separate programs allow to reflect, rotate, translate or enlarge pre-defined or free-drawn shapes. You can specify the grid and axes properties to some extent, and the results of transformations can be labelled. Printing these will provide challenges for your pupils; can they identify the transformation. Print out on acetate and use them in conjunction with an OHP in your plenary session.

Symmetry and Transformations is another quality product from SMILE. There is something here for everyone, and in one piece of software plugs many of the gaps in the market.

Symmetry &and Transformations is available from
Isaac Newton Centre
108a Lancaster Rd.
W11 1QS.
tel: 020 7598 4841
fax: 020 7598 4838

It requires Windows 95, 98, 2000, NT, XP or Mac OS X 10.1, CD–ROM Drive.

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