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Who Are They For?
The SMART Notebook Math Tools are primarily aimed at middle and secondary math students. Although there are some functions that could be used in an elementary classroom, the majority of the tools are aimed at an older audience. The SMART Notebook Math Tools are designed to be used on a SMART Board as part of whole class or small group instruction, but it is only available to teachers who are using Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7. Mac and Linux users need not apply, at least for now.
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What Tools Do You Get?
The SMART Notebook Math Tools include a new handwriting recognition function that will recognize handwritten math equations and symbols. Expressions can then be solved numerically or symbolically. An advanced equation editor lets you copy and paste equations from other programs, simplify them, and then graph the solutions. The shape tool has been improved to include a variety of shapes that are not included in the current Notebook software. For instance, you can now create irregular polygons, and specify the center point of a circle. You can also divide shapes into equal parts, label them as fractions of a whole, adjust angles, vertices and side lengths of shapes. The new ruler can be resized while maintaining an accurate scale, while the numbers on the protractor will now stay vertical when even when you rotate it to measure angles. Finally, the new graphing wizard will help you plot and display your equations, show coordinates, and provides a selection of default graphs to use on your SMART Board.
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Are They Worth Having?
Should you be encouraging your school to purchase the SMART Notebook Math Tools? It depends. If you are a secondary Math teacher, who uses a SMART Board, then you will likely get a lot of use out of the SMART Notebook Math Tools. The tools work very well, and seem to be free of any early bugs that could cause Notebook to close unexpectedly. Some of the options are only revealed when you click on an object's drop down menu, but once you find where all the options are, you can customize each application to your liking and add new toolbar buttons for ease of use.
However, if you teach in an elementary or primary school, you will not use as much of this software add-on. Essentially, the concept is sound. The standard version of Notebook is not geared specifically toward any particular subject area, so the introduction of a specialized suite makes sense. However, SMART should really consider two versions for schools. An elementary version of the SMART Notebook Math Tools with 3D shapes, customizable number lines, manipulatives, fraction games, weight and measurement tools, or times table quizzes would surely be more attractive to teachers with younger students.
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Ultimately, the best way to decide if the SMART Notebook Math Tools are going to help improve the teaching and learning in your class, is to download the 30-day free trial from the SMART website. This will give you first hand experience of how user friendly these tools can be, and help you see if or how much of a difference they could really make to your lessons.
SMART Notebook Math Tools for Teachers
This series has help and advice on how to use SMART's popular Notebook software with your SMART board.