Carnegie Learning's Bridge to Algebra

Company: Carnegie Learning;
System Requirements: Mac: OS X 10.3, 450 MHz processor, 512 MB RAM; PC: Windows 98, 933 MHz processor, 512 MB RAM
Price/Grade: $30-$70; 7-12
Pros: Strong A.I. component; focuses on conceptual instead of procedural math; plentiful administrative/assessment tools
Cons: Unremarkable graphics; no multimedia features; doesn't address auditory learners adequately

Carnegie Learning's Bridge to Algebra models best practice activities that help students master algebra-readiness topics such as decimals, percent changes, scientific notation, and two-step equations. Although the program suffers from limited graphics and no multimedia components, users can look to its elegant Cognitive Tutor, an artificial intelligence component that emphasizes conceptual understanding. It evaluates how its user is learning and then provides "just-in-time" hints delivered via a dialogue box. That feature minimizes frustration and ensures complete student understanding before presenting the next problem. For example, if stuck performing a one-step equation (y + 6 = -2), the program might ask, "What can you do to both sides of the equation to eliminate the constant value?" If that hint isn't enough, the program offers more specifics, such as identifying the constant value in the equation.

To complement its A.I. smarts, Bridge makes students use visual representations of abstract math ideas when graphing and charting such data as T-rex weight development and the rate at which ice sculptures melt. By emphasizing student understanding and logical method of instruction, Bridge helps students who need extra support.

Iris Obille Lafferty is an educational consultant in San Diego.