10 out of 10 Series logo

Winking dogs and exploding space bears can have lessons for your child. We asked teacher Tracy Osborne to assess the latest educational software releases.

THE FOUR 10 Out Of 10 packs are collections of educational games that could help your child through the maze that is the National Curriculum, by making learning maths, algebra, language skills, and general knowledge fun to practise.

The appeal of the 10 Out Of 10 packs for parents is the inclusion of information on the dreaded National Curriculum. The idea is that you can leave your child playing through the games, come back later and discover how the Amiga thinks he or she is progressing. At least that has been the theory, but the at-a-glance attainment table can be confusing and misleading. However, there is every reason why children should enjoy the games. There are six games in each pack and each has six levels that cover the ages of six to 16, or three to seven in the case of Early Essentials.

There are cute graphics (I particularly liked the winking dog), end of game rewards and messages of congratulations and encouragement (or otherwise). These can be customised to include favourite words of praise. Children can play at leisure or pick up bonuses for a High Score Table by racing against the clock. A certificate can be printed as final rewards and proof of achievement.

Younger children will benefit from playing through the games with an adult, not only because discussion will extend their learning, but also because they may need help discovering exactly what they are supposed to do.

10 out of 10 Early Essentials logo

Unlike the other sets, this one starts at pre-school level, where the National Curriculum obviously does not apply, and introduces National Curriculum skills in the higher levels. The games mix language and maths skills and some science knowledge in a general studies format that is often favoured in early years teaching.

GRAB IT: A shape and colour matching exercise that also involves having to amtch letters and numbers to crate a code.

RACER: Drive the car over pictures, words, numbers or clocks using the mouse buttons as brake and accelerator, to introduce the child to the basic forces of push and pull.

ARTIST: A simple paint package that has a major flaw because it is possible to produce symmetrical images (the aim of the game) that the software does not recognise, and so the Achievement Record table could suggest that an inquiring intelligent player knows nothing about symmetry.

GNASHER: Similar to the 10 Out Of 10 English game Sniper, this one involves matching words to pictures, and punctuation exercises.

LINK UP: Another of the matching games that involves shapes, numbers and their values, capital letters, and simple words and pictures.

STONES: You have to complete a sequence of stepping stones and identifying each step from a number of given options. The aim of the game is to show children that a group of objects have the same numerical value, no matter how they are arranged: five spots on a dice have the same value as five balloons.

10 out of 10 English logo

SNIPER: The player shoots at targets alongside moving letters or words and must unscramble anagrams, match words to pictures, punctuate sentences, give full versions of abbreviations (I learned a couple of interesting things here), complete proverbs, and rewrite sentences from the active tense to the passive.

COVER UP: This is a point and click game in which the player has to match rhyming words, opposites, and archaic forms with modern words.

WORD FIT: An adult could easily become absorbed in playing the higher levels of this Scrabble-like word game which has some interesting features.

GRAB IT: This exercise in matching various words and phrases also covers several other areas, including reading, spelling, collective nouns, punctuation and vocabulary.

LIBRARIAN: A test of logic and alphabetical order that requires reading words written vertically.

CHEERS: A Snakes and Ladders game in which to move the number pre-rolled by the computer you must select the correct option from three alternatives. This means that by selecting the wrong answer you can sometimes avoid going down a snake.

10 out of 10 Maths Algebra logo

GRAPHOID: The players move their intrepid Space Teddy into position, avoiding the slowly spinning asteroids. To make this even more fun Ted is weightless and moves with the momentum of each mouse movement. Hit an asteroid and Ted explodes, get him to the right place and he is surrounded by coloured circles. The game starts with a nine-square grid, and progresses to x, y coordinates. The point of the exercise is to make children familiar with the concepts of Shape and Space by using common perspectives and following instructions.

PROCESSOR: A variation on the shooting theme that includes a number machine. These are quite common in schools, the idea being that the machine carries out a function on whatever number is put into it. So a '+3' machine turns 6 into 9.

CHAIN UP: This matching game is aimed at reinforcing knowledge of multiplication and division, four quadrant co-ordinates, and the use of graphs to solve equations.

HOOK IT: This game requires speedy hooking of the correct answer to a problem, and introduces terms such as square, factor, square root, and prime time. It does not teach children what these terms mean but makes them familiar with the language.

TURBO RAFT: The child must steer a raft up a river to complete mathematical patterns and sequences.

RIB TICKLER: This multi-choice quiz game features the sound of laughter for a correct answer and a group of greedy bears creeping up to eat your goodies. A free version of Word Fit is provided with this collection to help learn the spelling of the algebraic terms.

10 out of 10 Maths Number logo

THE BIG BANG: This game is a lesson in reading scales. Your factory is overheating and to stabilise it you must answer questions correctly, and click on the number on the thermometer. Get it wrong too many times and the screen blows up. Kids will get this wrong just for fun.

SILICON BRAIN: The child must use a calculator to answer questions. Below the calculator is a field that records all the button presses the player has made. Players either go through the whole calculation, or work it out mentally and use the calculator to type in the answer. The recording feature is an excellent feature because you can see exactly how a child has gone about solving a problem.

CARNIVAL: A shooting gallery game in which the player shoots the correct number to solve various problems.

COVER UP, GRAB IT AND CHEERS: Similar to the English games of the same names. These are geared towards understanding fractions, percentages and money matters by getting the child to match and select answers.

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10 out of 10, £19.99

Dragged kicking and screaming from the sand pit, Steve Prizeman looks at the current state of educational software.

Meeting the demands of the National Curriculum, whilst retaining emphasis upon the more traditional elements of English language teaching, is the aim of this game-centred package.

Usually, perhaps, this product is not aimed at a highly specific age range, instead, it is ability-based, with the level of difficulty of the puzzles embracing junior school standard as well as that of kids preparing for their GCSEs.

The six games test the user in ways that will undoubtedly stretch most people's literacy skills: spelling, identifying collective nouns, spotting missing words or letters, matching rhyming words, and so on, form the content of the puzzles on offer. It is even possible for intrepid parents of teachers to write new questions for one of the games, enabling them to customise it to stress what they consider to be the most important points for the child player to learn.

The leaflet accompanying the game makes it clear that the program aims to cover the long-familiar elements of language teaching, including punctuation, verbs, adjectives, nouns, sound patterns and figures of speech.

The games will appeal to kids who are devotees of crosswords, and word search puzzles rather than the usual platformer fare, but quick reactions are still necessary to impress the scoring system in many of them.

Graphically unexciting and with unremarkable sound, this product nevertheless remains an interesting attempt to put vocabulary and grammar in a computer game context.