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Fathom Dynamic Data v2

  1. Published by Chartwell-Yorke

  2. Maths

  3. KS3,4 and post 16

KS4 Content Evaluation by Mohammed Basharat

Fathom is a data handling and statistics package whose tools encompass and go well beyond the requirements of Key Stage 4. It is used to store data that can be changed to table, graph and summary statistics form. A key feature is that these different forms are linked which means that selection in one area highlights the others too. This particular feature is useful in the area of interpretation.

Data can be imported from the Internet, spreadsheets or entered by hand into a table. The graphing and summary statistics icons from the tool bar are then simply clicked and dragged onto the data. The required variable may then be clicked and dragged into the appropriate fields depending on the function requested.

Fathom 2 has a few additional features compared to version one. These include:small changes to the formula editor that are designed to make it easier to use; an additional 100 sample documents and all 329 documents listed with descriptions in the Help menu; a URL drop method that makes importing data from websites easier; one-minute movies that are designed to summarise skills.

Supporting Documentation
The supporting documentation is another strength. It includes a 60-page workshop guide which is designed for group work with a workshop leader who can give demonstrations and a 27-page booklet with project ideas in various subjects.

It also includes 'Data Are Everywhere: Project Ideas for Fathom' - a book of ideas that students can explore independently. All the materials come with clear teacher's notes, as well as answers to the investigations/problems.

Technical Support
The video clips use Apple Quicktime but this was not an issue for the machine used for the evaluation. The video clips are an excellent addition to Fathom 2 and they cover all the basic ideas. These were very helpful as they allow a user to quickly start using the software.

The publisher's address and email contact details are provided on the back of the package.

Curriculum Relevance

Purpose of the Program
The purpose of the program is to support the teaching of data handling and statistics at all Key Stages of the National Curriculum. It would be particularly useful for students working on their GCSE Statistics coursework, but could also be used by a teacher on an interactive whiteboard or computer projector. The teacher would be able to generate results very quickly and encourage the class to interpret the results. The dynamic link of the different forms makes the interpretation of data much easier.

Curriculum Relevance
The title appears to meet National Curriculum requirements for statistics and data handling at all Key Stages. However, I was not able to find out how to generate stem and leaf diagrams, a technique of representing data that pupils commonly use.

The title is primarily designed for the support and study of data handling and statistics but can be used in many more areas of Mathematics. The sample material allows pupils and teachers to explore much wider areas like functions, sequences and geometry.

Analysis of Contents

The content is probably aimed at higher level students. However, as it is a tool it could be adapted by a teacher to suit a range of student abilities.

The lay out of Fathom is simple, with a drop-down menu and 'click and drag' tool functions. The program was fast and effective to use and tools, menus and imported data functioned immediately. Another positive feature of Fathom is its ability to display a variety of functions, graphs and summary statistics simultaneously, while still allowing explanatory text to be written.

It is the responsibility of the teacher to build in differentiation as the software is designed as a demonstration and exploration tool. Fathom certainly has the scope to allow for different learning styles.

Fathom is an outstanding data handling and statistics package which covers virtually all aspects of Key Stage 4. It is very well constructed, user friendly and intuitive in its approach. The support materials are also a strength, in particular the short video clips demonstrating various key approaches. This software allows a pupil to freely and creatively explore concepts in the area of statistics. The sample material clearly focuses real-life examples to help pupils' understanding of concepts.

Fathom is also very useful as a demonstration tool when introducing new statistical concepts, especially when using the sliders to demonstrate variable parameters. This helps the teacher to develop discussion in the classroom to make sure pupils interact with the resource rather than watch passively. This tool helps to bring the subject alive with clarity.

Overall, I have no doubt that using this package will enable pupils and teachers to save time when analysing data. More importantly, it helps pupils draw conclusions, an area that many pupils find particularly challenging.