Mix and Match With Maggie

Scetlander Ltd £24.99
As the education market starts to expand, CU takes a look at the best titles currently available. American primary school teacher, Chris Kennedy, and his English counterpart, Helen Reidy, are our guides.

Alright Mum and Dad, forget about the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles because here comes Scetlander's 'Big Maggie', a Loch Ness monster cum dino-tutor who is ready to take on your Under 5s.

Indeed, Mix and Match With Maggie is designed to develop important pre-reading skills for children of nursery age. And, with good sound and graphics, this package certainly catches the attention of even the most die-hard half-shelled hacker.

There are three different programs in the package which give the user lots of practice working with colourful and clear pictures, shapes, numbers and letters. While building up the user's confidence with the keyboard, the various 'mix and match' games help develop letter and number recognition, discrimination between like shapes and pictures, as well as increasing memory and recall skills.

The child's work can be checked, as there is a 'results monitoring facility' on the disk which allows results to be printed. At every turn, 'Big Maggie' is there to offer encouragement and help. Of course, she praises the user with the obligatory 'well done' which, like in the real world, becomes cliché rather quickly.

While it is true that the National Curriculum is not intended to include the Under 5s, Scotlander's Mix and Match program does provide practice with essential reading skills that are relevant to the National Curriculum. Parents and teachers alike who work with the Under 5s continue to gear their teaching towards the N.C.

Part of the N.C. states that 'pupils should be able to recognize that print is used to carry meaning in books, and in other forms in the everyday world', as well as 'children should begin to show an understanding of the difference between drawing and writing, and between numbers and letters'. With Big Maggie's help, the children will be doing just that.

But where are the guns? Where are the swords? Not a weapon to be found on this disk. Just wholesome infant entertainment with a lot of educational value thrown in. Mix and Match With Maggie serves its purpose well: building up the confidence of the young pre-reader while also keeping the user away from the television. As far as green reptiles go, Maggie's OK in my book.