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Kaplan Biology & Chemistry helps high-school students to review and memorize important terms in these subjects. The program opens with a main menu through which a student can choose the field (biology or chemistry) in which she is interested. Kaplan offers a diagnostic test in each of these two areas. The tests evaluate the accuracy of a student’s responses and then divide results by topic so the student can identify areas on which she needs to focus.
The topics section of the program reads like a textbook but does not include diagrams, schematics or photographs that would help the many students who learn in visual and interactive ways. A few diagrams are available in the charts section of the program but these pictures have small type and address a few random topics. The chemistry section includes a virtual chalkboard with equations and graphs, but the program does not explore the rich meaning of these mathematical relationships in detail. Biology and chemistry software would ideally include animated diagrams so students could see the continuity and complications of biological processes. The Kaplan material instead presents organisms, cells and chemical reactions as static entities.
The Kaplan program offers an "Idea Creator," which allows the user to map out her ideas for an essay. The software then generates an essay outline from the user's map. The program also provides a bibliography creator. This portion of the software prompts for the user for information -- author, title, publication date, etc. -- and then formats the information accurately depending on the style of bibliography the user prefers. This feature enables a user to expend his energy on the content of his paper and on identifying sources instead of his spending hours placing commas in the correct places.
Families interested in preparing their children for standardized tests may choose this product because it provides practice in learning terminology and multiple-choice experience. Teachers could use the software to provide definitions for terms, though it is not clear how this program would be preferable to a textbook with a glossary. Teachers could not use the program as a source of pictures because the type surrounding the pictures and the illustrations themselves are small and uninspiring.
Have your child explore fun science activities from a science magazine. Have your child find web sites that show the geometry of molecules as they rotate through space. Have your child browse through movies that show the division of a cell as an animated process and also allow your child to examine the division frame by frame as prophase, anaphase, metaphase and telophase. Once your child has explored the world with all its amazing educational resources, and if a glossary and paper practice tests don’t suffice, you can have her memorize definitions through Kaplan software. But most likely your child will not need Kaplan Biology & Chemistry if she develops a genuine interest in science through other resources.
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