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'Reader Rabbit' and Other Computer Tutors

September 10, 1997

Know a 4-year-old struggling with the concepts of addition and subtraction? Peter Rabbit or Winnie the Pooh is ready to explain--on the child's computer. In "Peter Rabbit's Math Garden" by Mindscape ($35), Mrs. Tittlemouse takes on the task. The friendly, furry Beatrix Potter character has five creepy crawlers in her house, sweeps away two and asks the child how many are left.

Educational software has become a $500-million industry as parents seek to use home computers to expand pint-size minds. Hundreds of companies offer as many as 9,000 software titles at prices from $30 up. A sampling of the offerings for preschool and elementary school students lined up for fall release:

* "My Personal Tutor: Preschool to First Grade" (Microsoft, $54.95). A four-part series focusing on reading and math skills for ages 3-5, 4-6 and 5-7 with a new TutorAssist technology. When a child makes errors that suggest difficulty with a concept, the animated Professor P.T. Presto helps with one of 100 tutorials.

* "ActiMates Interactive Barney" (Microsoft, $109.95). Geared to ages 2-5. Squeeze his hands to turn him on. Squeeze his feet to sing a song. With an additional PC pack ($64.95), he plugs into the computer and uses a 14,000-word vocabulary to encourage children while they play a Barney program.

* "Ready for Math With Pooh" (Disney, $35-$40). For the 3-6 pro-Winnie crowd.

* "Mathquest Aladdin" (Disney, $35-$40). With Robin Williams as the genie, it features 18 math activities geared to 6- to 9-year-olds.

* "Jumpstart Spanish" (Knowledge Adventure, $30). Latest in its series of Jumpstart titles. For years, educators have maintained that foreign languages are best learned in the elementary grades, but most public schools don't introduce them until later.

* "The American Girls Premiere" (The Learning Co., $34.99). Based on the American Girls Collection series.

* Reader Rabbit Toddler, preschool and kindergarten programs (The Learning Co., $9.99 each with rebates).

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Wired to the World

Here is the percentage of schools in each state that provide access for their students. California ranks near the bottom. Experts say many states lag behind not because of a lack of computers but because of inadequate wiring in their school buildings.

90-100%80-89%

70-79%

60-69%

50-59%

40-49%

30-39%

20-29%

0-19%

Wash: 55%

Oregon: 79%

Idaho: 3%

Montana: 45%

Calif.: 15%

Arizona: 85%

Nevada: 98%

Utah: 90%

Alaska: 70%

Hawaii: 100%

Wyoming: 62%

Colorado: 76%

New Mexico: 100%

North Dakota: 78%

South Dakota: 50%

Nebraska: 100%

Kansas: 75%

Okla.: 10%

Texas: 10%

Minn.: 90%

Iowa: 80%

Mo.: 50%

Ark: 81%

La.: 28%

Wis: 75%

Ill.: 13%

Tenn.: 99%

Miss.: 38%

Mich.: 60%

Ind.: 85%

Ohio: 20%

Ky.: 80%

Ala.: 95%

Georgia: 98%

Fla.: 95%

S.C.: 100%

N.C.: 55%

Va.: 80%

W. Va.: 67%

Pa.: 33%

Md.: 43%

Del.: 100%

N.J.: 72%

Conn.: 64%

R.I.: 60%

Mass.: 60%

N.Y.: 50%

VT.: 95%

N.H.: 75%

Me.: 75%

Source: Quality Education Data,1997

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