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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, October 4, 2005

Software can help kids with homework

By Kim Komando

School's in full swing and that means one thing homework. Fortunately, the Internet is loaded with free programs and sites to help.

Most word processors like Microsoft Word have built-in spelling tools, but there are other tools beyond your word processor. Windows users can turn to Tinyspell (www.tiny spell.m6.net) and Wordweb (www.wordweb.info/free).

Tinyspell sits in the corner of your screen and monitors typing. If you misspell a word, it sounds an alert. Click the icon to see suggested spellings or to add a word to its dictionary. WordWeb is a program that provides definitions and synonyms.

If you're using OS X 10.2 or 10.3, you'll find dictionary widgets at Konfabulator (www.kon fabulator.com). Or, you can just visit Merriam-Webster (www .m-w.com), OneLook Dictionary Search (www.onelook.com), or YourDictionary (www.yourdic tionary.com) to find definitions.

Online translators can help students studying a foreign language. They're not perfect a teacher would be able to spot a translation generated by one of these but they can help students understand difficult passages. Three translation sites include AltaVista's Babel Fish Translation (www.world.alta vista.com), Google Language Tools (www.google.com /language_tools) and World Lingo (www.worldlingo.com).

For help with mathematics , go to Math.com. For similar science help, try Sciencehelp.com.

To plot math and science projects on paper, Mathematics Help Central (www.mathemat icshelpcentral.com/graph _paper.htm) has a variety of printable graph papers. You'll need the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to use it. If you need something more complex, download the Graph Paper Printer Program, which creates custom graph papers to exact specifications.

The Power Calculator (www .microsoft.com/windowsxp /downloads/powertoys/xp powertoys.mspx) graphs functions and solves equations in addition to computing basic calculations. It also has the ability to perform conversions. For advanced conversions, including currency conversions, try Microsoft's Calculator Plus (tinyurl.com/ch856).

Tiran's Calculator+ for Mac OS X (tiran.netfirms.com) is billed as a "lightweight scientific calculator," it keeps a history of your calculations, has multiple memories and will help with algebra and trigonometry.

For history and geography projects, National Geographic's MapMachine (plasma.national geographic.com/mapmachine) is invaluable. It features world maps and satellite photographs, as well as topographical maps, historical maps and climate maps. You can also access facts on specific countries.

Bartleby (www.bartleby.com) is a virtual library. There are a number of encyclopedias, in addition to style guides and other reference books. You'll also find classic works, including a selection of Shakespeare's plays and poetry. An even more extensive library can be found at Refdesk .com, which also offers a tremendous set of homework helper links (www.refdesk .com/homework.html).

FreeLunch (www.economy .com/freelunch) is an excellent source for statistical information. The financial and demographic information might be too advanced for younger students, but it could help older students beef up school projects.