Added weight in the argument for variety

Linton Waters

MAINSTREAM MATHEMATICS FOR GCSE By D Graham and C Graham Macmillan Pounds 12.99.

Linton Waters examines a hefty addition to the range of GCSE texts available.

Mathematics has one of the largest entries of all subjects at GCSE and the market for GCSE textbooks is therefore enormous.

And while there are those who highlight the advantages of a single national textbook, I remain convinced that variety is crucial to sustaining developments in both curriculum content and teaching approaches.

Mainstream Mathematics for GCSE is yet another book written, as its name implies, as a textbook for students on a one or two-year GCSE course.

The first notable feature is its size: a single, large format, 600-page volume weighing well over a kilo. A second important feature is that the primary audience is restricted to students working towards the intermediate tier of the GCSE exam.

The book is divided into two sections. The first, called "Making Sure", covers topics from levels 5 and 6 of the national curriculum. These are clearly labelled and grouped according to attainment target. Each section has brief teaching notes, model answers to example questions and practice exercises.

For most GCSE students much of this material ought to be familiar but will be useful for revision and consolidation - there are lots of real exam questions to practise. However, the presentation is sufficiently detailed to support students who may be visiting thetopics for the first time.

Part two, "Moving on", has a different approach and is more obviously geared towards classroom teaching.

It addresses content at levels 7 and 8, although some more difficult level 8 algebra is omitted. The sequence of topics provides a suggested teaching programme spiralling through the attainment targets. Ideas are provided for practical work, discussion and using computers.

Although the book does not take a clear progressive approach towards attainment target 1, there are periodically suggested open-ended investigations, some of which could form the basis of examination coursework. Key learning points are highlighted and, again, plenty of examination questions are included.

I cannot help feeling the book would be more attractive to teachers as a textbook if the two parts were bound separately.

This would offer flexibility of use, economy in purchase and ease the load in students' book bags.

However, schools might well recommend it to students as a personal reference and revision aid. It would be particularly suitable for those returning to the subject or re-sitting their GCSE and needing support for private study.

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