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Bare necessities of progress

ESSENTIAL MATHS. By Sean McArdle. Stanley Thornes Evaluation Pack Level 2 Pounds 11.95. Level 3 Pounds 12.75. Level 4 Pounds 15.95. Level 5 Pounds 16.50.

Essential Maths claims to offer nothing less than the clearest delivery of the core maths curriculum on the market and at an unbeatable price. The strength of such claims deserves careful consideration. The organisation of Essential Maths is simple, sensible and highly efficient in monetary and intellectual terms.

It consists of a multiple pack of textbooks, with one book at each level for every attainment target and a teacher's resource book. The book levels correlate to national curriculum level descriptions, but the division into separate texts recognises the possibility that children can have greater or lesser ease with different aspects of mathematics.

Work on data handling? Turn to the Essential Maths Data Handling book for level 2, 3, 4 or 5. Time to brush up on shapes and measures? Then let's get on with the relevant work at the appro-priate level. It couldn't be easier.

The language level is right for the target age or level of development and the layout is unfussy. Each chunk provides a modicum of instruction or revision with the practice work. The supplemen-tary practice workbooks for Number are the only consum-ables required.

This structure means that there is no difficulty in progression, which other schemes that interleave topics seem to have caused for years. Mathematics teaching has become a discrete, more clearly-focused subject, particularly at key stage 2.

Many of us are fed up with the all-singing, all-dancing schemes, which include a paper mountain of tatty consumables and overpriced resource packs, consisting of little more than plastic counters and kits for making paper dice.

The teacher's resource book explains the structure without the aid of a Mensa membership. It is clearly laid out with the bare essentials of assessment work, record-keeping systems and national curriculum correlation provided in a clear format. Each of the assessment placement tests is annotated with a guide that pinpoints pupils' strengths and weaknesses.

There are three aims described for the Essential Maths series. The first is to interpret the national curriculum within a structure which is comprehensible for non-specialist teachers. The second is to provide plenty of practice and reinforcement, as opposed to the hit and run approach to a multitude of maths topics, favoured by many schemes. Third, Essential Maths is designed - wait for it - for children and teachers to enjoy.

Sean McArdle's scheme empowers teachers by providing a clear planning route through the national curriculum and ensuring progression and differentiation across the attainment targets. Essential Maths will be on view shortly in our school, with some more confident and effective mathematicians.

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