Confidence is the word

Veronica Poku finds how a book of word problems can help young readers with self-expression

The Big Book of Word Problems for Years 3 and 4 By Mike Askew Beam Education pound;44.95 + VAT Tel: 020 7684 3323 Email:

Language Development for Maths: Circle time sessions to improve language skills By Marion Nash and Jackie Lowe David Fulton Publishers, pound;12

Full of funny and colourful illustrations, Beam's Big Book of Word Problems will be a boon to any year Year 34 teacher, especially those working in a vertically grouped classroom. It is full of real-life situations that children can recognise.

There is variety in the language used to describe the use of the four operations, eg "gave away"', "put together" and "shared". The learning objectives for these one-steptwo-step calculations are clearly laid out at the beginning of the Teachers' Notes. They also allow you to be clearer in your differentiation, with the questions written following either the Year 3 or Year 4 National Numeracy Strategy objectives.

The introduction also has hints on the differences between an expert and novice problem solver. Once these have been identified, the teacher will be able to guide children in acquiring the skills needed to solve word problems. The notes offer specific suggestions on ways to do this.

There are photocopiable sheets available with the Teachers' Notes as well as further examples on the CD-Rom, which also contains worksheets matched to the activities which can then be adapted for further differentiation.

Although the language is accessible and clear, some children may need support when reading the text in the worksheets, if it is not to become mainly a reading exercise rather than a maths problem-solving exercise.

Language Development for Maths - which includes photocopiable resources and a video CD - works on further consolidating the links between home and school through the simple games included. The 30-minute disk includes useful footage showing the games being modelled and demonstrated while they were being trialled.

The premise of the book, created by an educational psychologist and a specialist speech and language therapist, is that children who have a poor grasp of language will find it difficult to understand verbal instructions.

This can lead to negative emotions and poor self-esteem. The idea is that these highly interactive circle-time games will provide a secure learning environment for children to gain more confidence and experience in expressing themselves. These activities do cater more to the younger key stages, although some could perhaps be adapted for older children.

The resources needed for each session are noted at the beginning of the book, along with the mathematical language introduced into each session.

Reminders and hints are given on using praise regularly, as well as the importance of being positive. This will prove to be a very useful resource even if only used as a circle-time activity book. A useful addition to this range of books would be one for children more at the upper end of key stage 2.

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