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Crunch time

SIMPLE MATHS SERIES. Facts and Figures. Number Games. Numbers. Number Puzzles. By Rose Griffiths and Peter Millard. A amp; C Black pound;3.99 each.

At first glance the four books in the Simple Maths series look like many story books for key stage 1 pupils - full colour photos with a few words on every page. The difference is that these are maths books, and they're full of ideas for investigative and open-ended activities. It's real maths as well, and though much of the focus is on numbers the challenges spread across the whole breadth of the subject.

These are very different books from those collections of sums and tests you find in high street shops. They communicate a view of maths not only as central to everyday life, but as a subject full of interest and excitement, and they deserve to be in every well-stocked infant classroom.

Alan Parr is a primary mathematics writer and INSET provider

NUMBERS UP. Fractions in Action. Direct Educational Services, Heath House, 156a Sandridge Road, St Albans, AL1 4AP. Tel 01727-858542 Fax 01727-837220.

Numbers Up resources are designed to avoid difficulties associated with sets of loose number cards. The simplest model is a spirally-bound pad of 10 laminated digit cards, allowing children raidly to locate and display any single digit. Simple, decently robust, and useful when working in a restricted space.

Further sizes offer three and six-digit versions and a teacher's model - a stand-up version with nine pads, each one carrying not just digits, but 13 symbols and signs as well. There's also a Numbers Up Place Value set, a booklet spirally hinged on three sides to do a similar job to the Numeracy Strategy's arrow cards and allow numbers up to 999 to be displayed. This seems only a qualified success; the booklet needs nearly as much table space as a set of separate cards, and it's possible to fold the tens and units underneath the hundreds figure.

Fractions in Action comes in five versions demonstrating fractions of varying complexity. Each consists of two interlocking discs; the child dials up a fraction, which is displayed as a pie slice. Of course, they are limited to this single model of a fraction but the discs work well.

All the devices are made from laminated card and will withstand careful handling, but they are expensive to produce. Most items are available only as class-sized packs, and at least some may have to be considered luxuries.

Alan Parr is a primary mathematics writer and INSET provider

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