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Elephant and parrot learning

MATHS GAMES R1 By Margo Fourman Heinemann Pounds 54.95 + VAT MEASURING ANIMALS Invicta Education, Harborough Road, Oadby, Leicester LE2 4LB. Tel: 0116 2720555 Approx Pounds 18 Anne Woodman tries out some early years numbers games and activities .

Maths Games R1, from Heinemann's Maths Plus Range, is designed for use with three to five-year-olds. It comprises playing boards for eight games, all the materials needed to play them and a booklet of accessible and comprehensive teacher's notes. All the games work within the number range 1P6.

The game boards are wipe-clean and highly durable. (Having taught infants, I'm reluctant to describe them as indestructible!) and the themes for the games and colourful illustrations are well chosen for the intended age-range.

The purpose of the games is clearly defined, which makes them easy to cross- reference to schemes of work. The themes make them suitable for integration with topics often covered in the early years, eg, water and teddy bears.

The notes explain what materials are needed, how to play, what might be assessed and variations on the basic game to make it easier or more challenging. Since the notes contain more information than is often required by an adult helper supervising a game, simplified photocopiable rules are thoughtfully provided.

Some teachers will think the boxed set expensive at Pounds 54.95, but the cost needs to be balanced against the attractiveness and durability of the materials and their usefulness in the classroom. Judged by these criteria, the price is not unreasonable.

Measuring Animals comprises a 35cm x 35cm baseboard of centimetre squares with raised outlines; 24 each of rectangular jungle animal tiles in five sizes, the reverse side of which have notched lines which slot on to the raised outlines of the grid; four 25cm stand-up rulers which can be slotted together; and a set of 10 photocopiable workcards, five for key stage 1 and five for key stage 2.

There are four features I particularly like about this resource. First, the animal tiles, ranging in size from an elephant to a parrot, are pleasant to handle, amusing and colourful so children should find the resource motivating; second, care has been given to choosing the dimensions of the animal tiles so that patterns and relationships can be investigated; third, the resource has the potential to provide contexts for investigative work into sorting, length, width, perimeter and area; and finally, it has novelty value.

On the other hand, I'm concerned that there are only 10 workcards to cover the requirements for both key stage 1 and key stage 2. Many ideas which could be explored with these tiles are not mentioned on the workcards, particularly for the youngest children. It is a pity there are no teacher's notes which could suggest a much wider range of ideas for language development or for problem solving and investigations linked particularly to the baseboard. There are also possible confusions with language. For example, on one workcard, the elephant is described as being 8cm long and 5cm wide. In fact, the elephant tile (or tablet) has these dimensions; the elephant does not since its outline is drawn within the tile.

Despite these reservations, I recommend this attractive resource to primary teachers, provided they supplement the ideas on the workcards so that the full potential of the resource is realised. At around Pounds 18, it is excellent value for money.

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