Anne Woodman samples project books for parents to use with young childen. These books are designed for use by parents of primary children, each with 30 projects "to help your child have fun with maths". Through craft skills - art, technology, cookery and so on - it is intended that "children will encounter basic maths concepts such as sorting, ordering, matching, counting, estimating and appraising." Each project states what the child is expected to learn and, on the last page of each book, the projects are linked to mathematical attainment targets and levels.
The attractive, colourful covers are appealing and I was impressed by the quality of the bright, all-colour photography on every page. However, looking at the contents in detail, I felt some reservations.
The general and mathematical skills range from very basic to advanced. In Shapes, a project involves paint-printing with simple shapes while, in another, the child is directed to make a cube from plain card with tabs, glue, and so on. Whereas a child in key stage 1 could certainly tackle the printing, the cube would prove very frustrating for most children at this level. I was surprised to find cube-making linked to AT4, level 1! I would place it firmly in KS2 at level 4 to 5.
There is also the question of readership. The books appear to be addressed to the child rather than to parents. Whereas most KS2 children will be able to read the text, it is well beyond the ability of all but the most able of KS1 children.
Although making the games forms part of the learning experience, some projects require considerable preparation. I suspect that many busy parents could be put off trying some of the activities, however mathematically worthwhile.
My personal preference would have been for the projects to have been sorted into those considered most appropriate for broad age groups, eg, 5-7, 7-9, 9-11, rather than theme-based. I feel this would have been more useful to help parents choose appropriate projects since text, manipulative and mathematical skills could have been tailored to that age-group.
Parents of younger children may be disappointed to find that many of the projects are too complicated for their children, even with their assistance.
However, the projects do present mathematics as an attractive and creative subject and provide opportunities for children and parents to enjoy it. They also support many aspects of AT1. Judged on these criteria, the books have much to offer.
Anne Woodman is a primary mathematics consultant and series editor for STEPS Mathematics.