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Rachel Cookson adds up the benefits of using colourful counting aids in Reception and key stage 1.

Numbers, Calculations, Measures, Shape, Space and Handling Data 1. Key stage 1. Various prices.

Reception Interactive Pictures. Reception. pound;69.95 + VAT.

Both from Cambridge Mathematics Direct, The Pitt Building, Trumpington Street, Cambridge. Tel: 01223 325588. Email:

Cambridge Mathematics Direct's interactive picture packs contain 16 write-on, wipe-off, A1 posters and are intended to support whole-class teaching. They are also created to promote discussion and the development of mathematical vocabulary as well as aid the teaching of the main areas of the numeracy strategy - for example, numbers, calculations (including money), shape, space, measures (including time and days of the week) and handling data.

The Reception and key stage 1 packs are both bright and colourful, with simple, clear pictures, and they are large enough for a whole class to use simultaneously. Teachers familiar with Cambridge Mathematics Resources will recognise the range of characters which appear. The pictures feature nursery rhymes and traditional story characters alongside cute animals and cartoon children to stimulate pupils' interest. The posters, which provide a scene for pupils to discuss - for example, "Playground measures" in the Reception pack and "In the classroom" in the key stage 1 pack - try to illustrate real life situations. Many of the pictures could also link to topics such as shopping and literacy themes like the Gingerbread Man, teddy bears and Jack and the Beanstalk.

We used the Reception pack with two classes. The children really enjoyed looking at and discussing the posters, which were excellent for promoting children's knowledge about numbers, position and counting.

One of our teachers and her class of budding mathematicians looked at "The zoo" poster, linking nicely to our topic on animals. The aim of the poster was to stimulate discussion about position, direction and movement, but the class was so engrossed that pupils also counted all the different animals, discovered lots of shapes and sizes and discussed environmental issues. All this from one poster.

Another class loved counting the animals "In the autumn forest" and finding patterns with the Pattern Family in their garden. The "How many" poster was put on a table with a set of dry-wipe pens as an independent activity and the children used it happily all day to count dragons and astronauts and practise writing numbers.

These posters are an excellent resource. They can be used in a variety of ways and genuinely stimulate and support children's interest in and knowledge of mathematics. They offer differentiation, as teachers are able to assess what children know and can do, and the children remain interested and learn from others as they delve deeper into the pictures. Finding different ways to count with younger children can be difficult but these interactive pictures offer a child-friendly option.

Rachel Cookson is assistant head and Reception teacher at Oliver Goldsmith Primary School, Camberwell, London

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