Nelson Maths is now available in its revised format to reflect the 1995 national curriculum. At each level, from pre-level 1 to level 5 and beyond, there is a Teacher's Resource File containing ideas for activities and giving clear links to the national curriculum and correlations with the Northern Ireland curriculum and Scottish 5-14 levels. The Copymasters book provides resources to support the work outlined in the Teacher's File. Individual workbooks offer additional support at levels 1 and 2, as do Pupils' Books at levels 3-5. Extra Copymasters, games packs and Pupils' Books are available at various levels for extension activities.
For existing users, the revisions are organisational rather than significant changes to the fundamental approach, with sections being moved or eliminated to reflect the new Orders. The individual Workbooks and Pupils' Books are restructured, but page layout remains much the same. Additional extension materials are available, and Level 3 changes from individual workbooks to pupil's workbooks.
New users will find the Teacher's Resource File vital. It contains a wealth of practical ideas and activities, reflecting the scheme's central philosophy of Do-Talk-Record. The key issue here is one of familiarisation; current as well as new staff will require time and encouragement to study this file.
This important document should be easily and instantly accessible by all teachers; a one-per-class distribution is ideal and will reap benefits in terms of using the scheme correctly. A fairly substantial initial investment is necessary, which may appear prohibitive at the outset, but maintenance in following years can be kept to a minimum.
The workbooks and Pupil's Books which extend the Teacher's File and Copymasters are attractively presented and appealing to children, but on occasion place high demands on readers at all levels which can cause organisational problems in a hectic classroom. The individual workbooks for levels 1 and 2 are purchased on a one-per-child basis; as there are three books at each level this can prove quite costly.
The extension materials and resource packs are full of good, practical ideas and should be a useful asset, finance permitting.
Assessment can be carried out using the photocopiable sheets in the back of the Copymasters in the form of simple tick lists. This runs into the problem of the scheme becoming the driving force behind planning rather than assuming its rightful role as a supportive tool. Schools would be well-advised to build the scheme into the current maths assessment structure.
Nelson has provided a 20-page Mathematics Coordinator's Guide free of charge to help in planning and organising the scheme, directly correlated with the the national curriculum. It suggests ways of building around existing systems or formulating new structures and documentation.
On the whole, the scheme is well thought-out. The critical issue is the investment of time and money it requires. With careful planning and monitoring, it offers immensely practical and exciting ideas for teaching maths.
Rosalind Walford is mathematics coordinator at Belmont Primary school, Chiswick, west London