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Made to measure

Two new books will help teachers more than manage with maths, says Tim Rowland

MANAGING PRIMARY MATHEMATICS SERIES. Developing a Scheme of Work. By Sue Atkinson TEACHING MEASURES. By Janine Blinko and Ann Slater Hodder amp; Stoughton Pounds 11.99 each

Sue Atkinson is well-known for her manifesto for "emergent mathematics", Mathematics with Reason. By comparison, her Developing a Scheme of Work seems at first somewhat prosaic in its apparent intent to offer guidance to the authors of school policy documents. Indeed, I must admit to wondering just how many overburdened primary teachers would be prepared to tackle a 180-page book for that purpose, and whether a slim pamphlet might not meet the same need.

But it soon becomes clear that the book is not about fulfilling a one-off statutory task, but an on-going process of planning, action and evaluation.As Atkinson says: "a scheme of work . . . will go on changing and developing. It is not a finished and polished document that sits on the shelf and gathers dust".

The scope of the book is comprehensive with sections on topics such as roles within the school, mathematical content, teaching styles, progression, maths topics and thematic approaches, resources, assessment and record-keeping, homeschool activities, equal opportunities, implementation and evaluation. And much, much more. A number of activities for in-service training with colleagues are suggested, recognising the need for a sense of collective ownership if the scheme is to be accepted and used. There are examples of formats and checklists developed from work with teachers.

The general tone of the book is down-to-earth, liberally-inclined and balanced. It is likely to appeal to generalist teachers looking for a framework for medium-term planning. Nice book, pity about the title.

Teaching Measures is likely to be welcomed for different reasons. While a short first section addresses the "management" of the learning and teaching of measurement in the primary school, most of the remaining pages consist of nearly 60 measurement activities for children - good value for a little more than Pounds 10.

The authors have "tried and enjoyed" each of the activities with children. Measurement in the primary school is self-evidently practical, and is usually enjoyable (if not always purposeful). There is a widely-held feeling that the central importance of measures in early years mathematics has not been adequately reflected in any of the incarnations of the national curriculum. This book affirms its place in the mathematical experience of pupils, with sections on length, angle, mass, capacityvolume, time and area.

Some readers may be surprised not to find more estimation activities. The explanation is in the introduction - "There is no expectation that the children will always 'estimate first', which in reality, we did not find ourselves doing". How brave, how sensible, to break away from the tyranny of estimate-then-measure, the point of which seems to escape most children.

The 58 activities are presented in common format (useful for instant random access) with headings for objectives, equipment, task description, organisation, preliminaries, reinforcement and extension activity. Many of the pages are photocopiable worksheets or other printed materials needed for the tasks.

Teachers will need to browse through these activities to discover which they like, what is appropriate for a particular situation, and so on. This book is a resource worth purchasing, using, and discussing with colleagues.

These two books are the first to be published in a new series, Managing Primary Mathematics. "Managing" is a nicely ambiguous word; it can mean being in control, but it can also suggest just getting by. This series looks as though it might assist primary teachers with both.

Tim Rowland is a lecturer in primary mathematics at Homerton College, Cambridge

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