Making maths "fun" for children through stories, puzzles and games is a fast-growing trend in publishing. The new Maths for Martians series pushes the boat right out with adventure stories which come complete with their own invented language. Some children will love this alien, intergalactic world of entry pods, barp juice, grilled zibbers and small, friendly bernums from planet Zib; others, I suspect, will be left rather cold.
On the basis that, as the cover reads, "even aliens need arithmetic", the books take children on a virtuoso voyage through multiplication, division and compound addition, to graphs, pie charts, grid references and simple fractions. Occasionally, mention of say, the five times table, alerts readers to the real business in hand; otherwise the mathematics is pretty well-disguised, but has the virtue of demanding considerable mental agility, as children think their way through the codes and puzzles. The odd easy question - such as counting space pirates with red or yellow hats - offers some respite.
Design-wise, the text has quite a dense look to it, while the illustrations - lots of bright green, purple and yellow - are fashionably in-your-face. Children will probably fare better with these stories if an adult sits down with them, along with pencil and paper.
Once or twice I found the instructions not completely clear on first glance. Answers are provided at the back of the book, for the faint-hearted.