New year presents a new quest

NELSON GCSE MATHS. Series editor Barbara Ball and Derek Ball. Intermediate Book 1 (Pounds 11.99). Teacher's Book (Pounds 24.95)

NELSON HODDER MATHEMATICS FOUNDATION 1 AND 2. Series editor Roger Porkess.Teacher's Resource.

HODDER MATHEMATICS INTERMEDIATE 1 AND 2. Hodder amp; Stoughton. Pounds 9.99 each.

LONDON GCSE MATHEMATICS PRACTICE BOOKS. Foundation. Intermediate. Higher.By G Cole, D Kent, P Jolly, K Pledger.

Linton Waters suggests this is a good time to look at the latest GCSE courses.

Have you started the new school year with the same old maths textbooks? And, if so, is that a comfort or a concern? Or are you excited by the anticipation of discovering the secret joys of a new series? Is it living up to expectations?

With more changes to the national curriculum in the pipe-line, now may not be the best time to be considering new schemes for key stages 1 to 3. That may explain why several publishers have decided that now is the time to tempt us with new GCSE courses.

The Nelson GCSE Maths series is conventionally structured with two pupils' books for each of the three GCSE exam tiers. The first Intermediate Book is available now with the rest to follow over the next few months. The pupil's book is crisp and attractive with judicious use of icons and margin notes which support rather than overwhelm the reader. The structure is also conventional with chapters on discrete topics followed by revision exercises. However, as you might expect from the authors of Task Mathematics who edit this series, a number of significant features lift it above the norm. Ideas are introduced through discussion points rather than didactic explanations.

Opportunities for using computer programs are highlighted and suggested coursework activities are liberally incorporated. Most encouragingly, a real attempt has been made to integrate the development of the processes of using and applying mathematics into the main body of work. The teacher's book provides a brief commentary on each chapter, answers, guidance on running and assessing the coursework activities, test papers and copiable resource sheets.

In many respects, the new Hodder Mathematics series reflects the Nelson books. The structure is the same with both intermediate and foundation books available now and the higher books due in the spring. Again, chapters cover topics from the national curriculum at appropriate levels and the pages are bright and attractive. A comprehensive teacher's resource pack provides useful advice and support, with tests, answers and worksheets.

However, the Hodder books attempt to do a lot more direct teaching, usually via written explanations. While care has been taken over these, many, particularly at foundation level, will require extensive teacher help to be effective. Each chapter includes a more practical activity. While some of these would make good homework and could be extended into investigations, it is disappointing that there is no systematic treatment of attainment target 1.

The London GCSE Mathematics series is already well established. Its authors have now produced a series of practice books, one at each tier. These provide additional exercises of routine, closed questions linked to the chapters in the main texts. They offer nothing innovative in terms of content or presentation but are well produced.

A key use will be as additional books which pupils can use at home, particularly where the main texts are in short supply. As such they will be popular, but it is a pity that they do not provide more help for teachers looking for engaging tasks to reinforce pupils' routine work.

Linton Waters is mathematics adviser for Shropshire

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