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Not just a numbers game

EARLY YEARS ACTIVITY CHEST: Supply Teaching. By Irene Yates. Supply Teaching KS1. By Ann Malpass and Dorothy Tipton. Supply Teaching KS2. By Ann Malpass and Dorothy Tipton. Scholastic pound;12.50 each

Supply work brings instant challenges and instant gratifications, not all of which are financial. Irene Yates's ideas for working with the smallest children will bring smiles to teachers' faces as well as to their pupils'.

Whether they are making up silly words, chatting on cardboard "mobiles", organising teddy bears into mathematical arrays, spreading sandwiches or tunnelling through boxes, they'll be having serious fun. Though the preparation required for many of these activities is small, the educational objectives for each are made clear and are related to the QCA's six areas of learning. The key stage 1 and key stage 2 volumes feature a unicyclist and Superman on their covers, demonstrating that supply involves skills of balance as well as abnormal reserves of energy. The books begin with Instant Ideas that can be activated almost without thought. Some of these are rather obvious - making up a story about a picture shouldn't even tax a minister at the Department for Education and Skills - but counting footballers' knees and composing pyramidal poems are well worth trying.

Ideas for two-day cover rightly involve more forethought and introduce integrated themes. Relating Christina Rossetti's Colours to a rainbow investigation, or using maps of holiday destinations to explore the arithmetic of travel times and average temperatures will get minds, eyes and hands busily engaged.

A similar concern for making the most of children's sustained interest rather than merely reaching home time characterises the activities suggested for five-day cover. Six pages of things to do after reading a Katie Morag book include some entertaining ways of communicating mathematical messages, a treasure hunt featuring compass points and the design of a get well card. For older pupils, bagels and burgers lead to consideration of bread in ancient Egypt and an experiment on plant nutrition. These books aren't free from error but they usefully fill a need. With their tempting, photocopiable pages and their index of skills, they might well get "borrowed" from supply teachers by their contract-bound colleagues.

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