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Parental guidance

Maths is demystified in a booklet produced by primary teachers, reports Chris Fautley

"A man has $100 and you leave him with $2, that's subtraction." Mae West's take on maths. What might she have said about decomposition?

Probably the same as many parents: "We didn't do it like that when I was at school," hoping a teacher could explain.

In Brighton and Hove, that is all about to change with the launch of This is the Way We Do It, a booklet for parents that aims to demystify how maths is taught at primary level.

It is divided into four chapters: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. These are then further divided so that in the division chapter, for example, there are sections on division on a numberline, chunking on a numberline, division by chunking and short compact division.

The book has been produced by primary teachers in their own time, led by Susan Saunders, numeracy consultant at Brighton and Hove local education authority. The idea germinated after she visited a school for a numeracy workshop with Year 5 and 6 parents. Resources, she discovered, were thin on the ground. "When I planned the session, there was nothing," she says.

"There were no reference materials."

Maths co-ordinators Isabelle Marsh from St Andrew's C of E Primary School, Hove, and Janet Parfitt from Balfour Junior School, Brighton, were two of the teachers involved.

Isabelle says: "There's a real need for this sort of booklet in school.

Parents are just crying out for something; they want to have something written down that they can use on a daily basis with their children to help them with their homework."

Language proved to be a challenging aspect of producing the booklet, especially, says Janet, in areas they thought would be quite straightforward. "It actually makes you take a step back," she says.

"Sometimes you assume understanding, possibly when it's not always there, so that's why we had to work really carefully on that."

Each primary school in the LEA will receive three copies of the book: two paper and one on CD-Rom, so extra copies and pages may be printed.

Secondary schools will be sent a copy so they are aware of strategies used at primary level, as will family learning co-ordinators for use on family numeracy courses.

* For a copy of the booklet and CD-Rom, send a cheque for pound;12 payable to Brighton and Hove City Council to the Primary Team (Parents'

Booklet), Children, Families and Schools, Learning Development Centre, Hodshrove Lane, Moulescoomb, Brighton BN2 4SE

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