The poetry of polygons

Two collections sum up the joy of numbers in verse, says John Dabell

Einstein, the girl who hated maths Poems by John Agard, Pictures by Satoshi Kitamura Hodder Wayland Suitable for key stages 2 and 3 Price: pound;9.99 Tel: 0207 873 6425 www.hodderheadline.co.uk

Number Parade: number poems from 1-100 By Jackie Kay, Grace Nichols, John Agard, Nick Toczek and Mike Rosen LDA Suitable for KS2 and 3 Price: pound;14.99 Tel: 01945 463441 www.LDAlearning.com

The National Numeracy Strategy has given maths a makeover and a designer label edge that enables it to strut and swagger with style. But a well-dressed subject needs accessories to complete the exhibition. Resources that cultivate the development of cross-curricular maths provide children with opportunities to see maths in a new light. Einstein, the girl who hated maths and Number parade, both provide rich opportunities for linking maths with literacy. These delightful poetic potpourris let numbers do the talking.

Maths is alive and kicking, full of life and energy and these two mighty volcanoes actively await your attention. The title poem of Einstein, the girl who hated maths by John Agard draws your attention like iron filings to a magnet. Einstein's number-doting parents sprinkle the world of maths with sugar so that Einstein is persuaded to see the fun numbers have to offer after loathing maths, and a number crunching maths muncher is born. Einstein then takes us on an enchanting poetic pilgrimage through numberland with one mission in mind - to convert us to the marvel of maths. This treasury of verse is a snazzy, animated collection that will undoubtedly transform your class into maths disciples. Fun poems such as "Keeping fit" and "The mental arithmetic twist" certainly had my Year 5 class exercising their maths muscles. We laughed at "The Polygons", giggled at "Archimedes' mother speaking to the press" and chuckled at "The coming of the Hedrons". Some poems had complicated titles, and equally elaborate content, which will need skilful teacher translation with a younger audience. In the amphitheatre of Year 5 we gave this volume a thumbs up.

Reading Number parade is like participating in a colourful street carnival. It is full of pizzazz and each poem has been carefully crafted to celebrate the power of numbers from 1-100. These poems have immense scope for uniting maths and literacy to practise and consolidate key skills. Jackie Kay's "Double Trouble" would be a great place to start for inspiration. The poems could be used as templates for creative poetry writing, as stories, for word study or simply for the enjoyment of reading. Number parade is supremely inventive and immensely readable. A range of styles are represented from blank verse to lyrical, serious to nonsense. Nick Toczek's "Zero" gets the book off to a great start which demanded an instant re-reading. John Agard's 76 "The Big Parade" was great fun to read and will form the basis of a future lesson for many teachers. Grace Nichols's spirited collection left us spellbound and reflective and Mike Rosen's clever tribute to number 90 left the football fanatics wanting more. Number parade was a big hit with us. We found ourselves absorbed in a world of numbers and hopelessly consumed by the sheer creativity on display. Our only disappointment was that the poems stopped at 100. A poem a day is on our menu now.

Of the two books, Number parade was voted the most popular and would appeal to a wider audience than Einstein. The diversity, range and entertainment value of Number parade proved to be the deciding factors for us. However, you can count on both books to fascinate, engage and ignite an enthusiastic response to learn more about the magic of maths and the power of poetry.

John Dabell is a primary maths co-ordinator at Derby High Junior School, Derby

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