Alan Pithie discusses the latest revisions and additions to a widely used series.
Nelson Blackie has carried out a systematic review of its widely used Maths in Action series, while retaining the tried-and-tested formula of providing progressively more difficult questions for each concept within a topic. One of the most obvious changes is the increased page size which allows for a less cluttered layout and more effective use of diagrams.
At the start of each chapter there is a Looking Back exercise, which is designed to review progress. Indeed, books 3A and 4A take this process a stage further by introducing "Review Sections" on topics related to number, geometry and algebra which have been covered by books 1 and 2.
The teacher's resource books contain useful material, in particular photocopy masters, which further enhance coursework or provide a source of homework material. Books 1 and 2 also feature Further and Extra Questions booklets which provide reinforcement of concepts for some pupils and extension materials for others.
However, although these booklets provide valuable material, they are not essential when using the student books in the classroom.
The new Maths in Action Plus series allows for greater coverage of 5-14 as well as providing a Standard Grade Foundation course. Books 1 and 2 are aimed at pupils working towards 5-14 levels A to C.
While the degree of difficulty in each chapter is appropriate, the chapters themselves closely mirror those of books 1 and 2 in terms of the topics covered. This allows mixed ability classes to explore the same topic at a level appropriate to each child. Maths in Action Plus 3 and 4 are designed to cover Standard Grade Foundation courses in S3 and S4.
Throughout the Plus series particular care and attention have been given to the layout of the pages and use of language in order to make the course acccessible to a wide range of ability.
The series as a whole is still unlikely to win converts from the ranks of those teachers who have complained that it is too traditional and fails to embrace investigative approaches or the promotion of new technology, to the full.
However, those who feel at ease with the Maths in Action mixture of exercises, brainstormers and investigations, should welcome the new books. Indeed, many of the rough edges of the original series have been removed, and the Plus books add a valuable dimension to the new series.
Schools which do decide to upgrade their stock may face one or two problems. Because of the significant changes to the contents of each book, the transfer from the old to the new edition could be problematic for schools which attempt to use both series at once.
Careful forward planning may be required, but used wisely as a central resource, together with a mixture of other materials, the books should deliver an effective, and enjoyable maths education to pupils of varying abilities.
Alan Pithie is principal teacher of mathematics at Whitburn Academy, West Lothian