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Stories that count

START MATHS: Explorers on Safari. Knights in Armour. Aliens and Astronauts. Pirates at Sea. pound;9.99 hardback pound;4.99 paperback pound;15.99 big books. Teacher's Resource Book pound;14.99 paperback.

FUN WITH MATHS: The Number Team have a Party. The Number Team in the Jungle. pound;9.99 hardback pound;4.99 paperback. By Sally Hewitt and Andrew King. Belitha Press.

Start Maths, for Reception and Year 1, offers a series of simple stories with mathematical themes, covering shapes, numbers, measurement and time. The books are ideal to read with individual children or, using big-book format, with a group.

Each page has a large illustration, a couple of lines of story, and well-thought-out maths questions or suggestions. The illustrations are delightful: warm, colourful, packed with discussion-stimulating detail and a subtle humour. A wonderful example in Explorers on Safari (time) is a picture of the explorers, neatly packed and ready for a day's trek, except for a portly gentleman in polka-dot shorts and stripd shirt, trying to stuff a cooking pot into an overflowing rucksack. The caption is: "Who is ready to go?" Aliens and Astronauts attempts to deal with 3-D shapes, but this is always tricky in 2-D format. For example, perspective tends to blur the distinction between cubes and other cuboids.

The teacher's resource book for the series is superb: clear and uncluttered, giving the mathematical objective of each story-book page, simple activities, supplementary questions and related numeracy strategy objectives. Photocopiable resources are also provided.

The Fun with Maths series, for older infants, is based on the "number team" characters (elephant, lion, crocodile and monkey). Each book provides a simple story and maths theme, but the maths dominates, with more questions and activities on each page. There is no teacher's resource book, but answers and notes for parents and teachers are provided at the back of each book.

Paul Harrison is a mathematics writer and consultant

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