Take off into green orbit

MATHEMATICS NOW! Green Orbit Book 1. By Tony and Mary Ellen Bell. John Murray. Student's Book Pounds 8.99 Teacher's file Pounds 35

Mathematics Now! is a new secondary maths series intended to cover the full range of ability. Books in red and blue orbits will cater for the majority of pupils, while the green orbit is designed for pupils with special needs in maths. Green book 1 is based around level 2. It will be followed by books 2 and 3 based on level 3 and books 4-6 based on level 4. From this it is clear that the authors interpret special needs as those of pupils who develop slowly in maths and have generally low levels of attainment.

Some careful thought has gone into the presentation of the material. The pupil's book is attractive with good use of colour and graphics. The language and layout will help make it accessible to pupils with limited literacy skills. Each chapter focuses on one of the attainment targets 2 to 4 and breaks down the early parts of the programmes of study for key stages 3 and 4 into small steps.

A key feature is the teacher's resource file. This one is better than many. It helpfully emphasises that the pupil's book is just one resource to be used flexibly alongside other practical, group and class activities and after assessing the needs of individual pupils. The need for lots of talking, one to one and in group, is stressed.

Teaching notes provide brief but helpful guidance on the development of ideas and warn of common misconceptions which delay children's progress. They explain a range of activities, especially games, for use in the classroom, lists of essential vocabulary and answers to exercises. There is support for a wide range of assessment strategies and record sheets for both the teacher and pupil. Photocopiable sheets provide additional practice, homeworks, assessment tests, games and other activities all of which complement well the work in the pupil's book.

I have two reservations about the materials. The authors acknowledge the importance of information technology in teaching maths, particularly its motivating power with young people who find the subject difficult, but provide no suggestions on how and where it can be integrated to best effect.

Second, they suggest that the skills and process of Attainment Target 1 are taught through the other chapters. As the material stands, they are not. Indeed, the little guidance that is offered on Attainment Target 1 suggests some confusion on the authors' part about its nature and place in the curriculum. These are important omissions although, it has to be acknowledged, they are common to many other secondary schemes.

Overall, the strengths outweigh the weaknesses and this is a promising start to a series which could well help many teachers looking for suitable material to help secondary age pupils working at very basic levels within the national curriculum.

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