Tasks to try again

TASK MATHS By Barbara Ball and Derek Ball Pupil's Books 1, 2 and 3. Pounds 8.50 each Teacher's Guides to Planning and Assessment 1, 2 and 3. Pounds 22.50 each Nelson

When Task Maths key stages 3 and 4 was first published in 1994, it was praised for the innovative way in which, true to the original intentions of the national curriculum, it wove together the various strands of mathematics and developed pupils' understanding through activity based themes or tasks. However, the publishers now acknowledge that this demanded too radical a shift for some teachers to consider implementing the scheme in their classrooms. So the key stage 3 elements (Books 1-3) are being relaunched with expanded guidance for teachers.

The pupil's books contain the same rich mix of stimulating, open-ended activities which truly encourage learning through using and applying mathematical ideas. The revised teacher's guides are intended to provide more help on planning and on assessment and record keeping. The main learning outcomes for each task (based on extracts from the national curriculum level descriptions) are clearly identified and linked to each activity within the task. The range of possible performance within attainment target 1 (using and applying) is mapped out.

All this is likely to help teachers grasp the main objectives for each task more clearly and know what to look for when assessing pupils' responses. The new guides also include copiable sets of assessment questions for each task which could be used for more formal end-of-section assessments. While most of the questions are well designed to provoke thinking rather than just recall, their presentation is rather dull and wordy in comparison to the pupil's books.

A final addition is photocopiable student record sheets, no doubt added in response to consumer demand. For teachers who still find it useful to tick, shade or write in detailed record grids these will be a delight, providing about 450 boxes for each student or something over 12,000 for a typical key stage 3 class.

The original Teacher's Guides were good and I hope the revisions will encourage schools to take a fresh look at the series. I fear some will still be put off because the authors' holistic approach to mathematics does not directly reflect the fragmentary nature of the national curriculum. And that is great shame.

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