A forward-looking flavour

21st March 1997 at 00:00
New Cambridge Mathematics Module 3 Games and Mats Pack, #163;63. Extra Mats pack #163;14.50. Activity Books 1 and 2. Homelink Book A, #163;5.60. Cambridge University Press.

Maths 2000 Evaluation Packs Foundation, #163;19.99. Pack 1, #163;45.50. Pack 2, #163;61.99. Packs 3-6, #163;60.99 each. Nelson.

New Cambridge Mathematics has added some components to Module 3, including a games package, homework materials and some new activity books. The new items all reflect a thoughtful approach to mathematical development and will certainly appeal to well-organised, mathematically aware teachers. For those with less confidence, the approach to curriculum organisation will seem rather over-complicated.

The good things include assessment notes at the foot of each workbook page. Some teachers will find it useful to review individual workbooks and extrapolate such data, while others will prefer separate assessment activities.

The Homelink books beg the awkward question of who pays: parents or school? They include notes to families telling them what the class has been working on, which for some will hint at inflexibility. The Games and Mats pack materials are durable, colourful and lots of fun once you start playing them. The box comes open showering counters, dice, pointers and markers galore. There are bags and labels thoughtfully provided to sort and store them.

The teacher's handbook offers good advice, sound mathematics - and instructions for the games. The authors suggest copying the rules to keep in the storage bags. Fine, but some of the language, written with teachers in mind, is too convoluted for Year 2. Wouldn't it be easier to print instructions on the games themselves?

Teachers need materials which guarantee the required national curriculum coverage and offer an easily-managed framework. I asked Mrs Deeley, head of Redbourne Infants in Hertfordshire, why her staff chose the 1995 Maths 2000 scheme. They investigated a range of schemes, she said, and Maths 2000 scored in terms of good structure, presentation and teacher guidance. They liked the practical activities, reinforcement and recording work. Redbourne also praised the quality of support from Maths 2000 reps, who won respect for their professional teaching experience.

Strong teacher support is vital: a co-ordinator's guide and course guide are now available. Thomas Nelson also offers in-service training for schools implementing a whole school approach.

The Maths 2000 separation of number and topic strands into continuous practice and block units is part of a strong structure which offers differentiation in different areas of mathematics. Opportunities for using and applying mathematics are integrated into both number and topic work. In addition, practical activities involve everyday resources and the writers offer sound advice on classroom organisation.

There is an accessible teachers' guide at the heart of each level. Each teaching unit kicks off with a clear set of objectives. After explaining where children are going, there are notes on what children need to know before starting. Getting Started activities for each unit are often designed for whole-class teaching, as recommended by your friendly Chief Inspector.

These tend to suggest a strongly visual presentation of concepts. Commentary and assessment notes identify key indicators of children's attainment. This promotes a conscious approach to mathematics as part of effective professional development.

There is a choice of record keeping formats, which provide ongoing and summative strands of assessment.

Maths 2000 provides a close match with the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority recommendations for the content and organisation of curriculum planning at key stages 1 and 2.

The production values are very strong. Most young people have high expectations of publishing quality and Maths 2000 won't disappoint them. At the foundation stage bold and breezily designed activity cards include teacher organisation and extension advice on the reverse.

Unlike many consumables which involve colouring in or filling in no-choice answer boxes, Maths 2000's colour workbooks demand mental effort. They are ideal for group or teacher-led discussion work. There is plenty of emphasis on varied language from the earliest stages, providing a challenging and rich approach to mathematics.

The consumable materials run through Year 1 and Year 2, before textbook economy is provided - which feels about right. Optional copymasters supplement cards and workbooks with enrichment and assessment activity, some of which has taken on board the style of the standard assessment tasks.

By Year 3 an answer book is provided for the weary teacher. The textbooks and extension books offer challenging and interesting tasks, involving inference and logic.

The reading requirement is not too onerous, but presupposes involvement rather than passive completion of tasks. Maths 2000 has an ambitious and forward-looking flavour, which looks good for the millennium.

New Cambridge Maths Module 1 was reviewed on May 26, 1995 and Module 2 on April 5, 1996. Maths 2000 was reviewed on March 15, 1996

Jon O'Connor is headteacher of Parkside First School, Hertfordshire

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