A look at numbers in action;Cross-phase;Reviews;Numeracy

2nd July 1999 at 01:00
NUMBERTIME. Video pack pound;29.99. Activity book pound;12.50. Activity pack. pound;13.99.4-5 years. MEGAMATHS. Video pack pound;29.99. Activity book pound;12.50. Activity pack pound;13.99. 7-9 years. MATHS CHALLENGE. 3 cassettes (all the programmes for the Spring Term) pound;2. Activity book pound;12.50; Activity pack pound;13.99. 9-12 years. BBC Educational Publishing.

BBC's Numbertime 11-20 has kept much of its winning formula, including the loveable El Nombre and a wide variety of styles. A wonderful addition is the use of moving counters that make a variety of patterns relating to each number. Each section of the programme could be used to introduce a lesson's theme and revisited at the whole-class session. The activity book contains worksheets for reinforcement of work on individual numbers and ideas for more open-ended activity. Teachers are also given a helpful list of important questions.

The latest instalment of Megamaths, on measure, is also little changed in its format. There is plenty of action and humour, centering on the antics of characters from a pack of playing cards. There is some mismatch of levels - for example, in one programme the characters rehearse the need for standard units of measure and show how 128cm can be written as 1m 28cm or 1.28m. This is unlikely to work unless the sections are shown separately to appropriate ability groups. But each section would provide a good starting or discussion activity for the numeracy hour.

The Maths Challenge programmes and accompanying tapes are designed in a quiz format for nine to 12-year-olds. Each section concentrates on a single area of the number curriculum, and could be used as revision or to improve children's speed of mental calculation. They would be most useful for national test preparation. An audio cassette complements the programmes, with 10 five-minute activities covering the same ground. These would best fit the "mental maths" slot at the start of a numeracy hour. Peter Patilla's accompanying activity book contains excellent ideas for improving mental skills and is the highlight of the package.

Annie Owen is a maths lecturer and freelance consultant

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