The best of times;Primary;Reviews;Mathematics;Books

22nd May 1998 at 01:00
THE TERRIFIC TIMES TABLES BOOK. By Kate Petty and Jennie Maizels. Random House. pound;12.99

Perfect if you are desperate to learn your tables," said Jeremy, aged eight. There is a kind of whirling, swirling freneticism about this dazzlingly bright pop-up book. How much it will contribute to the learning of number facts will depend on the child. A variety of devices, from individual characters for each number (Samuel Six runs a sweet factory, for instance), to lift-the-flap, pull-the-snake, twirl-the-clock graphics, to repeat examples of each multiple, though tiring to an adutl reader should glue children to the page.

The book has many virtues. There are jokes - for instance, in Fatima Five's toy shop five little soldiers sternly declare: "No toys for babies, 0 x 5 = 0". There are lively glimpses into child life - a porpoise keeps a school diary. Some of the paper-engineering is intricate and amazing - the 10 pull-the-tab robot fingers are scarily convincing. The inclusion of zero in the tables and a 12-square add mathematical weight to the fun.

Hopefully, the razzamatazz will assist the process of seeding tables deep in the long-term memory. Octopi are entertaining but multiples of eight need to be silent servants, not just at our fingertips, but in our brain. For that, you need repetition, repetition, repetition.

Victoria Neumark

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