OPPORTUNITIES FOR MATHEMATICS IN THE PRIMARY SCHOOL By Tom Comer Trentham Books Pounds 9.95 Westview House 734 London Road Stoke-on-Trent ST4 5NP.
Anne Woodman on support for teaching primary programmes.
The author's aims for this book are to provide an overview of the primary mathematics curriculum following the implementation of the national curriculum; to give some indication of improvements which should be made in the teaching of primary mathematics; and to help teachers ensure that pupils are given their full entitlement to the programmes of study.
The first part on entitlement, standards and contributory factors, is a useful reminder about the purposes and nature of the national curriculum and, in particular, the evolution of the present Order for mathematics. Although the author states that the views and opinions expressed are largely his own, I did find myself wondering on occasions whether he was stating facts based on his knowledge of inspection findings or opinions. Some sentences have an "OFSTED-feel" to them. The majority of key stage 2 teachers might disagree that the programme of study "lacks rigour for the most able pupils" since only about 12 per cent of Year 6 children attained level 5 in the 1995 national tests. I also disagree that the programme of study lacks rigour and consider that the main reasons for able mathematicians under-achieving are largely due to other factors.
However, debating such issues is important and controversies such as this add to the book's interest.
Each part of the programme of study is examined in some detail and a range of ideas to support each section - Using and Applying, Number, etc - is suggested. Most of the ideas are to be found in good teacher's handbooks, but it is useful to have a concise compilation of ideas in one volume even though, as the author acknowledges, some topics, such as a half-page on percentages, are dealt with very superficially.
On the whole, the author has achieved his aims. Opportunities for Mathematics in the Primary Classroom is best classed as a reference book which expands on the programme of study for key stages 1 and 2. As such, teachers will find it useful for "dipping into". I shall add it to my collection of reference books and use it - though it won't be my favourite!
Anne Woodman is a primary mathematics consultant