Every department should have some

19th September 2003 at 01:00
Jennie Golding rounds up the latest KS3-5 resources. MicroSMILE Probability CD-Rom. pound;35 plus VAT for single user Up to pound;140 plus VAT for 50+ users. Smile Mathematics. Tel: 020 7598 4841. www.smilemathematics.co.uk.

This is another excellent CD-Rom from SMILE. Its five programs encourage students to explore the connection between experimental and theoretical probability at levels 4 to 6, together with teachers' notes, sample lesson plans, and support and assessment materials. Most of the material would benefit from class use with an interactive whiteboard.

Problem Pages 11-16. Edited by Barbara Cullingworth and Steve Drape. pound;7 (members), pound;10 (non-members) The Mathematical Association. Tel: 0116 221 0013. www.m-a.org.uk.

Problem Pages is a photocopiable book for secondary students featuring 64 graded problems, together with suggested solutions. Some of the problems are of a type familiar to experienced teachers, but many are not, and they range in difficulty from those that would be accessible at some level to weaker Year 7s to those for which a good mathematical solution would tax able GCSE students.

This excellent book is very suitable to dip into for occasional homework or classwork, as a source for "problem of the week", or as the basis for a weekly or fortnightly competition. I have found it easy to use for the latter, with students choosing problems of appropriate difficulty. Many of the situations described are slightly offbeat or humorous and the vast majority permit a variety of solutions. Good value for a freely photocopiable resource - every department should have one.

Cross-curricular Numeracy (11-14). By Suki Honey. Letts pound;45. Tel: 020 8996 3333. www.letts-education.com.

Cross-curricular Numeracy is a freely photocopiable and urgently needed handbook for numeracy co-ordinators. It gives outline plans for a follow-up in-service day, and clear teaching notes, plans and worksheets that could be used in non-maths lessons. It should be used in conjunction with the development of a whole-school approach to numeracy, perhaps built around the excellent Numeracy Across the Curriculum in Secondary Schools by Mary Ledwick (Mathematical Association), but it is clear and eminently usable by teachers in other subjects.

Algebra Years 7-9 (Key Stage 3 Developing Numeracy Series). By Hilary Koll and Steve Mills. pound;16.19 plus VAT for each of three volumes Aamp;C Black. Tel: 020 7758 2022. www.acblack.com.

These freely photocopiable books are designed to fill an obvious gap. Many KS3 maths teachers find the development of algebraic understanding demanding and there are some excellent ideas here, clearly and imaginatively presented. Each double-page spread of worksheets tackles a single mathematics framework objective, with three sections of increasing difficulty, and a "Now try this!" challenge at the end which would stretch most students. The explanations are sometimes overly prescriptive, reinforcing the all-too-common notion that algebra is a series of arbitrary rules to be learned rather than a succinct language to be understood, and the authors do not always take care to define letters as numbers rather than quantities, or to think through teachers' notes.

But there are some thought-provoking ideas for starter activities and the treatment of proof is refreshing. These would be useful books to have on the shelves of a department with inexperienced or non-specialist teachers and most sections could be used as stand-alone activities for covered lessons.

Crocodile Mathematics 309. CD-Rom pound;190 plus VAT for five usersUp to pound;790 plus VAT for up to 1,199 users Crocodile Clips. Tel: 0131 226 1511. www.crocodile-clips.com.

Crocodile Mathematics is billed as a "user-friendly, interactive mathematics laboratory". It is colourful and clear, complementing graph-drawing and dynamic geometry packages to some extent. It allows the linkage of shapes, equations, matrices, numbers, graphs, text and pictures, demonstrating how changing one implies changing others. A demo version, together with video clips, is available free from the website (the stand-alone lesson plans are fairly closed and directive, but need not be).

The software is, of course, no substitute for practical investigation and would be most productively used by a small group with a teacher, or a whole class with an interactive whiteboard, when I'd anticipate most of my students of 11 to 18 would enjoy and benefit from it.

Jennie Golding is an advanced skills teacher at the 11-18 beacon comprehensive Ranelagh School in Bracknell Forest

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