Exercising the mind;Mathematics

23rd May 1997 at 01:00
Mental Maths Daily Workout. By Peter Patilla and Paul Broadbent. Book 1 (age 6 - 7), Book 2 (age 7 - 8), Book 3 (age 8 - 9), Book 4 (age 9 - 10), Book 5 (age 10 - 11). Longman pound;15 each + VAT

Mental Maths Daily Workout is exactly what it says. Teachers generally recognise that children need to develop flexibility and speed in using their mathematical knowledge. Most classes provide short bursts of maths quizzing or mental arithmetic. This set of books is designed as a progressive course to help develop mathematical mental agility, requiring hardly any classroom or preparation time.

At each level, the daily workout contains two types of mental activities - oral maths requiring verbal responses, and mental maths, where questions and answers are written, but the calculations involve thinking processes without physical materials. They are combined into double-page units that add up to about a week's worth of work.

Each unit's double spread is clearly laid out with the left-hand side showing the oral maths and the answers to the mental maths. The right-hand side provides photocopiable material for pupils. The single sheet needed for the five daily doses of mental maths is virtuously economic and also gives slower pupils a sense of achievement over a period of five days. There is scope for using these bite-size chunks with special needs children and as "fillers" for the faster phenomena in the classroom.

The oral maths activities are intended for use as whole-class activities, requiring about five to 10 minutes a day. In case you have sharper pupils who work out answers so quickly that others lose the chance to participate, many activities use a system of card-waving for answers - a little like the markers at international ice-skating competitions.

Each daily dose of mental maths also requires less than 10 minutes a session. The work in the daily sections addresses five distinctive functions within each weekly unit.

The first chunk offers initial teaching and assessment checkpoints, the second tends to provide straight number-crunching. The third delivers word-sums to check language awareness, while the last two serve up multiple operation problems and a review section. By Friday, everyone knows where they stand.

The books include two simple record sheets, one for pupils to note scores and the other for teachers to keep track of work and to record any notable outcomes - not least of which is the feeling that you've organised a good week's maths teaching.

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