Hats off to a spell of active learning;Mathematics

23rd May 1997 at 01:00
HBJ Activity Masters Y1 and Y3. By Daphne Kerslake, Leone Burton, Richard Harvey, Lilian Street and Angela Walsh. Collins Educational. Year 1 pound;30. Year 3 pound;45

The phrase "Hats, Cats and Bats" sounds more like a props list for a Hallowe'en play than the title of part of a maths book. But it is a heading in the HBJ scheme, known for its thematic approach.

These two books of photocopiable activity masters support the scheme alongside the teacher's resource books and children's books. They replace the pupil's activity books and thereby offer teachers more flexibility.

Each has an introduction that is clear in its justification for activity-based - and contextual-based - approaches. It suggests mental or written methods, or calculators can be used.

Alongside the hats, cats and bats, the Year 1 book contains many familiar activities on the themes of cafes and shops. Some can be linked with a class shop and enable children to work at different levels.

The page involving costing of menus could lead to some interesting discussions on how to reach the answer and raise the question of whether one person could eat a whole tin of beans with egg and sausages.

The Year 3 book contains a similar mix of the familiar and unusual. One activity headed "Fairs" invites children to say which side-shows cost too much. Whether this is using and applying mathematics at its most relevant or an invitation for children to get off the mathematical point, it is likely to promote much discussion. This book also contains a variety of activities with potential for mental arithmetic, pattern spotting and discussion.

It is difficult to see these masters being used without the rest of the scheme as there are no teacher's notes and some activities make sense only when viewed alongside the other materials. This is a pity, as they contain some good open-ended activities which with a littlemore explanation could appeal to a wider audience.

Jenny Houssart is a lecturer in mathematics education at Nene College, Northampton

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