Heavyweight challenge

30th December 1994 at 00:00
Science Quest series, Changing State 431 07603 0, Magnets and Circuits 431 07600 6., Forces 431 07602 2, Salt, Sand and Silver 431 07601 4 Heinemann Pounds 7.99 each Pack of 4 titles Pounds 29.95. 431 07604 9

Science Quest is an attractive and informative new series aimed at key stage 3 which claims to support attainment targets 1, 3 and 4. Each 32-page book is divided into 15 double-page spreads with carefully chosen text and colourful cartoons. Colour-coded shaded boxes contain questions for the reader to consider (answers are not given) and a summary of the information in the spread. Some spreads contain outline ideas for investigation - there is nothing new here.

The concepts tackled are often fairly heavyweight, for example, Resistance, Transformers, Reactivity and Atoms, making these books perhaps more suitable for able students. The level of linguistic complexity is always comfortably below the conceptual difficulty of each topic.

Although the illustrations avoid gender stereotyping and the text is neutral, I have found boys of all ages more enthusiastic about these books than girls. Year 11 students may find the cartoons rather childish.

Most spreads lead from the scientific theory or model to a relevant application. A strength of these books is their use of clear and colourful diagrams to illustrate conceptual models.

Their only significant weakness is the way that models are used to illustrate behaviour without acknowledging that they are models. The examples in the text do not go beyond the limitations of the models used, but nor do they suggest that there may be limitations or alternative models. There is no mention of the process of development of scientific ideas or of conflicting hypotheses and models. Nevertheless, these books make excellent supplementary reading.

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