Ideas add up

9th February 1996 at 00:00
KEY MATHS 7 Stanley Thornes. Pupil's Book 1. Pounds 8.99. Pupil's Book 2. Pounds 8.99. Teacher's File. Pounds 45. Question Bank Pounds 55. Course Guide Free Age range 11 - 12

First impressions of Key Maths 7 suggest a colourfully presented, yet relatively traditional textbook. Worked examples are displayed in yellow boxes and followed by exercises such as "copy and complete . . .", and "work through these questions". For teachers who prefer to work in a more formal manner, this may be a course worth looking at.

This first year of a new course for key stage 3 will be followed by Key Maths 8 later this year and Key Maths 9 in 1997. The pupils' books are aimed at different ability levels: Book 7 1 is for those entering key stage 3 at levels 2 or 3, Book 7 2 for levels 3 or 4. I am not convinced there is sufficient difference between them to cater for the full range of pupil attainment at this stage.

The content has been planned using a spiral curriculum. The material is definitely not presented by level, but careful thought has been given to construct a course in which ideas build on one another, and where difficult new ideas are introduced gradually. Although access to a scientific calculator is assumed throughout, students are instructed, for some exercises, not to use their calculators.

Each of the 16 chapters in the pupil's books is intended to be a coherent unit of work lasting about two weeks. Book 7 1 and Book 7 2 are designed to be used in parallel; they have the same chapter titles, and much of the material in common. The bulk of each chapter is core material, followed by "Questions" and "Extension" questions for homework. The Extensions in Book 7 1 are the same as the Questions in Book 7 2, providing a bridge between the two books.

Each chapter concludes with a clear summary page which provides a revision of the essential ideas and a "Test Yourself" page of questions, with answers at the back of the book. Each book ends with a Help Yourself section for pupils who find difficulties with number skills and need to practise them individually or at home with parents.

The Teacher's File is a very substantial ring-binder containing notes, photocopy masters for worksheets used in the chapters, and homework sheets. The Teacher's Notes are very full, with a page devoted to each section of each chapter. Homework is suggested for each section; the prepared homework sheets are simply photocopy masters of those questions, so that pupils do not have to take the text-books home. A helpful feature on each page of the Teacher's Notes, in view of the rate at which mathematics at key stage 3 has been changing over recent years, is a paragraph of notes for the non-specialist. Activities are suggested to supplement the textbooks.

The Question Bank contains more than 200 pages of assessment questions, with mark schemes and answers, designed as a resource from which teachers can devise their own tests. A bank of 20 mental tests is also planned, but not yet available.

Finally, at the back of the Teacher's File, I discovered a small set of worksheets and lesson ideas for introducing graphic calculators to Year 7 pupils. These are based on the new Texas TI-80 calculator, and they contain some good ideas, encouraging pupils to experiment and to work on open questions.


Peter Wilder lists the important points to bear in mind:

* Is the pupil material attractive and engaging? Does it provide positive images for all pupils?

* Are the appropriate levels of the national curriculum covered, including Ma1 Using and Applying Mathematics?

* Does the course encourage variety? In the words of the Cockcroft Report: Are there opportunities for exposition, discussion, consolidation and practice, practical work, problem solving, investigation? Does it include individual, small group and whole class activities?

* What is the teacher's role? Is there adequate back-up for a variety of forms of assessment? Will the material enhance or restrict the role of the teacher?

* Is there provision for the least able? Consider the reading level required.

* Are there appropriate and challenging extensions for the most able? Does the material provide opportunities for work outside and beyond the national curriculum?

* Does the material encourage appropriate use of calculators and computers, as well as developing mental arithmetic and approximation strategies?

* Is there a range of applications and contexts giving a vision of the importance and power of mathematics for all pupils?

* Can you afford it?

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