Main messages

19th May 2000 at 01:00
CHILDREN, PARENTS AND TEACHERS ENJOYING NUMERACY. By Hamish Fraser and Gareth Honeyford. David Fulton pound;14.

The authors of Children, Parents and Teachers Enjoying Numeracy have a basic premise with which I wholeheartedly agree: for pupils to make progress with their learning, maths lessons need to be rewarding, enjoyable and without those elements of fear of ridicule which have put off so many learners in the past. How far the book goes towards helping teachers achieve such lessons is less impressive.

The authors wholeheartedly support the national numeracy strategy and begin by reiterating and, in some areas, amplifying, its messages about the importance of mental calculation both as a set of skills and as a route to understanding the number system.

The tricky transition from mental to written methods is covered at some length, but I am worried that the strategy's supplements of examples have been interpreted as a prescribed teaching scheme. The essence of the strategy is that pupils, with guidance, will initially develop their own ways f calculating and recording, built out of their own understandings. There are many routes towards the goal of an efficient and effective method. This is a crucial area for empowering young people, building their confidence and offering real success. I would like to have seen deeper consideration of how this might be achieved in practice.

The second half of the book offers guidance on using computer programs in the maths classroom (including a useful resource list); reminds us of the importance of discrete investigations (but not related to investigative learning more generally); discusses Richard Skemp's work on anxiety in learning maths and offers some suggestions for improving home-school links. The appendices have helpful addresses and worksheets for some of the activities mentioned in the text.

Overall, the book provides a clear and accessible reflection of some of the numeracy strategy's main messages and offers guidance and suggestions which some teachers will find helpful.

Linton Waters is Shropshire mathematics adviser

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