6th May 2005 at 01:00
Supporting Mathematical Thinking. By Anne Watson, Jenny Houssart, Caroline Roaf. David Fulton. pound;18

Some established beliefs about the nature of pupils' thinking and learning are challenged in this book. Anne Watson is critical of teachers' tendency to "adopt different teaching styles for different teaching groups".

She argues that this suggests a belief that it is not appropriate to expect lower-achieving pupils to approach topics in the same way as high achievers. The latter are expected to grasp abstract concepts quickly, manipulate and explore them, deal with alternatives and find their way through complexities; while less successful students are seen to need step-by-step approaches, with mathematics presented in practical or fun forms.

But the message of this collection of articles is that mathematical thinking is not the prerogative of able children: it rightfully belongs to all pupils.

In a range of contexts, the authors show that low-attaining pupils can and do think mathematically, and the book's suggestions of ways to support such thinking have a practical focus that is firmly based in the reality of the mainstream classroom.

These ideas will be of use to teachers, learning support assistants and others seeking to broaden pupils' access to an empowering curriculum. In a broader context, this book will make a significant contribution to the debate on both thinking skills and inclusion, and will hopefully help to guide policy-makers to a more open view of the issues involved.

Tandi Clausen-May

Principal officer, National Foundation for Educational Research

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