6th May 2005 at 01:00
Starter Stile Numeracy. By Jane Crowden. LDA. pound;19.99 per pack of six booklets; pound;5.99 (plus VAT) per tray of tiles

The 12 booklets in these two packs for pupils in the reception years cover numbers and the number system, calculations, measuring, shape and space.

They come with an intriguing tray of tiles, each with a numeral, from one to eight, on one side and a quarter-circle on the other, that enable children to match eight questions to eight answers in each exercise, and then to check their own work.

Pupils arrange the numbered tiles in order and then flip them over and compare the pattern of quarter-circles with the one shown in the exercise.

If the patterns are identical, then the questions and answers were matched correctly.

The idea is appealing, but it is perhaps rather complicated for what it is seeking to achieve. The exercises are very routine - matching eight simple sums to their results, for example, or matching pictures of eight shapes to their names.

In the early booklets in particular, it is easy to muddle the question numbers with the answers: so the answer to question five is 8; the answer to question eight is 2, and so on.

Children may have more difficulty selecting and placing the correct tile - the one showing the question number, not the answer - than doing the calculation. And, if they do make an error, then identifying the incorrectly placed tiles and making the necessary swap may be as challenging (although perhaps rather more fun) than answering the questions.

As a means to make routine practice more palatable this device may be helpful, but a more ambitious use might be to ask slightly older pupils to devise their own exercises on the same model, and to try these on their classmates.

Tandi Clausen-May

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