Mathematics

7th July 2006 at 01:00
Teaching maths to pupils with different learning styles. By Tandi Clausen-May. Paul Chapman Publishing. pound;16.99

Tandi Clausen-May, a principal researcher at the National Foundation for Educational Research, sets out to challenge the print-based curriculum she sees as dominating mathematics and other aspects of school learning.

The book carries us away from narrow views of ability and special needs and into the consideration of difference. The author points out that "learning differences may, on occasion, lead to learning difficulties, but such difficulties are an outcome of inappropriate teaching. They are not, in themselves, a cause of failure". This is refreshing, though we should remember that the research foundations for teaching approaches strictly based on identifying individual learning styles are none too strong.

The author avoids this hazard, and, after a brief introduction, takes us through lively discussions of many aspects of mathematics learning. Each section offers learning and teaching ideas involving visual and kinaesthetic approaches. She points out that the ideas themselves are often essentially visual or kinaesthetic: "An angle is a measure of turn. And we cannot draw a movement. At best, we can draw a representation of the movement..."

The book is a compendium of sound ideas rather than a collection of startlingly new approaches. But throughout it has the great strength of being exceptionally clear in its arguments, descriptions and drawings. The author is firm about the things to avoid: "NOT to be used (The "Boxes Method" for multiplying algebraic expressions). She carefully sets out untangling learning about terms which are often confused, such as "area"

and "perimeter".

The design is generally helpful with plenty of illustrations, as befits the book's message. There are handy pages of photocopiable resources. It is a shame there are no coloured photographs: an interesting section on the Slavonic abacus suffers from rather dingy illustration.

But don't be put off. This is a lively and often passionate account of ways of ensuring that multi-sensory approaches infect mathematics learning. As the author says, "pictures in the mind can help all pupils". We might add, "They help all teachers too".

Nick Peacey

Co-ordinator Senjit, Institute of Education, London university

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