Mathematics: teaching able children

15th June 2001 at 01:00

Teaching Mathematics to Able Children
By Valsa Koshy
David Fulton pound;15. TES Direct pound;14.50, 10 copies pound;140 (020 8324 5119)

For various reasons, not all of which give us cause for pride, mathematically able children generate a range of emotions in those responsible for nurturing and teaching them. We recognise their talent and their entitlement to an appropriate curriculum, but we also recognise the limitations of our own knowledge, resources and energy.

The focus of Valsa Koshy's book is mathematically gifted children in key stages 2 and 3, and two main features commend it. The first is its authoritative tone - Koshy has researched, taught and run programmes for able children for many years, and the proposals in this book have been carefully thought through and tested.

The second is the balanced approach that runs through a readable text. Unequivocal statements about "what works" trivialise the complexity of teaching and learning, and the education of gifted children is no exception. Koshy's approach is to give clear pointers, but with appropriate concessions or warnings.

Her contribution to the "enrichment versus acceleration" debate is characteristically balanced. The issue here is whether able mathematicians, having mastered the basic requirements in one area of the curriculum, should linger to develop their versatility, range and problem-solving capability with the same content (enrichment) or be moved on to another topic (acceleration).

Tim Rowland lectures in mathematics education at Homerton College, University of Cambridge

A full version of this review appears in this week's Friday magazine

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