Maths to count on

21st April 2000 at 01:00
MATHEMATICS FOR PRIMARY TEACHERS. By Valsa Koshy, Paul Ernestand Ron Casey. Routledge pound;16.99

At last an invaluable book for good practice in maths, writes Laurie Rosham

Being a teacher means undertaking a lengthy and exciting journey of lifelong learning", writes Paul Ernest at the beginning of this book. However, most of us are predominantly arts and humanities based, so the general level of subject knowledge in maths is lower than that on which, say, the literacy strategy is able to trade.

It is a deficiency that has dogged attempts to spread the "good practice" of many projects over the years and could yet turn out to be the rock upon which the numeracy strategy founders. When the funding is withdrawn, projects decay. If they have not made lasting changes to classroom practice by that time, then it will be as if they had never been.

We have to hope that the national numeracy strategy is different and, in some ways, it is. It will reach all teachers, not just a group of already confident enthusiasts. It is also a kind of in-service experience in itself. There are consultants and some training for a year or two at least. But there isn't going to be enough training for us to know enough maths t deliver the numeracy strategy with ease. That is why this book could be an important companion to the teaching framework for many practitioners.

Paul Ernest's scene-setting chapter is brief and to the point, a good introduction to mathematical education for students in initial training. Serving teachers will feel instantly at home but will also be made to think. The third section is longer than the first, consisting of a stimulating collection of short papers by many of the biggest names in the field, covering effective teaching of numeracy, mental mathematics, children's errors and differentiation.

Sandwiched between these is the real heart of the book, Valsa Koshy and Ron Casey's attempt to support teachers by setting out in an accessible way, the mathematics teachers need now.

Number and number operations, fractions, decimals, shape and space, probability and proof are all here. The treatment is necessarily brief in a slim book of 225 pages, but admirably clear.

No one can learn all their mathematics from the printed page but the motivated teacher will get an immense amount from this book in a very accessible package.

Laurie Rousham is a numeracy consultant based in Suffolk

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