Mental mathematics for the numeracy hour

26th May 2000 at 01:00
Alan Parr examines books and games certain to inspire an interest in maths

MENTAL MATHEMATICS FOR THE NUMERACY HOUR. By Tony Harries and Mike Spooner. David Fulton. Tel: 020-7405-5606. Fax: 020-7831-4840. pound;13

This book covers a lot of ground, and the pace is fast. One chapter gives a brief and accessible survey of the work of Piaget, Vygotsky, and others, and it's followed by another that focuses on working with the whole class, with a special emphasis on developing a supportive class ethos. The idea of "maths partners" features frequently as a way of stimulating discussion and co-operation (you may care to add "Tell us how your partner worked out the question" to your armoury).

There are activities, gmes, and classroom suggestions. There's an interesting section on improving memory skills, and others on listening and visualising. Not all are wholly successful - you can't begin to do justice to estimating in a page and a half, but with little more than a hundred pages available much is going to get squeezed out.

The authors tread confidently a path that connects research findings with National Numeracy Strategy mathematics. The references are frequent, and there to inform rather than to impress. My favourite is the quote of Numeracy Strategy director Anita Straker, when asked if today's lessons should be based on chalk and talk: "As long as it's the children doing most of the chalking and talking!"

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