More than adequate

21st September 2001 at 01:00
Mathematics Explained for Primary Teachers (Second edition). By Derek Haylock. Paul Chapman Publishing pound;16.99.

Teacher trainers know that even mathematically highly qualified students are often anxious about their ability to provide convincing explanations for pupils of concepts, procedures and routines which they themselves learned by rote, or at least without a full explanation. If you are not "mathematical" this anxiety can seem a gloomy certainty.

Children do not learn maths from books. Many - perhaps most - will not make sense of it, even if you organise a brilliant series of activities. The Numeracy Strategy is right to emphasise "interaction" as the key to success in maths.

That means interacting with peers, parents and others, but primarily with the teacher,who needs to encourage, demonstrate, organise and lead - but above all to explain - sympathetically, at the right time and in the right way.

Maths is supposed to make sense, and when it stops doing so is when children give up, reacting with dislike and distrust. I should declare an interest here: much of this I learned long ago from Derek Haylock, the first great teacher of maths that I ever met.

This second edition has been brought bang up to date, covering all the maths primary teachers are required to know. Many offerings claim to do this, several bearing the imprimatur of the Teacher Training Agency. This one does not, because, the author explains, he has declined to submit it for the "approval" of government agencies.

But this is the one I would choose, because of its friendly and clear explanations. While always mathematically correct, it never feels "mathematical". The author never makes the reader feel inadequate, just as we would wish to treat children. I can think of no higher praise.

Laurie Rousham

Laurie Rousham is a numeracy consultant for Suffolk LEA

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