Not figured out

25th August 2000 at 01:00
RAINBOW MATHS: Level 2, Level 3, Level 4 and Level 5. By Hugh Taylor, Wendy Causer and Jayne Basnett. The National Primary Trust. Level 2 pound;25; levels 3-5 pound;35 each; boxed set levels 2-5 pound;100.

Rainbow Maths is a set of photocopiable mathematics assessment papers for levels 2, 3, 4 and 5 of the national curriculum. Teachers (or parents) can use them to confirm the level at which pupils are working and each booklet includes helpful notes for parents and pupils. The publishers even supply schools with certificates, badges and baseball caps to reward achievement.

At each level are number, algebra (level 3 up), shape, space and data-handling tests. The authors have chosen about six objectives to represent learning expectations and written question to match. This means the outcomes will not necessarily correlate exactly with those in national tests.

The authors say that the tests should be presented as fun activities, but there is little attempt to make the questions engaging. Most are pitched at about the right level and each book includes answers. Sadly, several are wrong.

The biggest disappointment is the lack of those clever questions designed to reveal understanding, which are a regular feature of key stage 2 tests. This limits both the predictive and diagnostic power of the papers.

The use of assessment tools to check pupils' levels will appeal to many teachers, but Rainbow Maths has several unfortunate shortcomings.

Linton Waters is Shropshire county mathematics adviser

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