Number play with a purpose

5th April 1996 at 01:00
NEW CAMBRIDGE MATHEMATICS: MODULE 2: Teacher's Resource Book Pounds 21. 50. Activity books 1 - 6 (packs of 10) Pounds 5.30 each. Homelink Books A and B (packs of 10) Pounds 5.30 each. Activity Books Course Pack Pounds 4.65. Games and Mats Pack Pounds 57.50 plus VAT. Cambridge University Press, Age range 5 - 6.

What a pleasure it is to explore New Cambridge Mathematics and see much of what is known about the mathematical development of young children put into practice in a stimulating and colourful way.

Module 2 is intended for use with children in Year 1 (Primary 2) and the resource book for teachers forms the core of the course. A short section suggests continuing activities to be used throughout the year such as mental maths, five-minute maths and mathematical play activities.

Three major activity blocks are then described which cover the major areas of mathematics for this stage: number, shape, movement, measure, information-handling, pattern, problem-solving and calculators. The children's activity books are designed to consolidate practical activities and to provide evidence of individual progress. Each starts with a game on the cover and ends with a diary page for teacher and child to evaluate what has been learned.

The pack also includes board games, most of which can be used for different games of increasing difficulty. Learning objectives are clearly stated and the games provide consolidation of mathematical ideas and encourage teamwork. A photocopiable blank track offers children the opportunity to create games using their own rules.

As a stimulus to discussion, colourful mats designed to catch the interest of young children provide a basis for practice and reinforcement. Each focuses on one or more mathematical concepts and suggestions are included for using the mats with different sized groups and for different purposes such as discussion, practical activities, assessment and review.

Last, but by no means least, the pack also contains two home-link books which will be a boon to teachers asked by parents what they can do to help.

The authors of teachers' guides always worry if anyone will read their pearls of wisdom. In this case, teachers should not skip the introduction as the authors have tried to encapsulate much that is currently known about the mathematical development of young children and to put it into practice.

Among the factors they take into account are the importance of language as a tool to develop and clarify children's thinking; the emphasis on open questioning with suggested questions for different activities; and the focus on mental maths and children's own ways of working. the role of mixed-ability grouping to support and extend slower learners; the use of constructive play; the planned use of calculators for the development of concepts; and the integration of assessment with learning, all combine to form a sound basis for development.

My only slight reservation is the complexity of the relationships between the scheme's different components and the time needed to plan a course which takes full advantage of the materials. However, since children's development of mathematical thinking is com-plex, a worthwhile resource is unlikely to be simple.

Comprehensive as the pack may be in its coverage and breadth, it doesn't "de-skill" the teacher. Indeed, although it will be of immense support to those who feel insecure with maths, it opens up exciting possibilities for teachers with real enthusiasm for the subject.

Module I of New Cambridge Mathematics was reviewed on May 26 1995

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