Number's up

20th February 2004 at 00:00
Number Rhymes to Say and Play by Opal Dunn, illustrated by Adriano Gon. Frances Lincoln, pound;10.99.

The Animals Went in Two by Two by Jan Pie'nkowski. Walker Books, pound;9.99

One More River by Diz Wallis. Ragged Bears, pound;10.99

One Child, One Seed by Kathryn Cave, photography by Gisele Wulfsohn. Frances Lincoln, pound;5.99

One is a Snail, Ten is a Crab by April Pulley Sayre and Jeff Sayre, illustrated by Randy Cecil. Walker Books, pound;10.99

Cockatoos by Quentin Blake. Red Fox, pound;5.99

Eric the Red by Caroline Glicksman. Bodley Head, pound;10.99

Regular use of picture books that focus on numbers and pattern in language will add to young pupils' numerical knowledge and interest. These (mostly recently published) books all warrant frequent reads in nursery and infant classrooms. All focus on the pleasure of numbers and will nurture early interest and competency.

Pre-school children will join in with glee when you read Number Rhymes to Say and Play by Opal Dunn. Sequencing from one to 10 and back again is confidently handled in this collection of lively number rhymes and games.

Notes giving ideas for finger plays and actions ensure even more fun.

Jan Pie+nkowski has created a tough pop-up book from the familiar song, The Animals Went in Two by Two. No infant class will let pass "four by four, The great stegosaurus stuck in the door" without discussion. The simple melody is printed on the back cover to remind us how the tune buzzes along.

Try focusing on even numbers and multiples of two in numeracy and PE.

Compare with Diz Wallis's treatment of the Ark story in One More River, based on an African-American spiritual. With bold text and enchanting drawings, the animals vividly weave their own tale as Noah packs the Ark.

The melody, with guitar chords and text, is printed on the final page. Give one number to each group of three pupils and ask them to write their own verses, using the chorus provided but changing animals and rhymes. Have a whole-class consultation before final drafts, illustration and performance.

Kathryn Cave's stunning One Child, One Seed, soon to be available as a big book, is accessible to readers from three to 11 and can be read in three ways. With the youngest children, read the story of Nothando on the left-hand pages, told in simple text and superb photographs. As she plants the seed and harvests the pumpkin, she counts from one to 10. Return to the beginning and look at the split right-hand pages. The simple text is expanded, giving family and contextual information. There follows more complex social and geographical information. Ask older pupils to break down a process and deal with it similarly on two or three levels (for instance, how to make and serve a cup of tea, look after a dog), researching for their own right-hand information pages.

One is a Snail, Ten is a Crab is a beauty. Counting from one to 10 with feet (three is a person plus a snail), lends itself to practical and creative maths. Ten is a crab, so 20 is two crabs, or five people plus one crab; 90 is nine crabs, or 10 spiders and a crab. Look at the multiplication here, displayed contextually and visually. Set challenges for groups of children to create their own ways of counting feet, from one to 10, and then the multiples of 10 to 100, as in this book. Set individual challenges: how could 27 feet be made, or 73? Get children to create their own two- or three- digit numbers by throwing dice.

For pure fun, read again - and again - Quentin Blake's masterly Cockatoos.

The Professor's hunt for his lost cockatoos is a visual treat and demands accurate counting to enjoy the joke as they hide around the house. In groups, children could try dramatic freeze-frames of stages of the story for the rest of class to guess.

Caroline Glicksman is inspired in Eric the Red. Eric Bear loves numbers and works in a bank. He has the daily task of memorising a new code for the safe, but when two polar bears stage a raid, fear wipes the combination from his head. A brilliant story for dramatisation, and a stimulus for displays featuring numbers.

Gwynneth Bailey

Gwynneth Bailey teaches at Aldborough Primary School, Norwich

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