Plans for every day of the year;Primary;Reviews;Numeracy
Schools that are already using the Abacus scheme will find it is well suited to the framework.
The revised materials focus on the three-part lesson throughout. The teacher's book includes examples of comprehensive planning grids, dividing the curriculum into units but allowing flexibility in the order in which they are taught. There is also flexibility in how to structure the main part of the lesson. The teaching guidance is sound, focusing on mental maths as the key to understanding and the resources used are mainly place value cards, money, sets of numbered cards, lines and grids, easily accessible and appropriate.
Each lesson begins with activities from the Mental Warm Up Activities Book. Its strengths are having generic formats such as Bingo, Imaging, Missing numbers and Round the class and including a range of recall and calculation activities. A superb organisational device is the pack of Teacher Cards. These are small laminated cards which give the whole class first day teaching on one side, spelt out in detail, often using excellent resources like a pegged number line so that the numbers can be moved. On the back, you find advice on further teaching for subsequent days and references to the practical activities included in the Activity Book, which form the main part of the lessons. There is also plenary session guidance, focusing on key points and common difficulties. The Activity Book outlines manageable pupil activities, coded for differentiation.
I would like to have seen more explicit instruction to teachers to compare children's mental methods when they all try out a calculation, as suggested in the Strategy and more explicit use of the language of mental calculation with the children (for example, partitioning), but the teaching book and pupil activities are generally what the Numeracy Framework expects.
The Assessment Book contains a series of short tests, beginning with some oral questions. Teacher guidance covers skills assessed, common difficulties and further practice. Although mainly clear, I found some of the instructions a little opaque, considering the age of the children.
There is a range of traditional workbooks, a textbook, a challenge book, photocopy masters and simmering activities and so on, which supplement the cards and activities. They are clear and accessible to children but almost unnecessary given the new format of lessons. However, they all now reference to each unit.
The Homework books are particularly good, a known strength of Ruth Merttens, one of the authors, with activities which are unlikely to involve teachers in follow up marking.
The revised Longman Primary Maths has much to recommend it, but in places is still locked in the past. There is a separate Planning Book which specifies the content for each week and each day of the year, a less flexible approach than Abacus, but the structure might appeal to some schools.
Each unit gives resource references for mental maths, the teaching focus and pupil activities for four days, plenary checkpoints, assessment guidance and homework.
A strength of the scheme is the quality of the mental maths sessions. Numeracy Framework resources are much in evidence, such as a counting stick, number fans and blank number lines, and there are explicit teaching instructions about comparing children's mental strategies. As in Abacus, however, the language used with the children is not always explicitly linked with Numeracy Framework vocabulary. The Teacher's Handbook contains each Unit in detail, but I was worried that too many activities use multi-base place value equipment on Hundreds, Tens and Units (HTU) mats and an abacus as the main teaching focus for place value.
The Numeracy Strategy emphasises that children should be taught that 365 is, for example, 300, 60 and 5 rather than over-identifying single digits. When standard algorithms are introduced in Longman Primary Maths, the emphasis is on traditional methods, rather than a range, capitalising on mental methods.
The pupils' activities are manageable and at times use a calculator entirely appropriately, but again focus too much on identifying and manipulating single digits in numbers. Pupil workbooks are linked to pupil activities. These have some good features, such as use of number lines, and asking children to do sums in their head. Each unit ends with assessment, based on a Copymaster sheet.
There are supplementary resources which are supposed to be continuous, consolidating all aspects of mathematics alongside the specific focus. These consist of traditional copymasters, practice and enrichment books, all of which seem superfluous to the scheme, and make me wonder when the teacher would possibly be able to fit it all in.
Shirley Clarke is a member of the Assessment Guidance and Effective Learning department at the University of London Institute of Education