Put to the test

14th February 2003 at 00:00
John Dabell looks at maths revision worksheets that offer a subject-by-subject approach to primary tests

SATS Maths: A Traditional Approach.

By Stephen Curran.

Key stage 2.

pound;399 from Accelerated Education Publications, PO Box 40, Twickenham TW1 1 UZ.

Tel: 020 8894 1633 www.aepublicationsltd.co.uk

A new market will soon be born: books devoted to helping parents make informed purchase decisions about test resources. Self-help guides to buying self-help national exam books could be a growth area.

The dilemma facing schools is no different. Should a letter be sent home telling parents to "buy everything in sight" or should a school buy into a publication and use one key resource to incorporate into a teaching programme?

One set of successful revision guides, the 11+ Maths series, is now available to schools as a reproduced package of photocopiable worksheets. A licence agreement allows the purchaser to make unlimited copies. This could prove to be highly cost effective. The set, produced by Accelerated Education Publications, is made up of six books presented as durable worksheets and is divided into 19 chapters, complete with answers, progress charts and achievement certificates. The package includes a fully interactive CD-Rom, providing immediate access to all worksheets for viewing and printing, and makes lesson planning easier.

SATS Maths is a rigorous and structured programme that adopts the methodical and traditional approach of teaching maths sequentially and logically. The worksheets lead children through the maths landscape subject by subject, with each piece of knowledge building into a complete whole, rather than by national curriculum levels (the worksheets are, however, coded to indicate the attainment level for each subject).

The programme may be seen by some as a radical approach to teaching maths, whereas others will see the approach as practical, rational and well-founded. However, almost all schools will be teaching according to the National Numeracy Strategy and national curriculum levels and will, therefore, use the resources to supplement their existing approaches rather than buy into the philosophy behind them. The worksheets are well-organised and the coverage of the curriculum is comprehensive. They are arranged around techniques to be mastered, information to be learned and exercises to be practised. They also provide teaching material to take children to level 6. Their mathematical content cannot be doubted.

Will children enjoy using them? Probably not. The sheets have an industrious, business-like aura to them but they lack artistic input. The work ethic of children does involve a large slice of fun and the omission of pictures will be disappointing for the weary-eyed Year 6, screaming for a smiley face around national test time. Children also need recognisable ground and test-style questions provide that familiarity and wrap children in a reassuring comfort blanket come test week.

SATS Maths worksheets are far removed from the national test papers themselves. The programme will undoubtedly suit the treadmill approach to learning and will do the job for entrance exams, but they do not replicate the tests in terms of style and structure, which is odd given the title of the resource.

Furthermore, national test papers have always challenged children to put into writing their mathematical thoughts and reasoning. Future test papers will reflect this important skill but, unfortunately, SATS Maths does not devote space to this essential area of children's mathematical development.

Whether SATS Maths prepares children for exam success is debatable.

Children who followed the programme would be well-equipped mathematicians who may be confused by the style and demands of the exams they had prepared for, but well-groomed for an entrance test.

John Dabell is a primary maths co-ordinator

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