Robin Buss previews a new primary series that tackles problematic maths
The most important new series from BBC Schools for the autumn is The Maths Channel. This package of 35 programmes, designed as support for maths in Years 1-6, will be broadcast in 10-minute chunks three times a week from November 1 (starting with Years 1 and 2).
The aim is to target the 20 maths topics that students and teachers find most problematic. Each is dealt with individually in a way that allows it to be slotted into a lesson when needed.
Producer Peter Evans says: "This is not a narrative series," while insisting that there is nothing wrong with those other programmes on the BBC and Channel 4 that try to spice up their maths by asking us to follow a group of young people while they apply mathematical skills to find their way round a haunted house, escape from a tropical island or foil a criminal mastermind.
What, no sadistic presenter? "It's just that we're different. Here, the maths is the star." The "story", then, is simply a TV channel that is all about maths. The younger age groups, Peter Evans says, do not appreciate parodies of TV genres, so the approach for the early years will be straightforward, starting with numbers and mental arithmetic, place value, measuring and shapes.
By Year 3, we are finding out about fractions, time and money, followed in Year 4 with division and classifying shapes. By Year 5 we have moved on to the perennially confusing problems of negatives and decimal places.
The programmes will be divided into short, snappy sections and use a lot of animation to put points across. In Year 6, there will be more quizzes and documentary-style investigations of tradesmen who misuse maths to cheat their customers: maths can save you money.
Handy Andy from Changing Rooms demonstrates how maths can also be used in the real world to help with DIY, and the Chuckle Brothers make an appearance. The Maths Channel will be doing its best to be really useful without being dull.
The Maths Channel
BBC2, Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays 10.40-10.50am, Fridays 10.45-11.05am, November 1-December 6; Tuesday and Thursday, December 7 and 9, 10.40-11.10am; Friday December 10, 10.50-11.20am www.bbc.co.ukschoolsguide