Revision aid;Secondary;Reviews;Mathematics;Books

12th March 1999 at 00:00
THE SECONDARY MATHS HANDBOOK. By Lesley Medcalf. The Maths Press, 11 Codringon Road, Bishopston, Bristol BS7 8ET. pound;12 + pound;2.50 postage.

Despite its title, this is not a handbook for teachers or heads of department. Instead, the author has set out to provide a student's textbook which, she says, aims to explain the underlying reasons behind the theory and "not present maths as a series of unconnected hoops..." A laud-able aim, partially achieved.

At first glance it looks like many other textbooks, but it dispenses with the colourful, lively presentation of recent publications. And whereas most are designed to be mediated by teachers, this one attempts to do all the teaching from the printed page. Care has been taken to keep the text straightforward, but it will be hard-going for many students. There are a few enlivening excursions, most use-fully the occasional "Caution!", which warns readers of common errors or misconceptions.

The book is aimed at inter-mediate GCSE students, but there is little acknowledgement of national curriculum attain-ment target 1 in either the con-tent or approach. The biggest disappointment is that the author falls short of her own ambition of making sense of the subject's inherent structure. So, for example, a section on triangular numbers defines and lists them and invites us to derive a formula for them. But there's no hint of their fascinating properties or the wealth of situations in which they lie hidden.

This deserves a place in the school library - it might help pupils at revision time, particul-arly those seeking alternative explanations for certain topics.

Linton Waters

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