Revisions and revelations
David Monks looks at the new Nuffield GCSE maths and finds some fresh answers to curriculum requirements.
The Dearing Review has left mathematics departments with some important decisions to make about selecting new materials. Do we wait for established pre-national curriculum schemes to upgrade? Do we adopt a totally new publication? Or do we mix the old with the new? The new Nuffield National Curriculum Mathematics must be seriously considered by anyone looking for a new scheme or planning to update their existing resources.
Each book is devoted to one of three attainment targets: Number and algebra, Shape, space and measure, and Handling data. Using and applying mathematics is integrated throughout.
Stage 1 works towards level 4, Stage 2 towards level 5, and so on. Stage 5 works towards levels 8, 9 and 10. Number and Algebra 1, Shape space and measure 1 and Handling Data 1 are the three books for Stage 1. Books are divided into units, the components of which are the level descriptions of the new national curriculum.
There is an assessment and resource pack for each book which contains teaching advice, details of national curriculum mapping, revision sheets, extension sheets and answers to all problems set in the book. There is also an assessment section containing diagnostic and open-ended questions and activities. Materials in the pack can be photocopied where indicated in the guide.
The books are bright and cheerful, not too long, contain colour photographs and look interesting. The diagrams in Shape, space and measures 1 are all in colour. A topic such as congruence in 3D virtually jumps off the page, making it easy to see how the shape is behaving. We may all have lots of cubes for pupils to experience the real shape, but back-up like this is very encouraging. Parliamentary polygons enhance the next book. How many are there in the roof of the Central Lobby at Westminster?
Use of computer packages for working spreadsheets and databases is presented in a way that can be easily applied to any commercial package. The language is informal and not intimidating for the computer phobic.
A supportive assessment and resource pack is published for Number and Algebra 1. It includes useful worksheets and other supplementary materials such as revision sheets and extension materials. Answers are provided on A4 loose leaf pages ensuring maximum flexibility of use.
The assessment section contains a good balance of diagnostic and open-ended activities. The discussion of diagnostic questions is supported by Assessment of Performance Unit research, which shows, for example, that interpretations using simple scales on graphs were made without a full understanding of what was exactly happening. This, it is suggested, can be remedied by giving pupils more sophisticated graphical forms. Not an earth-shattering revelation, but a useful justification for the type of activity chosen here.
There are questions for use at key stages 3 and 4 and activities accompanied by national curriculum details and level indicators appropriate for each task. Every book in the scheme is backed up by an individual assessment and resource pack.
Familiar tasks such as Number chains and Handshakes are used, but the supporting materials should encourage more successful teaching and learning experiences for many. Investigative tasks are an integral part of the teaching and learning in every book.
This is a detailed and supportive course both for teachers and for pupils, but it does present problems of delivery and timing. The fact that each book contains one attainment target restricts the possibility of delivering the four ATs on a regular basis. Textbooks which target one level, but contain work from the whole curriculum, may be at an advantage here. Issues of cost and resource management also have to be considered, but it is worth taking a close look at this course.
David Monks is Head of Mathematics at Hampstead School, North London