Set an example to follow;Review;Mathematics;Secondary

13th March 1998 at 00:00
HIGHER MATHS FOR GCSE. Brian SpeedCollins pound;12.50. NEW ESSENTIAL MATHS FOR GCSE. David Kent et alHeinemann pound;13.99.

OXFORD MATHS: Intermediate GCSE. Edited by Peter McGuire and Ken Smith. Oxford University Press. pound;8.50.

IGCSE Maths. Ric Pimentel and Terry Wall. John Murray. pound;13.99.

Changes in the GCSE syllabuses have meant that every publisher has had to bring out new or revamped textbooks. Here are some of the latest examples, with a few differences in approach.

Higher Maths for GCSE is disappointing. It seems to work on the assumption that able students will be more tolerant of a dull layout enlivened only by a rare diagram. It covers the content fairly comprehensively, but there are some odd gaps. Why, when discussing simultaneous equations, is there no mention of a graphical approach until 11 chapters later? My students liked the suggestions for coursework which appear at the end of each chapter, and the summaries of what knowledge is needed to gain particular grades at GCSE, but otherwise were unimpressed.

The Heinemann and Oxford books, each designed to cover the intermediate level syllabus, were better received. Oxford has gone for a full colour layout while Heinemann makes clever use of shading in its black and white volume. This is particularly so in the worked exam questions which have advice and warnings shown alongside, linked to the relevant section of the working out.

At the end of each chapter, a "test yourself" feature refers students to the sections they need to revise if they have problems. However, since the answer is given immediately below each question, the temptation to cheat or to assume that their knowledge is complete will be too great for many students.

Oxford removes this temptation by putting the answers to the pre-tests and post-tests in the traditional place - at the back. I know, students can turn to it very easily, but if you're alert you can spot them doing it, can't you?

A lot of thought has gone into the layout of this book. For example, key definitions are in red in the margin, linked to the word in the main text. Skills breaks provide a mass of information on, for example, Eurotunnel. Students have then to decide which techniques to use to answer the questions on the data. A "word-finder" at the front of the book allows you to find where a concept is first introduced. Whether it is used as the final part of a key stage 4 course or as a revision guide, this book is well worth considering.

The Cambridge IGCSE is the course followed by many overseas schools and colleges, and Ric Pimentel and Terry Wall presumably hope to capture the market for a single-volume coursebook. The authors have aimed at students likely to get grades between D and A*. Because of this wide range, they have deliberately left out instructional material, assuming that the teacher will be working through examples on the board.

The book is therefore a collection of worked examples and exercises; it lacks even a sample examination paper. With the exception of the SI units and some "modern" topics, this book resembles those Durell textbooks we dragged ourselves through in the Fifties and Sixties. I am sure some overseas teachers will find a use for this book, but my sympathies are with the students who have to work through it.

Ian Wilson is head of Woodcote High School, Coulsdon, Surrey

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