21st September 2001 at 01:00
SMP Interact for GCSE Pathfinder Edition Books F1, H1, I1. Cambridge University Press pound;1 each until October 31

SMP Interact Pupil Practice Books C1, S1, T1. Cambridge University Press C1, S1 pound;1.95 each, T1 pound;1.75

SMP Interact Pupil Books C1, S1, T1. Cambridge University Press C1, S1 pound;6.95 each, T1 pound;5.95

SMP Interact Teacher's Guide C1, S1, T1. Cambridge University Press pound;9.95 each.

SMP has been reinventing itself. Key stage 3 pupils used to work individually through vast numbers of booklets. Much of the material was excellent, but overall the package was less than the sum of its parts. However, these new KS3 books continue the fresh starts made with books 1 and N.

SMP assumes whole-class interactive teaching. In an era when texts seem to be thrown together at a moment's notice, it is reassuring that these books have been developed through several years of trialling.

Teachers getting to grips with the Framework for Teaching Mathematics in Years 7, 8 and 9 need activities more than texts. The Framework and curriculum are encouraging the integration of "Using and Applying" as a part of everyday teaching. These books excel with activities and games that can lead to reflection, discussion and active learning - and they work.

After books 1 and N, the scheme splits three ways depending on ability. Books C1, S1 and T1 complete Year 7 and moving into Year 8. The teacher's guides remain a vital resource, and a practice book is useful for homework.

The scheme, however, has blind spots. The authors do not seem comfortable with what is being achieved in primary schools. The teacher's guide for the most able strand uses the word "extend" to describe an activity comparing fractions, which pupils will have met in Year 6. If schools are to raise standards they will need to think carefully how many of each tier to buy. The middle tier is quite relaxed in its pace. The message is to work from the Framework and use the material as appropriate.

The GCSE books are currently in trial editions and therefore cheap. Differentiated into schemes for Higher, Intermediate and Foundation, only the first half of the Year 10 is so far published. The books take the new GCSE orders fully into account and the website provides tables showing cross-referencing for modular GCSEs. A practice book for homework is provided. Schools concerned about the new coursework requirements will find SMP's experience in practical statistics reassuring.

Robert Barbour is county mathematics inspector for Worcestershire and is hon secretary of the Mathematical Association.

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