Snap, crackle and pop-ups
Jonathan Cape, Random House, 20 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London SW1V 2SA A major aim for any educational material must be to capture the attention of the target audience. Another must be that the users find what they need and hence return to the material again and again. Hence, some resources fail through dull presentation, though the content be excellent, while others are snatched at as "looking interesting", only to disappoint the reader.
The Maths Pack most definitely succeeds in the first of these aims. It is extremely eye-catching and attractive, using "pop-ups", pull-out flaps, moving dials and other paper engineering to bring mathematical concepts alive.
Adult readers will move fascinated from page to page, seeing concepts presented in ways often new to them. Children will enjoy the moving parts and pictures which appear as if by magic.
However, evaluating this package for its usefulness is more problematic, as the "target audience" is by no means obvious. The text is very small, the explanations too condensed and the language too sophisticated for primary and most lower secondary pupils.
Hence, an adult reader would be needed to both simplify and expand the discussion. The concepts vary from the rule for multiplying by 10 and the mechanics of multiplication tables through to trigonometry and calculus, and therefore the pack as a whole cannot be seen as aiming at any particular ability range.
Several possible markets can be imagined, however. Parents wishing to help their children understand new areas in mathematics will find The Maths Pack useful for dipping into over the years. The text will jog their own memories and also introduce them to modern ways of introducing the concepts. They can then use the moving images to aid their explanations. Similarly, the private tutor, home tutor or other peripatetic teacher dealing with a wide range of abilities will find the pack helpful.
A greater strength of The Maths Pack will be as a revision aid for GCSE students. Revising can be a dull process, but this resource brings novelty and hence motivation, as well as perhaps helping such readers understand some of the underlying concepts of the mechanics they are trying to master.
Ironically, the feature which most attracts the reader to this resource the paper technology could also be that which eventually causes the most frustration.
In the copy sent for review, the blue filter in the coloured glasses was not quite strong enough to cut out some of the blue features in the text, the moving co-ordinates on the treasure map had been mounted the wrong way round and the moving parts for simultaneous equations did not line up easily. Hopefully, these are simple errors which can be easily rectified.
The Maths Pack is a genuine delight to browse through. It also has potential as a revision aid and as a tool for teachers dealing with small groups of pupils with wide ability ranges. The idea is ingenious and the price is extremely reasonable.