NUMBERTIME: SHAPES. Age group: 4-5. BBC2, Mondays, 9.45-10.00am.
The Numbertime series of programmes on shapes, broadcast earlier this term, has been an excellent, fast-moving mixture of animation, songs and real-life examples, designed to support primary maths. In this collection, simple shapes such as the square, circle, triangle and rectangle are introduced.
There are two episodes per programme of a story featuring the animated figure El Nombre, a Zorro-like character. He comes to the rescue of young Juan who is upset because he doesn't know what, for example, a square is, or how to draw it. El Nombre provides a definition and draws the shapes in the sand. These episodes in each programme follow exactly the same format, including virtually identical dialogue, which could get a little tedious if the programmes were used too closely together.
Other formats are used to good effect. I liked the game show in which the contestants have to "Name that Shape" and the "Come Prancing" formation dance team who illustrate (eventually) what a circle is, to the tune of "Ring a Ring of Roses". Particularly enjoyable is a non-sexist version of the story of the caveman and cavewoman who discover that their primitive car will only move with circular wheels. In this version, it is the woman who wields the club.
The presenters of the programmes avoid any temptation to talk down to their viewers, and give every appearance of enjoying the sending up of the television genres. The accompanying teacher's notes provide some good ideas for follow-up work as well as worksheets. I was slightly worried by the way in which the definitions of squares and rectangles talked about four "corners", which would also apply to parallelograms and rhombuses, and pictures of spheres when talking about circles, but these niggles aside, this is a very enjoyable set of programmes which will entertain and motivate pupils starting to explore the world of shapes.