Strategies for encouragement
Nelson has recently launched its new key stage 3 secondary maths scheme with the publication of Nelson Secondary Maths Book 1. Books 2 and 3, scheduled for later this year, and a further Extension Book will complete the course. Does it provide anything new? Well that, of course, depends on what you compare it to, but its many positive features make it worthy of serious scrutiny.
One of the important principles on which the scheme is based is the crucial role of the teacher in developing concepts with children. Guidance on objectives, practical resources and commentaries on some of the activities are provided in the Teachers' Book. This also helpfully references teaching materials from a range of other sources including Tarquin and Dime. It also suggests where various computer programs may support the work.
The Teachers' Books are likely to prove a major strength of the series. But while the authors go a long way towards acknowledging the many challenges in teaching the national curriculum, they are only partially successful in helping teachers meet them.
Unlike several recent schemes, the structure of Nelson Maths is simple: one textbook for each year is intended to serve the needs of "the majority" of students. While the model is seductively easy to understand, Book 1 is weak on helping teachers identify and address the very varied needs in a typical Year 7 class. Similarly, some of the regular assignments helpfully address the process skills of Ma1. But clear guidance on how each of the strands is progressively developed is missing.
I welcome the fact that, unusually, the book makes a serious attempt to meet the national curriculum requirement that pupils' own calculating strategies be encouraged, recognised and built on. However, research indicates that this is a much more sophisticated and protracted process for many youngsters than is reflected in the single chapter on this issue, "Four Rules of Number".
The Students' Book is likely to appeal to pupils. It is clearly laid out and attractively illustrated with a wealth of full-colour illustrations. Margins contain reminders, helpful notes and highlighted Key Facts.
The Teachers' Book also has an extensive range of copiable worksheets and recording grids which are linked to the students' chapters as well as material to support assessment, including aural and mental tests.
No textbooks are going to provide a complete course in mathematics, but if subsequent volumes match the standard of the first books, then the Nelson Maths series could provide secondary departments with a useful basis from which to develop a key stage 3 scheme of work.
Linton Waters is inspector for mathematics for Shropshire