Sums to do in the head;Reviews;Mathematics;Cross Phase

13th March 1998 at 00:00
MENTAL MATHS 1-5. Mental Maths Notes andAnswers 1-5. J G Saunders Revised by Peter Gash Evaluation pack pound;40. Nelson. ESSENTIAL MENTAL MATHS PRACTICE TESTS. Graham Newman. Resource book pound;24.95. Two audio-cassettes and booklet pound;14.99 + VAT Nelson.

The five books in the Mental Maths series, for seven to 12-year-olds, are revisions of a series first published in 1980. Each pupil page has a specific focus, for example, halves and quarters, the 24-hour clock and so on. Each book also includes speed and revision tests of assorted problems.

The pages are clearly set out and the coverage is comprehensive, but some children may find the layout dull and dated. The teacher's booklets adequately explain the focus for each pupil's page and give some teaching hints, but a great opportunity has been missed. Each pupil page could have been "led into" by a whole-class teacher-directed oral activity in which strategies could be taught, practised and discussed. Nevertheless, these materials will be a useful resource.

Essential Mental Maths Practice Tests provides 200 tests covering levels 2 to 8 of the national curriculum so that "children can practise the techniques needed for national assessments at the ages of 11 and 14". The teacher reads aloud the time problems and pupils record their answers on grids similar to those used in national tests. There are 40 tests in each section; section A has 40 tests for children working at levels 23.

While there is some value in allowing children to have advance practice of national test formats, why are 40 tests needed? Might some teachers be tempted to do one a week, which could be considered an "overdose". I prefer the alternative resource of the audio-cassette. Each of the two tapes has four timed tests similar to the national versions for KS2 and KS3. The quality of the tape is excellent and seems to provide adequate practice to complement the growing bank of QCA tapes of previous tests.

Anne Woodman is a primary mathematics consultant

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