Channel 4's Maths Season looks likely to provide teachers with some useful and enjoyable resources to complement classwork. Maths 4 Real is aimed at 14 to 16-year-olds following GCSE or Standard Grade courses. Each of the short programmes covers one concept, such as standard form, percentages, straight line graphs and probability.
The programmes are set in real-life situations, including a chocolate factory, Blackpool Pleasure Beach and on Eurostar. The two young presenters, Katie Knapman and Ben Shepherd, have just the right mixture of informality and authority and give every impression of enjoying their investigations.
A welcome feature of each programme is a section entitled Trick or Trash, in which each presenter tackles a typical exam question based on the maths in the programme. One of the presenters, however, makes a deliberate mistake in the working and the audience decides which it is.
The real-life settings are well chosen and help to bring out the relevance of the mathematics. However, since some of the explanations are rather compressed (dealing wit powers when multiplying or dividing numbers in standard form, for example, involves some careful preparation rather than stating a rule) it would be best to use this series to consolidate a topic rather than introduce it. The programmes will later be available on two videos, and www.4learning.co.uknetnotes offers further activities and guidance on exam questions.
Star Maths, for seven to eight-year-olds, comprises 20 animated episodes, based around a space theme. Two children, Sam and Amber, discover that they need to understand maths to solve a variety of challenges. They are helped by Lisa, the space ferry pilot, Uncle Zak and a group of robots. With high-quality animation and attractive stories, this series successfully illustrates the usefulness of maths.
Poetry by Numbers is a gem for seven to 14-year-olds. Five of our best-known poets have each written 20 poems on the numbers from 1 to 100. They have been well chosen to include a range of styles.
Michael Rosen makes a wonderful appearance with a poem about the number plate of his rather ancient car. The programme is supported by a book, which provides further ideas for creative writing within a maths context. More programmes like this please!
Ian Wilson is head of Rydens School, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey