Value in thinking ahead;Primary;Reviews;Mathematics;Books

21st May 1999 at 01:00
MENTAL MATHS. Three activity books for ages 5-7, 7-9, 9-11. By David Kirkby. Channel Four Learning pound;6.95. QUICK MENTAL MATHS. Six activity books for children from six to 11 years. By William Hartley. Scholastic pound;8.99.

Woe, woe and thrice woe - national numeracy is nigh, to paraphrase Frankie Howerd. And here cometh some bright ideas for mental maths. David Kirkby's three books for Channel 4 are well designed, easy reading and easy to use.

Each contains 25 cheery activities, along with resource sheets and teachers' notes that are a model of brevity and clarity. For each pupil activity, they define the relevant skill, a means of checking understanding, retention and application and a choice of quick extension ideas.

The activities themselves focus strongly on developing a range of independent mathematical thinking processes. Some are in the form of inventively competitive or partner games. Children are encouraged to spot patterns to double and approximate numbers and measures, to count forwards, backwards - any way that works.

For Scholastic, William Hartley also plays the numbers game. His pages are packed with exercises in mental agility, with swiftly delivered hints and examples. Language levels are age-appropriate and the text challenges children to solve problems dressed up in a variety of forms and presentations.

There are no easy options - every question requires some serious thought, breeding good habits and independence from the early stages. Both series may well answer all your problems. Nay, verily.

Jon O'Connor

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