Well-forged links in an established chain
When I first reviewed material from Oxford Mathematics two years ago, I was impressed by the attractive and colourful presentation of the pupil's book. This year sees the publication of the Year 9 Link books for the scheme, and again the pupil's books are appealing in their presentation. The Year 9 Link books aim to prepare pupils for key stage 3 SATs and to begin preparation for the GCSE.
In Years 7 and 8, Oxford Mathematics materials are organised in topic booklets. The Link books in Year 9 are structured differently, with all the work for the year in one pupil book of 240 pages. The resources are grouped into three routes by difficulty: Foundation Link for levels 3 to 5; Intermediate Link for levels 5 to 7; and Higher Link for levels 6 to 8. I have only seen the Intermediate materials, but I was surprised that the intended overlap between Foundation and Intermediate was so much narrower than between Intermediate and Higher. A narrow overlap leaves little room for errors in setting to be corrected later.
Each Link book contains 15 sections, each centred on a theme or a context; most sections address a variety of content. For example, a section called "Sports Records" includes activities addressing the 24-hour clock and time intervals, ratio, rounding decimals, calculation and interpretation of the mean and range of a set of figures, drawing and interpretation of graphs and scatter plots, and the use of a computer database.
A data disk for use with this section, and for the similar one in the Foundation Link, is available for Pounds 5 to run on either RMLIBM or Archimedes computers.
At the end of each section is an "Interview", an exercise enabling pupils and teachers to review the content covered in the section. At the end of the book, 15 "Focus" pages, one for each section, offer more practice exercises for each of the sections, and could be used for revision. Answers for the "Focus" pages are included in the pupil book.
"Using and Applying maths" is addressed explicitly through three sets of "Assignments". Each Assignment is an investigation or a practical problem providing opportunities for open-ended work.
First, the ideas presented can all be found in other places; there are no new ideas here, although the starters are attractively presented.
Second, I regret that "Using and Applying maths" is separated from the main teaching sequence in a set of activities in which content does not appear to matter. This separation is apparent in many schemes, but it seems particularly acute here. More could have been done to encourage pupils to follow open-ended projects arising from themes in the main teaching sequence.
Each pupil's book is accompanied by a Teaching File, which gives the teaching and learning objectives for each section, comments on individual questions and suggestions about using the resources, generating further discussion. There is a full set of answers, and there are brief notes on each of the Assignments, commenting on just some of the possible outcomes. Photocopy masters are provided for the resources sheets and grid papers. The Teaching File is an important resource for teachers using these materials.
Teachers who have been using the Year 7 and 8 materials from Oxford Mathematics should look at the Year 9 Link books. Higher Link books are to be published in November, and Foundation Link books in December.