Winning numbers

26th May 1995 at 01:00
OXFORD MATHEMATICS. Course directors Peter McGuire and Ken Smith. Approval Packs Pounds 20 each. Year 7 Stage I. - O 19 914513 X. Year 7 Stage 2. - O 19 914514 8. Year 7 Stage 3. - O 19 914515 6. Year 8 Stage 4. - O 19 914516 4

Stage 3 Teaching Files Pounds 10 each.Taking Measures (N3T) - O 19 914427 3; (low attainers N3ST) - O 19 914439 7. Balancing Acts (A3T)- O 19 914430 3; (A3ST) - O 19 914442 7. American Adventure (S3T) - O 19 914433; (S3ST) - O 19 914445 1. Euro Focus (D3T) - O 19 914436 2; (D3ST)- O 19 914448 6. Oxford University Press

Oxford's lively approach to Year 7 successfully mixes work and play, says Peter Wilder. When Oxford Mathematics was launched last spring I was impressed by its exciting presentation. Since then I have spoken to teachers who are using the scheme with Year 7 classes, and they have all been very enthusiastic. In the latest materials for Year 7 and for the first term of Year 8, the standard of presentation continues to be excellent, but that is not all. Mathematical ideas are placed in contexts likely to be familiar and interesting to the students. Frequent use is made of photo-stories with speech bubbles, in the style of teenage magazines. Discussion between pupils is expected, and it will probably be unavoidable with material as stimulating as this.

Students use calculators where appropriate, except in a few specified activities to be carried out without calculators. Using and applying maths is integrated into the student books, and the Teaching Files give helpful suggestions about opportunities to develop these skills.

In each of Years 7 and 8 there are three of each of the course books: Shape and Space, Number, Algebra, and Data-Handling. Each course book has a corresponding shorter book for lower attainers. Shorter books focus on the same areas as course books, using the same contexts, but the content is restricted, the language is more accessible, and explanations have been simplified. In theory it is possible to match the resources to the needs of individual students by using a combination of shorter books and course books. This seems a good idea, but teachers may need help at first to do this.

Each book contains core activities for all students, as well as development activities, which individual students do at the discretion of the teacher. Development activities are of four types: extension for the most able, additional tasks for the faster worker, consolidation, and optional activities.

There are invitations to work in pairs or in groups, and to use various resources. Some books include a long task to be carried out over a sustained period; this may be optional, and may require research outside the classroom. Long tasks offer teachers an opportunity to assess using and applying maths, and descriptors for this are provided in the Teaching Files.

Each book concludes with an "afterbook interview", which may be used as an informal assessment, or to allow students to reflect on their learning. Effective classroom management of such a varied set of resources requires careful planning and active involvement from the teacher. The scheme provides teacher support in several ways. Most important are the loose-leaf, ring-bound Teaching Files for each course book and shorter book which provide detailed objectives, comprehensive teaching notes and guidance for the management of the scheme, as well as national curriculum cross-referencing and answers.

There are photocopiable resource sheets and condensed answer sheets for students to correct their own work. The Teaching Files suggest whole class activities and games which could enrich the lessons.

The course directors have kept their promise to support teachers in implementing the changes required by the latest revisions to the national curriculum. Teaching Files from Stage 3 onwards contain references to the new Order, and revised Teaching Files for Stages I and 2 will be available in September. Teachers in Scotland, where the national curriculum Orders do not apply, will be interested to know that work is currently in progress to develop Teaching Files referenced to the 5-14 Curriculum Guidelines for Scotland.

Vertex, a short newsletter for users of Oxford Mathematics, is produced twice each year. As well as providing news of developments, it gives advice on the co-ordination and management of the material, and ideas for extension activities from teachers.

In an excellent extension to an activity on three dimensional shapes, for example, Year 7 students were encouraged to design a mug for their worst enemy! Designs included an inverted pyramid which fell over if you put it down. Classroom ideas such as this demonstrate enthusiasm and vitality among the teachers involved in developing the scheme.

Reviewing the scheme last year, I was concerned to find no reference to the use of computers. I am glad to find now that half the data handling book for Stage 4 (at the start of Year 8) is devoted to an introduction to databases. An essential data disk is published to accompany this book, and is available in RMLIBM, Apple or Archimedes versions.

I hope there will be further encouragement for teachers to develop the use of computer software to support their teaching in later material. In particular, more suggestions are needed in the Teaching Files about ways in which activities can be extended using computers where the facilities are available.

Oxford Mathematics is an exciting development. If you are looking for a new secondary mathematics scheme, it deserves your consideration.

Peter Wilder is senior lecturer in mathematics education at De Montfort University, Bedford

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