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Trunk to tail on the pattern trail

NES ARNOLD LINKING ELEPHANTS Set of 80 - Pounds 19.95. Set of 160 - Pounds 38.95. Workcards - Pounds 19.95. Stamps Set - Pounds 8.95

CLIXI LEARNING ABOUT 2-D AND 3-D SHAPES Activity Cards - Pounds 19.95

CLIXI SHAPE AND SPACE Activity mats - Pounds 19.95


MULTILINK FRACTIONS CARDS Ages 5-8 or 7-11 - Pounds 18.95 Age range 4 - 11

Shirley Clarke finds out how the latest multi-activity, 2-D and 3-D resource materials for infant and primary pupils shape up

Linking Elephants look as if they might take the infant classroom by storm. Made of the same durable solid plastic as the LDA's Compare Bears, they are sold in four colours and follow the same principles: families of different sized elephants (Daddy, Mummy and Baby) which are weight related (two small equal one medium, etc).

The big difference, however, is that the elephants link - trunk to tail - thereby increasing the possibilities for pattern, perimeter and measuring. It also means that sets of elephants can be linked and kept together, whereas unlinked animals may become detached from the set.

The elephants can also be used for counting, matching, addition and subtraction and place value. The teacher's notes provide simple, easy to follow, structured and investigative ideas, and the three elephant stamps make recording a manageable possibility.

To supplement the elephants, the activity cards (A3 mats) would be a worthwhile purchase. The set consists of 24 coloured and laminated mats, using pictures of "actual size" elephants, which encourage children to get the most out of the resource. Examples of the tasks are a variety of copying and continuing elephant patterns, sorting activities, measuring things, (along paths and round ponds, for example), and some interesting tracks which children can use to devise their own games and rules. The Linking Elephants resources are delightful and likely to be popular with young children as well as their teachers.

The new Clixi Shape and Space Activity Mats are a welcome addition to the Clixi construction materials. They are intended for five to seven-year-olds, but I think they would be well used in junior schools. Clixi is a set of shapes in four colours which can be clicked together to create 3-D shapes or 2-D tessellations. The 24 mats are A4 laminated, full colour and are set out so that the children can follow the instructions easily, with "actual size" Clixi used.

There are pictures of 3-D shapes which the child has to copy and construct; the beginnings of tessellating patterns which have to be completed to make a "mat"; pictures of 2-D nets which the child is invited to construct then see which 3-D shapes it will fold to make. Other activities involve giving children an outline of a polygon or a skeleton of a 3-D shape and asking them to find the Clixi pieces which click together to make the shape.

The mats would be excellent starting points for investigations, as many of the activities lend themselves to the child finding different ways of achieving the same thing, or exploring their own ideas.

The Clixi Learning about 2-D and 3-D Shapes Activity Cards are intended for 7 to 11-year-olds, and consist of 36 A4 full colour activities. These are very worthwhile, combining specific shape construction activities, and some algebraic patterns with investigative points. I was pleased to see a number of "information cards" with pictures and named 2-D and 3-D shapes, both standard and unusual.

Some particularly attractive activities involve investigating different triangular prismspyramids, etc, which can be made using Clixi shapes; clicking four equilateral triangles or pairs of triangles, etc, together to investigate the different shapes which can be made; and using Clixi hexagons and triangles to make tessellating patterns.

Working with either the Clixi mats or cards would give children more understanding about shape and space, and keep them more occupied and motivated than any worksheet or pupil book page, where materials are often underused and children have to answer too many comprehension questions. Clixi ensures that children are, first and foremost, making and talking about shapes.

The updated Multilink Handbook consists of a comprehensive set of activities for Multilink cubes. Although practically all the maths national curriculum is covered in the book, I think the cubes are best used for shape and space, repeating patterns, algebraic patterns and combination problems. The book, therefore, would be useful for the areas where Multilink is the best possible resource. There are, for example, some excellent activities where children build shapes and count faces and edges, where reflections of shapes are investigated and where different sized cubes are made and explored.

The new Multilink Fraction Cards offer a practical solution to a difficult aspect of maths. Children copy and make a shape which has a particular fraction in one colour Multilink, then make another of their own. This approach has several variations, such as being given a picture of, say, one third of a 3-D shape then having to complete the shape by building the other two thirds.

I have some reservations about the 3-D activities, because children might have to be reminded that the fraction is the focus rather than the construction of the shape. Once the 3-D shape is built, it is hard to see all the cubes used, which makes the fraction unclear. However, anything is better than facing fractions as endless paper and pencil activities.

Shirley Clarke is Inset co-ordinator for assessment at the Institute of Education, University of London

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