Primary Mathematics: Extending Knowledge in Practice (Achieving QTS)

Author(s) Alice Hansen
Publisher Learning Matters Ltd
Published 2008
Pages 133
Price £15.00
ISBN 9781844450541
Reviewed by Ms Jennifer Balanck
Canterbury Christ Church University
Review published 12 December 2008

I read this book from the perspective of one of my trainee teachers; if I had concerns about my ability to teach different aspects of Mathematics effectively, or, if I wanted to improve my pedagogical knowledge on a certain topic or issue, would this book help me? The unequivocal answer to this question is yes. I found this book easy to read and navigate, full of practical examples allowing the reader to holistically make connections between the advice given and the practical effect in their classroom, and brief, concise and non-patronising.

This book is divided into chapters that correspond to different strands of the Primary Framework. There are lots of helpful referrals that would allow the busy new teacher to access the relevant sections of the book quickly should they need specific advice on a topic, and frequent references to relevant educational literature and journals which can be used as further reading or to help the new teacher.

Chapter 1, Using and Applying Mathematics, examines the idea that the strand has been ‘difficult to plan for and implement’ (p. 5) and gives five different examples of activities that could be easily adapted; the ‘full time scores’ (p.11) case study could be taught across years and abilities and the ‘extending subject knowledge’ paragraph following the activity will be helpful in enabling the non-specialist to reflect on the wider benefits children will gain from regularly taking part in such activities. The use of spreadsheets and other ICT packages, the use of ‘real-life’ data and the value of responding to impromptu class questions by developing an activity to engage the class, is also very effectively highlighted in the ‘speeding cars’ case study (p.15).

Chapter 2 explores counting, and links the theory of ‘how children count’ (p.19) with case studies, and challenges the non-specialist to consider their subject knowledge by the ‘challenge cards’ (p.27); teachers are encouraged to deconstruct the thought processes their pupils will need to go through to solve each challenge and how this enhances learning. Chapter 3 will successfully remind many teachers of the number facts, their place within the National Curriculum and the wider importance of number facts in developing children secure in their mathematics. The final 3 chapters covering Calculation, Shape, and Handling Data proceed in the same way; the excellent case studies and reflection on these should enable any non-specialist teacher to feel confident that they have an excellent ‘toolbox’ to help them adapt and create activities to promote wider and deeper mathematical learning.

I enjoyed reading this book. I engaged with the author and found the case studies realistic and reassuring. I felt empowered to try out techniques suggested with groups of students and I felt if a reader wanted a deeper understanding of the issues involved or the theory behind any of the suggestions they would know exactly where to turn. Buying and reading this book would be an excellent use of a busy teacher’s very precious time.