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Teaching Mathematics in Primary Schools.

Teaching Mathematics in Primary Schools

Written by Robyn Zevenbergen, Shelley Dole & Robert J. Wright Published by Allen & Unwin, 2004 ISBN 1741143586 360 pp. RRP $45.00

There are many books available in the marketplace with a title like this one; the difference, however, is that this book looks at the "whole picture" of mathematics teaching. Although the writers probably intended this as a text for pre-service teachers, I would also recommend it to practising teachers because it addresses the position of primary mathematics teaching today from the perspective of recent research findings and social change, and at the same time provides a logical model for organising mathematics content.

Mathematics is a language, a form of communication, but within it are terms that are ambiguous; the list of homonyms given on page 36 is only a short list but alerts beginning teachers (and the rest of us who may have forgotten) just how long such a list could be. It is pleasing to see that there is a whole chapter given to the difficulties that children can encounter coming to terms with the language embedded in mathematics. Another focus of this book which is very important, but often forgotten, is the way in which mathematics fits into an integrated curriculum, linking to other curriculum areas and thereby showing that "Maths is Everywhere": it does not exist in a vacuum or within the confines of a forty minute lesson.

The chapter on Planning for Teaching is particularly useful. This is an area with which many pre-service teachers struggle: there is so much to think about, so many steps to consider to ensure that lessons are interesting, inclusive, challenging and mathematically accurate. The Learning Continuum (p. 68) supported by the text in this chapter helps the reader work through a step-by-step process to ensure that "all students can engage in the teaching episode" (p. 69).

The following chapter deals with the topic of Assessment--another area that is often difficult for pre-service teachers to plan for confidently. Some have expectations which can never be fulfilled given the realities of classroom constraints (such as to interview every child in the class every day or to assess each child's piece of work within the space of one lesson). Others see that this may be the path to chaos and feel that the only way to save their sanity will be to use the equivalent of the "Friday test".

This is one of the best chapters in the book because it provides such a wealth of detail about the kinds of strategies that can be used and why they should be used. There are plenty of examples and illustrations from children's work. It is only by seeing examples of how strategies like this work, why they work, and how they can be replicated in a classroom, that inexperienced teachers will be prepared to try them, and more experienced teachers who are looking for meaningful assessment strategies will be convinced to try something different without losing purpose.

The remaining chapters each focus on a "strand" from Australian curriculum documents. Each of these provides stimulus for discussion about planning, teaching and assessing these topics and encompasses recent and relevant research findings to support the claims and strategies suggested. End of chapter review questions provide rich starting points for dialogue and the resources listed under Further Reading and References are easily accessible and relevant.

This is an outstanding book: it should be high on the list of any primary school teacher's set of references and a required text for pre-service teachers.

Kath Truran Lecturer in Mathematics Education University of South Australia
COPYRIGHT 2005 The Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2005 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Truran, Kath
Publication:Australian Primary Mathematics Classroom
Article Type:Book review
Date:Dec 22, 2005
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