Look Inside Maths by Rosie Dickins. Illus. by Benedetta Giaufret and Enrica Rusina

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Almost 40 years ago in a school where literacy and maths classes were streamed from Kindy onwards (an argument for another day) I was assigned a maths group deemed at the lower end of the spectrum and expected to teach them in a way that had already failed them for two years, killing not only their interest in maths but their belief in their being able to master the subject. And so a new approach was needed. For the kids' sake I was prepared to wear the wrath of the PTB who were determined that the be-all and end-all was an English text book series that even to me, spoke in riddles. Having had great success with a whole-language classroom, I decided to try a whole-maths classroom and for an hour a day while they were with me, my Year 2 students were immersed in maths that related to their everyday lives so they could see that it had purpose, meaning and relevance for them. From this grew my first book, Maths About Me and later a sequel, Maths About My Year. By the end of that year my students could see why maths was important to them, how it drove so many aspects of their lives and their belief in their ability to conquer its abstraction reinstated.

So to be asked to review a book that takes a similar approach by demonstrating through bright, busy illustrations and hundreds of flaps to lift and explore, the ubiquity of maths - numbers, shapes, measurement, processes and even a challenge to put what has been learned into practice was such a treat. Even though it is in board book format, that is to ensure the durability of the lift-the-flap design and it has a place in any early childhood collection. In fact, it could be used as a model for older students who might like to create their own page of how maths is embedded in their lives.

There are those who believe that if you have a calculator you have all you need to solve maths problems (just like there are those who believe that all information is available on the internet) but it is that deep understanding of and engagement with the processes and the way they are embedded in everyday life that is the critical element of success. If we can get our youngest students appreciating this through books like these, attitudes will change and competency soar.

Themes: Mathematics.

Barbara Braxton