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Australian Maths Dictionary

Australian Maths Dictionary

Australian Maths Dictionary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australian Maths Dictionary

Judith de Klerk

Dorling Kindersley, 2016

128pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99

9781740333412

Maths has always been a critical subject that is embedded in every aspect of life, not just a regular timeslot in the class timetable..  It is receiving an even greater focus as the buzzword of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) sweeps across the curriculum.  Mastery of it is built on a spiral where one thing leads to another and another and another and if a basic is missed it can be difficult to fill the gap and the foundation can become shaky.

It is also, arguably, the subject that perplexes parents the most if it is sent home as a homework task because there is a perception that the way things are done now are not methods they are familiar with and the end result is frustration and a feeling of failure for both child and parent. The temptation to convince themselves they are no good at maths is so easy.

How much easier things would be if students had access to a maths dictionary in the same way they have access to a word dictionary; if they had access to a ready reference where they could look up a particular term and discover just what it is.  For example, what’s a scalene triangle and how is it different from an isosceles or equilateral one? If the problem tells the solver to ‘deduct’, what does that mean?  And what on earth is a “mixed number”?

This new publication from Dorling Kindersley is set out like a dictionary with clear definitions and diagrams and should be a must in every home and desk or tote tray.  While it doesn’t share particular processes, it does explain over 400 terms used in primary school mathematics and thus offers invaluable support to both children and parents in their quest to understand and master basic concepts, because not everything is possible on the calculator.  You need to have an idea of what you’re doing so you know the calculator is telling you the truth.  And it’s much quicker to access it than searching the Internet.

Definitely a publication to let teachers, parents and students know about.

Computer Coding Games for Kids

Computer Coding Games for Kids

Computer Coding Games for Kids

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Computer Coding Games for Kids

Jon Woodcock

Dorling Kindersley, 2016

224pp., pbk., RRP $A35.00

9781740333405

Way back when, in the dawning of the age of home computers which were huge and clumsy in comparison to today’s mini-marvels; which ran on cassette tapes; had green or amber font on a black screen and had no facility to display graphics, if you wanted to play a game you bought a book of instructions and carefully tapped the commands in, one keystroke at a time. It was the realm of the real computer nerd and if you were patient and precise, eventually you got to play the most basic of games.

Fast forward 30+ years and now our kids have computers in their pockets, on their wrists and even in their clothes.  And with the increased focus on science, technology, engineering and maths once again the red-hot buzzword in schools is ‘coding’ as students learn not to program a clumsy turtle that only went backwards, forwards and sideways, but to create and develop their own games to play, some in the hope that theirs will be even bigger than Pokémon Go!  

But no longer do they have to sit in solitary confinement painstakingly tap, tap, tapping. These days, the most commonly used development tool is Scratch™ https://scratch.mit.edu/, a free program which “helps young people learn to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively — essential skills for life in the 21st century”, and Dorling Kindersley have produced what might be the beginners’ bible in learning how to create a computer game.  Not for them the single volume, monochrome “pamphlet” that crossed your eyes just looking at it – this is a beautifully presented, full colour, step-by-step guide presented in the typical DK layout that is so user-friendly.  Beginning with an introduction that describes what makes a good game, the types of games and how coding works, it moves on to introducing Scratch, accessing it and then straight into making a basic game, eventually moving on to more and more complex tasks and challenges.    

Fifteen years ago I went to computer classes and tried very hard to make a cow jump over the moon using a program Macromedia Flash™.  Night after night it absorbed me until I gave up in defeat and despair – clearly I just didn’t have the brain for it.  So to test out Computer Coding Games for Kids I read through the introductory chapters, accessed Scratch™ and had a go at the first project – Star Hunter, “a fast-paced underwater treasure hunt.”  In just seven quick steps I had a cat that followed my mouse all around the screen and was ready to build the next part of the game. WINNER!  If I can do it, anyone can! So when the curriculum requires students to have a basic knowledge of coding, this has to be the go-to book for teachers and students.  Even the most confirmed luddite will succeed and the students will be having such fun as they read and follow instructions and learn without realising it that ‘coding’ will become a key part of the school day!   

In fact this book was going to be a donation to a school library I know but I think I will keep it because I can see hours of fun ahead for Miss 10 and Miss 5 and me on the wintery days yet to come for us and even those when it’s too hot to go outside.  Who knows, we may be the creators of the next Pokémon Go!

LEGO: Build Your Own Adventure

LEGO: Build Your Own Adventure

LEGO: Build Your Own Adventure

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LEGO: Build Your Own Adventure – City

9780241237052

LEGO: Build Your Own Adventure – Star Wars

9780241232578

Dorling Kindersley, 2016

Kit including hbk book and LEGO pieces, RRP $A39.99

An unusual review today but one deliberately chosen to alert you to a new series of books published by Dorling Kindersley and released here through Penguin.  Given the buzzword of the moment in school libraries is ‘makerspaces’ and there are constant requests to the forums I belong to for ideas about activities that can be offered, especially those which enhance the library experience as well as the design, make, appraise process, this series offers a wide-ranging solution.

While we are all familiar with the regular box of Lego bricks and paper instructions for making what’s inside (instructions which always get damaged or lost), the instructions for these creations come in a hardcover book with the LEGO pieces in a separate container which can be opened out to form the foundation of the adventures. They are enclosed in a sturdy slipcase which makes for easy storage. The box also has a pictorial list of its contents so putting them back should be easy. 

Each comes with a mini-figure and a vehicle related to the theme – City has a fireman and a firetruck while Star Wars has a rebel pilot and Y-Wing Starfighter – and the makers are encouraged to build them from the supplied bricks following the very clear, full-colour numbered instructions.  Then, within the book there are suggestions for building further adventures using their own bricks to create their own story.  Each is divided into chapters with clear pictures of the models that could be built to enhance the telling although instructions are not given because builders might not have the precise bricks used.  For example, in City which features Ed the firefighter there are clear pictures to build the fire station environment as well as suggestions for uniform lockers, a town map and a tool bench.  Each chapter then features a cityscape with a range of related suggestions for getting the imagination and creativity into top gear.

For those new to LEGO there is a pictorial ‘glossary’ identifying terminology with examples so budding builders can hunt through their existing LEGO collection to find the sorts of pieces they will need, as well as five pre-build checks which would make a handy poster to display in the makerspace.

  1. Organise your bricks into colours and types
  2. Be creative and substitute other bricks if you don’t have the exact one in the plan
  3. Research what you want to build by finding pictures on it in books or online
  4. Have fun and if something isn’t what you thought it would be, change it to something else
  5. Make a model stable to house the creations

While each of the books in the series would be perfect for an individual LEGO fan, their appeal for the library collection is that there are plenty of ideas and opportunities for groups of builders to collaborate and negotiate to build an entire scene that could then be photographed and used as an individual story stimulus, allowing each to create and achieve at their own level.

Whether your library or school has an existing LEGO collection or is just starting to acquire one, this series is an excellent starting point to giving its place in the makerspace and the curriculum focus and purpose, not just for the thinking and building processes involved but also those essential people skills of collaborating, negotiating, making suggestions tactfully, offering feedback and being a team member.   

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Home of the Cuckoo Clock

Home of the Cuckoo Clock

Home of the Cuckoo Clock

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home of the Cuckoo Clock

Robert Favretto

David Eustace

Ford Street, 2016

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.95

9781925272253 (hbk)

9781925272260 (pbk)

Deep in the Black Forest nestles the village of Schoenwald, frozen in time – but a somewhat chaotic time for there were no clocks and people did things when they felt like it (or remembered) rather than according to hands making a particular pattern on a numbered face.  One day a weary cuckoo lands in a pine tree and is dismayed to see the disorder and disarray in the village and so the next morning, and every morning after that, this natural time-keeper for Nature sang out.  What a difference this regular greeting made.  Until one night a huge storm brought the cuckoo’s pine tree crashing down and the cuckoo was blown off the mountain and way down into the valley…

Superbly illustrated in a calm palette and with intricate detail (including a hidden egg on each page)  that draw the reader into this isolated village in a beautiful part of the world, this is a perfect story for introducing children to the concept of time and the need to have some order and continuity in our lives.  Little ones will have lots of fun imagining what would happen at home or school if everyone could do what they liked when they liked and I can imagine two contrasting murals being created with each child contributing a vignette.  Having explored the world of no-time, they could then be introduced to the vocabulary of time – before, after, during, now, then, soon, morning, afternoon, evening, night, dusk, dawn, first, next, last – and the skills of sequencing.  Those wanting greater challenges could explore how and why the day is divided into the chunks it is; time zones; time pieces;  what they can achieve in a given period of time… Time is the most abstract concept to teach but it is the one that is most prevalent in our lives.  To have such a unique story and such stunning illustrations to kickstart its investigation is such a gift.

Students could also have lots of fun enacting a storm (complete with sound effects) so fierce that the cuckoo was blown away as well as predicting what will happen to the village.  How could the problem be solved? what role might Franz, the village craftsmen have in that?

The sound of the cuckoo might be unfamiliar to some so they could listen to it and discuss why it might be preferable to that of a rooster as a wake-up sound.  This could lead into an investigation of familiar bird calls or the reasons behind the ‘dawn chorus’.  This could lead into an investigation of familiar bird calls or the reasons behind the ‘dawn chorus’ as well as setting up a bird-watching station and identifying the common and seasonal birds which visit the school playground.  And of course, there is always the old favourite round, Within the Shady Thicket

Maths, science, history, music and English outcomes could all be explored in this one title.

Further teaching notes are available.

 

How to build a motorcycle: A racing adventure of mechanics, teamwork, and friendship

How to build a motorcycle: A racing adventure of mechanics, teamwork, and friendship

How to build a motorcycle: A racing adventure of mechanics, teamwork, and friendship

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to build a motorcycle: A racing adventure of mechanics, teamwork, and friendship

Saskia Lacey

Martin Sodomka

Quarto, 2016

64pp., hbk., $A19.95

9781633220577

Known as ‘The Marvelous Mouse Mechanic’ following his construction of and adventures in both a miniature plane and a miniature car, Eli is somewhat full of himself and much to the dismay of his best friends Hank Frog and Phoebe Sparrow, he is now determined to build a miniature motorbike. However, along with the talented pit crew they band together and set to work.  As they start working, they encounter many unexpected obstacles, teaching them (and the reader) about the different parts that make a motorcycle work. Through hard work and perseverance, the three friends learn about mechanics and teamwork as they work together to build a miniature motorcycle, ready for the big race.

But an accident during trials puts lives, friendships and the race on the line. Is winning everything?

This is the third in this series that weaves the building of everyday objects into a story of friendship.  Detailed illustrations explain the overall functions of the engine, clutch, brakes, distributors, as well as many other parts of the motorcycle and how they all go together to make it work demonstrating the principles of movement and motion and physics in a practical way that helps younger readers to understand them more clearly.  More for the independent, mechanically-minded reader, this series certainly has a place on the shelves of those with makerspaces or trying to encourage a greater interest in STEM.  It fits E for Engineering very well!