Reviewed by John Dabell
Rising Stars Mathematics is a wide-ranging teaching and learning series for the entire primary school. Containing all the gubbins you need for the new maths curriculum, it adapts the best teaching and learning strategies and approaches from the UK, Shanghai and Singapore to help children develop maths mastery.
Great textbooks need to speak to children, engage them, motivate and teach them – and these do exactly that. There’s a sizeable full-colour book for each year group, and every chapter features child characters who introduce and discuss common misconceptions – pitching their ideas, which in turn snowball into further thinking and discussion.
This gives the books a friendly feel, while also offering rich opportunities for mathematical talk and learning conversations. Each concept chapter includes a boxout stating which resources you will need, followed by clear and accessible explanations with accompanying practice sections and ‘think boxes’.
There are handy Teacher’s Guide notes and pointers tucked away unobtrusively at the bottom of the pages, while the practice activities progress from ‘bare practice’ to ‘practice in context’ and finally ‘open-ended investigations’. Each unit in the textbooks contains some fun conceptual games, a review section with ‘Did you know?’ snippets and a glossary. Take a look for yourself by downloading a four-page sample from the link above.
These textbooks are, in essence, teaching books for both pupils and teacher. Adding further help the are write-in practice books that provide carefully structured activities for all the concepts covered, and offer plenty of consolidation for developing and embedding understanding. You also get 84 expansion activities presented as homework sheets.
Rising Stars has plenty more to offer than just textbooks, however. The Teacher’s Guides are strong, well-written resources that offer rigorous support. You won’t find any scripted lesson planning (which can be easily over-relied upon and can suck all the creativity out of a lesson), but you will find some magnificent guidance and a comprehensive structure, underpinned by a concrete-pictorial-abstract approach to learning.
The Teacher’s Guides are presented in the form of unit-by-unit double-page spreads, which go into the fine detail you need to confidently deliver the programme. That includes covering prior learning; making connections; things to talk and think about; ideas for engaging and exploring; and checking understanding.
These prefix the books’ ‘concept pages’, which focus more on background knowledge, modelling and teaching, practice, follow-up ideas and answers. It’s all here, and masterfully written with an expert eye – right down to the planning grids and steps for learning.
Digital resources form a key component of the Rising Stars package. These include digital versions of the Teacher’s Guides and textbooks, enhanced with some delightful animations to help bring concepts to life. There’s also the bountiful Teacher Toolkit, which is ideal for modelling concepts on the whiteboard and features an excellent collection of CPD videos for you to sample, as well as glossaries and links to research papers.
Rising Stars Mathematics provides coherence, presenting work in a connected and consistent manner via a logical step-by-step approach. It provides ample support for progressing pupils’ technical fluency and conceptual understanding, with lots of opportunities for intelligent practice.
VERDICT: The art of maths
Rising Stars Mathematics is a resource that ticks all the right boxes and will get people talking. A complete school package will cost £2,000, which I think represents excellent value for such a fully kitted-out, creative and skilled programme, written with careful consideration as to how children learn maths.