Sunday 4 October 2015

Mathematics and Children by Madeleine Goutard - Review by Caroline Ainsworth

This is a truly inspirational book whose ideas and theory I use daily in my work as a Specialist Primary maths teacher.   Reading this book transformed the way I thought about teaching maths and has resulted in a far more rewarding and creative experience for me and, I hope, for the children I teach.  I have learnt from Goutard to really listen to children and discovered that children's potential for learning in mathematics  is limitless. She reveals to the reader how children from a very young age can be introduced to the underlying structure of mathematics and its rich interrelatedness,  through simple, child-centred activities and skilled questioning. In short, she explains exactly how to bring a child to mastery of the subject.

In this book, Madeleine Goutard describes her creative, yet mathematically rigorous use of Cuisenaire rods to teach mathematics.  Reading this alongside Dr Gattegno's Numbers in Colour series, I found her descriptions of lessons invaluable for implementing the approach in my own classroom.  I learnt how mathematical signs can be introduced to very young children, giving them the tools from an early stage to express their mathematical ideas and explore mathematics at an increasingly complex level. Although still in awe of Goutard's remarkable achievements (children in her classes as young as 7 wrote with confidence and accuracy using all four operations, fractions, powers, roots and brackets,) I have watched the children I teach write their own maths ideas with increasing flexibility and a deeper understanding of  calculation than I had previously thought possible.
Goutard sees to the heart of any difficulties children may have with mathematics and shares her methods for bringing children to a clearer understanding.   I have  used her approach with many children who find maths difficult and am always struck by how quickly, even with no previous experience of using the rods,  the child gains confidence and understanding. Her descriptions of lessons reveal the curiosity and confidence of her children and their deep engagement with the subject.  We hear their thoughts and ideas and the skilful way Goutard receives and values them. 

For the teacher, Goutard provides quite simply an outstanding  role-model  for maths teaching.

This book is available to purchase from