Thursday, 31 March 2011


There's a certain look in my son's eye that he gets when he is upset with me but doesn't like to say so. Coupled with his exaggerated sniping at a no-more-than-usually annoying sister, I was pretty sure this indicated that something was up. He told me how hard everything was and how he was looking forward to next week, when his school-teacher-dad will be on holiday, and not having to do any work. I refrained from telling him that he didn't know he was born and that children who went to school worked much longer hours and then came home and worked some more (somehow, that never helps!) and inquired further as to what was up. Maths, it transpired, was up. We are preparing for the Junior Maths Challenge in May and, after he told me yesterday that working through past papers was going fine, I had told him to carry on. Apparently it was not going fine: he was stuck and couldn't do any more. Pausing only for a brief lecture on my inability to read minds, I told him I'd sit down and we'd do some together. We sorted out a few simple misunderstandings and careless errors and soon moved on to some simple geometry. This, I decided, was a good moment to introduce Pythagoras' Theorem. Serendipity indeed that my middle son was at that moment working on perimeters and needed to work out the length of triangle sides. So, I set them to drawing right-angle triangles, measuring, squaring, adding and square-rooting. Suddenly there was energy, enthusiasm and helpful brotherly explanations of what a square-root actually is. Triangles were drawn and tables completed. I suggested that, when they had done a few each, I had an extra idea for what they could do. "Oh, goody!" exclaimed my eldest. Was this the same child who had been telling me how much he disliked maths? That's what I love about how we do things. The opportunity for an individual approach, the opportunity to find out and sort out what's wrong and the learning that just happens when it all seems like fun.

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