Saturday, February 07, 2009

Snowed under

By and large, son has been happy. However he was most upset after he returned from a school trip at the beginning of term. Something, someone, or both, had upset him. Something was building up and somehow it had to be vented. Mum copped it. As always.

There were moans about Maths: too slow in his normal class and too fast in his special class. He was so unhappy that a note to the school was required. Then all of a sudden, he was as happy as could be again.

But I do worry about the Maths. It's part of the National Curriculum Nurmeracy strategy that these children now learn about a dozen ways of adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing. Last week he came home with the question, "How do you divide 72 by 6 by splitting 72?"

In our time we would instantly know 72 divded by 6 is 12. Which son knows, too, of course. The exercise however was to 'split' 72 into two numbers to make it 'easier' to divide.

Thus '35 divide by 5' can be worked as '30+5 divided by 5'. 30 divided by 5 is 6. The remaining 5 divided by 5 is 1. Add 6 + 1, you get 7. So 35 divided by 5 gives you 7.


Any way, so how does one split 72 to divide into 6? He decided it would be 70/6= 11 and 4/6 (2/3). Then remainder of 2/6 = 2/6 (1/3). Total: 12. Clearly anyone who could manage the 1/3 and 2/3 do not need to split the 72 in the first place.

Then Mum had a brainwave while trying to get to sleep. Maybe they wanted the boys to split 72 into 60 + 12. Thus 60/6=10 and 12/6=2. Total: 12.

No wonder he was bored and frustrated in class. Last Thursday he had his special Maths class (which he does with the stronger 'mathematicians' from his class and the class one year up). "Guess what?" (He was all smiles.) "We started on algebra!"


He's been asking to start on algebra for a long time but got confused every time I tried to start him off. Today he knew instantly when I said if son is x years old and he was born when Mum was 39, then Mum's age (y) will always be x+39. Sorted!

There was the snow from last week. Lots of lessons learned in the snow.

Physics: why do we need to press the snow down to make a snowball? What does the snowball make a sound when you roll it?

Maths/Physics: how does the size of the snowball vary with the distance it can be thrown (and the force needed to throw it)? What is the optimum size for a snowball if it is to be thrown?

Philosophy: "You call this work? I call this fun!" OK, so "why do prisons NOT work?". Prisoners have too much fun.

Cognitive anthropology: "This is powder snow." "This is wet snow." Why do you think Eskimos have different terms for different kinds of snow? (Why does London Underground only have the "wrong kind of snow"???)

PE: Hitting snowballs with rackets. Watching them disintegrate, or not. Rolling on the snow. Fun.

The afternoon was spent doing 'Business Studies' ... playing Monopoly with Dad who spent many hours on the Tube and had to turn back because the trains were not going any where near his place of work.

Music exams: too much. He has been entered for Clarinet Grade 2, Music Theory Grade 3, Piano Grade 4.

I am furious about the Piano as I'm now told that if he does not do it in March, the syllabus changes and he would have to learn three new pieces. I had told the teacher not to start him on exams till he has had a term of rest playing fun music. He insisted on starting him on the old syllabus. Why?

Thankfully son is game to do Grade 4. Dad has now given him a new incentive.

We started him on theory, thinking that it would help him enjoy his music a bit more. To an extent this is true, but the exercises are tedious. Again I was not keen for him to do exams. Again the teacher said he could do it.

On top of this, son has been given the part of 'Mr Fox' (Fantastic Mr Fox, Roald Dahl) in their class drama. He has lots of lines to learn.

But of course he comes up with something like, "I like the pressure." O, well, we'll see.