Educational Waywardness

I think that there is a sort of expectation that everyone has some misdeeds or the like from their past. Stories of amusement, foolhardiness and sometimes outright stupidity. I have some of these types of stories, I guess its a way of acknowledging how far we have come when we look back. Only my whole life has been peppered with these tales, so for me, they act as punctuation, rather than backstory. Sometimes I speak to people who don’t seem to have any of these stories. Part of me wonders why they never pushed boundaries and remained so level-headed throughout, and part of me admires that. They clearly never needed to see where their limits were, they already knew. However, it is much less exciting in terms of storytelling!

After writing my letter to Vivienne, I thought a lot about my time spent in education. Many memories immediately came to mind, most of which involved alcohol. I remember when I was Greenwich University, between the Friday morning lecture and seminar, me and a friend could get to the nearest pub (The Bird’s Nest – I can’t remember the name of the friend but the pub name sings out in my mind!), consume one drink, two games of pool and three songs on the jukebox before having to head back. I was kinda decent at pool back then, sadly not so much now. That was also when everyone could still smoke in pubs (and pretty much everywhere else) and most people seemed to take full advantage of this, myself included. I remember a magical evening spent on a field trip in the New Forrest where another friend pointed out the names of the constellations in the sky (whilst walking home from the pub, I had discovered something known only as ‘White Lightning’, I was eighteen, and this is my only excuse), opening up a literal whole new world and on yet another field trip to a marine research center on the island of Millport (everyone should utterly go there.. I cycled around the whole island in under an hour) I paddled in the sea (post-pub once more) opposite some sort of nuclear plant. This was also the same trip where my friend’s boyfriend danced around in my nightie. Some memories may never leave me.

My mid-twenties university experience had much fewer field trips. In fact, it contained no residential trips whatsoever. Which is disappointing, on so many levels. If anyone ever reading this is in a position to write a university course, put in some field trips, they always make for epic memories. But this time around I did live in student accommodation, which did make for its own level of excitement. I have watched people surf staircases using their duvets as boards, been offered a bite of someone’s banana (utterly no euphemism) as they wandered into my room when I was mid-essay writing, listened to radio shows with a friend into the small hours and another friend wandering into my room in the morning to find him curled up on the end of my bed like a puppy (perhaps I should have locked my door more often). And Vivienne coming home from a night out to find the remainder of her housemates far more inebriated than she was, and mostly lying under the table in the kitchen.

I could go on, and likely will at some point; these stories never cease to make me smile. The memories made under intense situations seem more poignant and I regret none of them. Whilst in conversation recently it occurred to me how as a parent and tutor, I give advice to those in my care, but there is a tendency to whitewash where it has come from. And perhaps this is an oversight, pretending to be perfect serves no one. And I retract my first statement, I think that we all have mad stories.

Map Point. Where am I pretending?

 

My favourite maths games

I sometimes work as a tutor. So I guess that this post is a sort of a start of a manifesto for how I feel about education, and where I feel I fit in. And also and introduction to my favourite (two) maths games!

In my (most humble) estimation, schools seem to be playing a really slow game of catch up. The skills they are offering young people are not necessarily the skills that are wanted by the current job market. My other issue is that with school’s under increasing demands to meet government criteria and standards, there seems to be a tendency for the grades becoming apparently more important than the children being taught. This isn’t to say that there aren’t amazing people in education, going above, beyond and then more above and then more beyond for their vocation, but the external pressures are ever increasingly there. And this does have a knock on effect.

I have taught many different young people over the years, some with many additional needs and others who appear naturally gifted. And what many of them fear to do? Ask their teachers questions. Many do not want to appear stupid, or simply don’t have the confidence to speak up. As an adult, if ever I do not understand something, I make a point of asking. Sometimes this has led to somewhat awkward situations, where the person saying something, cannot explain what they have said. Then we all feel at a bit of a loss. But mostly this has been all good. I have learnt something. Working on a one to one allows young people a voice to ask, and hopefully, this skill will transfer.

But anyways, my favourite maths games! Logic underpins so much of maths, and possibly more than that. If I can learn to think rationally, learn to take small steps and see them as part of the bigger picture, then when I am presented with something that looks complicated and initially unfathomable, I can break it down. This is what the first game is about.

Chocolate Fix is about my most favourite game ever. Only I really dislike the name, as to me, they look like little cakes. So ‘Cake Fix’ is about my most favourite game ever. It involves placing the ‘little cakes’ in a grid using a series of visual clues. It starts out easy, lulling you into a false sense of security. The first time I played, I made a cup of tea, sat down and zipped through the first ten to fifteen of these little puzzles without a care in the world. Then it got a little trickier. Soon the kettle was boiling for a third time and the cake was no longer innocent.. it was there to be defeated! To be tamed, to be harnessed! I don’t think I have ever got through all of the forty puzzles.. but one day.. at some point in the future, victory will be mine!! (said in a very dramatic voice, whilst shaking my hand with menace at the ceiling) (I don’t think that the ceiling was overly impressed). This game teaches both logic and spatial awareness.

The second game is amazing for increasing speed with number bonds, and also a great way to show some competitive spirit! It is me versus the box!!

Shut the Box isn’t about my most favourite game, it is my most favourite game. It is brutal. It involves a box, with the numbers from two to twelve displayed at the top, into which you happily throw two dice, in an attempt to put down all the numbers. You then add up the dice and put down the corresponding amount at the top, in either one or two numbers. So if you roll a six and a three, you add them up to make nine, you can then put down a five and a four. Which makes it sound really complicated. It really isn’t. It is harsh, and although there is strategy involved based on probability, you have to be really lucky to shut the actual box. I have seen many children’s phenomenal victory dances upon completion of this epic feat. More scarily, many children have seen my victory dance too. And I am generally somewhat more excitable than the children. Hours has this game taken from me, I will celebrate every victory with zest!

Map Point. When have I felt afraid to ask?