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?

 

Yoga is my happy place

Initially, I started going to mother and daughter yoga for the bit pertaining to the mother and daughter. It is nice to know there is a fixed time where we can relax without the usual humdrum interfering. But am beginning to also go for the yoga variable too.

I am not a naturally bendy sort of person. Touching my toes would be something of a miracle, as to date, it has never happened. I sort of kinda hang, and the tippy tips of my fingers come to about the level of my knees. On a good day. I took my daughter to yoga when she was small, as I understand the massive yoga benefits. I just never thought of it as something for me.

Yoga always seems to make me laugh. Tears streaming down my face, don’t look at anyone because it will just make it worse, face aching sort of laughter. I think that this comes from the teacher. She is utterly okay that for around half of the moves, I will have a go, but I mostly just sit on my mat, looking at my daughter, and we laugh together (she is hyper mobile, meaning every so often she needs a little rest!). In the last session, the laughter started when we were attempting a ‘laying down crow’ (even writing about this is making me laugh.. With tears too!). For anyone unfamiliar with this, it involves laying on your back holding your feet together with your hands. In essence, creating an ‘O’ with your legs which you can look through. And I did, locking eyes with my yoga teacher who was doing the same. She then made a comment about it not being very dignified, at which point my face engaged in wetness.

It also really challenges me, and I am amazing myself. When we got to regular crow (hands on floor, attempting to balance knees on elbows, with feet in the air.. much more dignified, and at least a hundred times more difficult than rolling about laughing on the afore mentioned mat), I suddenly felt really motivated. My hands really hurt as they were attempting to take the weight of mind, body and soul. But I kept trying (didn’t succeed this time around… but next time for the win!). This move involves strength, but most importantly, incredibly good balance. I was becoming sort of worried that my hands may never function in their fully working capacity again. But as I left the studio; my hands were fine. This really shocked me, as it turns out, I am stronger than I know.

As we walked back to the car, I felt really light, really clear. I didn’t feel like I could conquer the world, but I was utterly sure of my place in it. I may attempt to find a class just for me at some point, with one definite in mind. The teacher absolutely must make me laugh.

Map Point. When have I surprised myself?

Additional thank you to the teacher of epic’s epic daughter too! Every session she takes photos which are then mailed out. Being a parent of the single variety there are very few photos of me and my daughter together, so these photos are really special to me. Massive amount of gratitude to you both! xx

Badger for five points

I have this game that I play when I am on long car journeys with other people. I guess its a kind of like poker, but instead of cards, it involves animals that have met their untimely demise whilst investigating all that tarmac has to offer. Usually a more two-dimensional experience. But to break up the miles, and to alleviate the horror of so many ickle, smooshed-up fuzzies, the rules are as follows.

  • One point for unidentifiable roadkill, the completely flattened variable of animal squoosh.
  • Two points if the mess is recognisable as a bird
  • Three points for a mammal
  • Five points for a badger

The first person to reach six points is crowned the temporary winner. It is a somewhat hollow victory as I don’t think that being able to identify carcasses on the roadside is necessarily a skill that I would add to my CV, but it does serve as a temporary distraction. As a small addendum, if anything bigger than a badger is ever spotted, then its game over for that day. I once saw a horse in a lay-by. It did not make for the happy.

I am not sure why the badger became the holy grail of roadkill poker. I find badgers entirely majestic creatures. Once when travelling home late at night, one galloped (no word of a lie) across the road in front of me. I did not hit it, but I muchly enjoyed its apparent nonchalance. The badger could quite frankly have been terrified life for its life, but to my generalised perception, if I had to personify said badger, it was the king of all animal existence. It sauntered, smoked a cigarette (possibly whilst wearing a tiara) and gave me the eyeball as it crossed my path. Badgers are truly exceptional. I have also heard that hitting a badger can entirely write off a car. I would not be surprised if this were true.

I think that finding a way to come to terms with the random destruction in my environment has been really hard for me. So many things are so utterly beyond my control and that thought is almost as painful as the actuality. Sometimes I look at my friends and know that whatever words I have, however hard I listen, it just doesn’t feel like enough. Some stuff is so big. I can never truly know what anyone else is going through. And then I wondered why I felt I needed to take on the pain of others. Maybe just being present is enough.

But back to the badgers. The honey badger is my favourite animal. They can take down lions.

Map Point. What is important for me to acknowledge?

 

 

 

Letter number nine

Dear Vivienne,

It feels that I should already have written a letter to you, but I don’t think that I have. If I have already, consider this a bonus, and if I have not, then here is your letter.

A few days ago, you read my blog ‘I am single’ and sent me a message that kinda blew me away and I have not yet responded to you. Sometimes people say things to me that seem so powerful, so kind, generous and all those things that feel so humbling. There aren’t enough words to say thank you and I love you all in one. Maybe this is why people use emojis. Sometimes words seem too little.

I met you first as a student, and my overwhelming first impression was that you were shorter than me (a lot of people are), blonde and northern. Maybe this was not so much an impression, but statement of fact. We were doing the same course and although our peer groups were different, the course was sufficiently small to create overlap. Things I remember from that time include watching you contend with a fever by bundling yourself up in a huge amount of blankets and duvets and me genuinely wondering if this might, in fact, finish you off altogether. You including me in a cinema visit with your friends and then bailing, so much argh for me, but Ghost World was officially amazing, which more than made up for the fear of having to contend with people that I didn’t know too well. And drinking with you in halls on the last night of term, where I was throwing shots over my shoulder because I didn’t want to drink them, and you not noticing until the following day when you saw a big sticky mess on the floor (It was Galiano, no one should ever shot that). I should probably write a blog about being in student halls, but that might be much too incriminating.

You were also really good with my hair. You cut it, coloured it all sorts of mad colours, stripes and bands of purples and reds. You also straightened my hair for me when I was going out. You looked after me and made me pretty. After we had finished our degrees, you went back up north, but still came ‘down south’ on occasion and always found time to come and see me. Even now you have moved to the other side of the world, you still make that time (whilst accumulating much time in the sky). It means a lot to me. When you asked if my daughter would be your bridesmaid when you got married, it was endorsement of all the love I felt for you. You are amazing. You are amazing. It is definitely worthy of saying twice.

Sometimes my life is hard and I won’t always share this with others, because talking about miseries does not always serve a purpose. Some people have told me how strong I am, how resilient I must be. And I am possibly both these things. But I am also vulnerable, which doesn’t come across so readily. Your text hit my soft bit, made me feel a crumply mess of almost tears and heart singing gratitude for you being in my life.

Thank you

Love always

Sally.xx

Map Point. Who understands my vulnerabilities?

Picture note – these are Vivienne’s words, but are surely meant in a metaphorical rather than physical way! They make me smile muchly.

My little angry

This morning I was angry. Robert had double booked me with something else. It isn’t as if I have never done this. Countless times I have had to reschedule, but for some unbeknown reason, this morning I felt really angry. I felt sidelined, rejected and suddenly it was all I could think about as I was on route to meet him. Now at this stage in my anger, I am generally unable to look at the person until I have calmed down. Am really not sure why, maybe I might shout, or more likely I have to confront the feelings head on. And in absolute fairness, I would rather they just go away, just dissipate into the ether. When I saw him I told him I was angry, he accepted my angry, then after ten minutes of a hard run (we were at the gym) I felt much better and service as normal resumed. The most resounding positive that I can take from this was that my sprint at the end was a half minute longer and faster than it has been. Anger is curiously quite motivating!

Several thoughts occurred to after this experience. Firstly, Robert is one of only a very small handful of people that I can admit to being angry with. After I voiced my angry, I do feel a lot better, it is empowering. But I seldom ever do this. People have let me down in so many different ways and I instantly forgive them. At least on the surface. I make excuses for them, work out the motivations for their (appalling) behaviours, but I don’t confront. Inside I seethe and just get a little bit quieter on the outside. Generally, if someone causes me too much pain, I simply distance myself, as no one of a healthy and sane mind actively wants to cause themselves harm. But what would likely be even healthier for me? Actually resolving the issues that others create in me.

The other thing that I have learnt, quite some time ago, that I am not, in fact, the centre of the universe. As a child, everything is about us, every slight is deeply personal, every joy was sent to us gift wrapped. I know that many of the issues that make me angry have utterly nothing to do with the person creating the issues. Everyone has their own stuff. Rarely (I hope) would anyone wake up with the sole intention of causing someone else harm, but I am not naive in this either. We are all getting through as best we can, and sometimes, that does seem to involve making other peoples lives difficult. Everyone has triggers on the things that make them most angry. What will incense one person will not even be noticed by the next.

I love that I have a friendship with someone who I trust enough to share my angry. I feel good that my increasing self-confidence has allowed me to express how I feel, however dark that is. It is also good that Robert did not become defensive, instead, he listened.

And my last thoughts on this for now. Gym time is sacred Robert, mess with it not! (but if you do, we are still all good!)

Map Point. Where do I feel safe enough to express how I feel?

I am single

I have been on my own, single, without an other half for a fair while now. Years in fact. But the assumption is always that I will meet someone. Eventually. I was out recently with Robert and I bumped into someone that I had not seen for a while and her immediate presumption is that he was my boyfriend (he isn’t) but I get that. I guess if I see someone that I know is on their own and they are out with someone new, then I sometimes make that same presumption too. It is tricky.

I guess for me, the presiding issue is that I seldom, if ever, find anyone else attractive. It isn’t that I don’t admire awesome qualities in others, or appreciate the pretty (I utterly do) but I look on these qualities with the same sort of admiration that I apply to lots of things, a beautiful sunset, a Lichenstein painting, the complete Oxford Dictionaries. I love them all dearly, except I don’t want to take them home and keep them forever. Okay. I lied on the last one. I would absolutely love to own a massive set of a letter a book dictionaries. But essentially, I hope my meaning is clear. I have to have a lot of love for something to want to engage with it further.

Sometimes I do. But there feels to be a social pressure to this, until I am coupled off, I am unresolved, thus other people feel a need to see me ‘complete’. But what if I never have that sort of relationship again? Was chatting with my daughter about how she might feel if I had a relationship with someone and her resounding answer was ‘that it would be weird’. I agreed.

It isn’t that I have resolved to never fall in love and do the things of relationship. In the past, I have completed two seven-year stints at this, but I can’t judge my now against this sort of standard. What I wanted back then is not necessarily what I want now. So perhaps it would be useful to spend some time working out what I do want.

It is still the dictionaries.

Map Point. Am I still judging myself against past wants?

Permission

Over the last few days, I have been thinking about permission. What I allow myself to do, and more importantly what I don’t. Some of those things I know are based on fear, and I guess I will get to them eventually, but the ones that have no particular reason felt somehow more interesting, more important.

Buses in London. For years whenever I have travelled around London, I have done so by the tube. The Tube presents me with a wonderful map of exciting coloured lines that represent whole galaxies in my estimation (though realistically a fair few miles square). It is organised. I know that from my usual mainline station, it is four stops south on the northern line, followed by a couple of stops westbound on the circle and district that will take me to a not too shabby noodle place followed by the magnificence of Tate Modern. Has it ever occurred to me to do this journey on the bus? Not once. However, upon going to London with my Mum (who used to live and work there) I discovered she is massively bus proficient. She crosses bridges, ducks down side streets and somehow finds her way to wherever she needs. She is a bus travelling divinity. And for me, someone who doesn’t get to London very often, it is actually really nice to see some of London, the architecture is incredible, the shops, the parks. Which makes it more exciting than zooming through the blackened tunnels. But until my Mum showed me the way of London Bus, it never occurred to me they were an option.

In a practical sense, permission is easy, once someone else shows you something new, it is easier to replicate than having to forage your way alone the first time. But what about the emotional permissions that I have not allowed myself, stemming from lack of confidence and lack of self-worth? These ones feel much harder to overcome. The times I have held back, not through lack of skill, but through lack of voice or when I have felt alone and wanted to reach out to someone, but didn’t want to bother them. These are the permissions that feel like restraints, and they do not serve me.

It is really difficult sometimes to feel that I am allowed to ask for help, to feel that I am valuable, not only to others but to myself. And then I considered this. It isn’t permission I am looking for, its trust.

Map Point. Am I being honest about my motivations?

 

A little thank you

I am starting to resent being asked to survey products that I have already bought or the service received or the delivery system. It feels like I am being asked to complete a job that serves utterly no benefit to me. It doesn’t come with a money off my next purchase reward, or if it does, it then requires printing and storing in my already, failing to shut, money carrying device. And then I also have to remember that I have such money-saving piece of paper, when it expires by, and what I am allowed to use it on. In short, aftersales are getting complicated.

Generally, the only time I used to get in touch with companies (however many ‘post-sale’ emails they send asking for feedback) is when something has gone wrong. But recently I have tried to remedy this, by emailing companies when staff have been exceptional. I recently emailed ‘Lush’ about some truly glorious customer service and they responded with a thank you which was a nice acknowledgement. I then got another email asking me to rate their last email. This was a fail.

And then there is Tyrrells. For anyone unfamiliar with this brand, they sell crisps of handcookedness magnificence. However, I opened a bag of ‘mostly entirely missing’ flavour. I have eaten these crisps for many years and this had been the first time that there had ever been an anomaly, so I wrote in, feeling somewhat inspired to write in a somewhat ‘grandiose’ tone of typing. Sometimes companies are predictable when you write in, you get some formal ‘we are looking into your comments and will respond in the next seventeen minutes/four months/an ice age or two’ type malarkey. And then, sometime later, you get a neatly structured generic response which makes me wonder precisely when it was the fun drained out of the world. Or to be specific, that email. But I am digressing, back to the Tyrrells! The chap who responded to my complaint was called ‘Dave’ and he was amazing! I could instantly tell I was dealing with a human who had not lost his sense of fun (I am saying this in a voice of Rowan Atkinson’s ‘Blackadder’), and also he was clearly a man skilled in reciprocal banter! We exchanged a few mails, each one making me laugh more than the last, I enclosed photos of an avocado bagel and the three knitted prawns that live on my Christmas tree, he sent links to some of the first ever Tyrrells television adverts, and a good time was had by all.

For me, this was an utterly life-affirming moment. There are massive companies out there, and having the human component, where a genuine response can be made, felt liberating. Too often I feel assaulted by the bland, the innocuous, the forgettable. From a marketing perspective, too many brands seem to identify with this banality, everything is the same. And this feels tired. However, when I find a brand that offers a genuinely refreshing experience, it becomes a joy to engage with their products, because a human connection has been made. So thank you, Dave, you are the stuff of customer service legend!

Map Point. What brings me joy?

(Photo is of me, surrounded by my crisps and gin of choice!

Growing green things

The first plant type things that inspired me enough for ownership were cacti. I was in my early teens and I loved the strange mystery of this previously unknown plant. I had several of them. I remember one afternoon hitting upon the most marvellous idea that if I put a huge block of ice on the cacti tray then it would melt slowly providing watering for several days. By the evening (it was summer) the tray and my window ledge had flooded. I learnt how fast ice melts which was likely a useful thing to know. I discovered several years later that cacti are more likely to bloom if they are not regularly watered. So my efforts concerning their daily deluge were somewhat redundant to begin with.

The next thing that I grew was a kombucha mushroom. I was given my ‘starter’ mushroom by my reflexologist. I bought the required bowl (this was at age nineteen, this bowl lived a long and happy life until my daughter’s dad managed to drop it on the floor some twelve years later. RIP epic bowl, may you be resting in kitchen paraphernalia heaven) and all the other bits too. The first mushroom worked beautifully, and the ‘tea’ that was produced was most excellent. The second time my mushroom went mouldy. I did not pursue this a third time, as the prospect of actively growing mould in my bedroom, was not something I had any wish to repeat. (Cue the miniature drawers on my Sindy Kitchen, in which I crushed some grains and mixed them with water. I then left the moosh to grow. I was five and I can still remember the acridity of the smell now). I also grew a crystal (it was blue), potatoes at the end of the garden (those things keep coming back, year after year..) and an assortment of other plants and malarkey. It was fun.

More recently I have grown little peppers (mass bug infestation, despite the daily leaf washing.. how did my world come to this?), basil (bug infestation and leaf mould, double win! One afternoon I could take no more and chopped them all to oblivion, well not oblivion per se, more like stumps, I chopped them to stumps. Now they sit near the window, quietly judging), spider plants (things of such radiant bug and mould free existence!) and my aloe vera. The Aloe Vera is my kitchen monster. She is radiant, forthcoming when I burn myself and is my most favourite plant in my house (the basil knows this, its why it only very quietly judging). It sort of scares some of my friends, but that’s okay, Aloe doesn’t judge.

Ever since I can remember I have grown things. This often comes with contention, but this is met from a place of love and unholy stubborness to will something into existence. Watching seeds sprout, and plants grow is something quite magical. Watching mould develop is somewhat disgusting but still incredible none the less. Nothing is constant and everything is open to change.

Map Point. What inspires me to change?

 

 

 

Little tears of happy

Yesterday I took part in a mother and daughter yoga class. It was run by a woman who taught my young one ‘baby yoga’ when she was small. It felt strange to go back to something that we had not taken part in for such a long time, and also incredibly powerful, for many reasons.

When young one was small we went to lots of classes. We did baby sign language, music classes and we also went to yoga. I loved the stories that Caroline (the yoga teacher) told the children. They were magical and offered the little ones a quiet space, which is something that I think is genuinely overlooked. I think that I find it easy to forget the need for peace sometimes.

And then I think about how that is linked to my body. I know that I have time when I supposedly relax before going to sleep at night, and sometimes this happens. More often I go to bed just before exhaustion kicks in, which does not make for the sleep of angels. Or babies. Or something that is generally perceived to sleep well. Last night I slept really well. And I think that taking the time to actively relax during the day really helped with this. But back to the class. It was in the time at the end of the class after we had all laid on our mats with little lavender bags over our eyes and little blankets on our bodies to make us feel extra snuggly (lets not even go to the block to support our heads and the bolster for under our knees.. yoga folks are seriously into the comfy!), and the meditation started to play. I then had a moment of clarity. I had not felt this relaxed for such a long time, and to have had this time with my daughter, this utterly chilled time felt like a privilege. When I sat up, I was very much aware that my face was getting wet. Not the sort of tears that require contraction of facial muscles, but that sort that spill out unbidden.

In recent times this has happened to me a lot during moments of gratitude. I suddenly feel my eyes producing tears and am taking this as a good thing. I talk a good deal about feeling appreciation for the things that I have in my life and feeling this connected, makes me feel more me. But is it also an overwhelming experience that I need to learn to embrace. It makes me feel beautiful.

Map Point. What makes me beautiful?