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?

 

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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?