Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Everyday brings new challenge

A few weeks ago Dig casually wanders through the kitchen on his way to Bangalore and he says to Squirrel, Hey cute little kid, what is 6x7?

Squirrel narrows her eyes, peers down her nose, then tosses her head and shrugs off something like D'you think I care?

Dig, whose experience in these matters stopped when he emerged blinking into the sunlight from a public boarding school some forty years ago, stops breathing or moving.

I'm guessing, what with the need for the defibrillator again, that Squirrel's response has not quite reflected the studious attitude he'd hoped he would see from a trainee gentlewoman. He probably would like to see her embroidering 6x7 onto a sampler, but Dig, I gently remind him, you married Grit, that beat-up idle working class hippie on the lookout for a good time and this, one of your spontaneous daughters, is the result. Get used to it.

But he can't. Later, he quietly collars Squirrel and quizzes her on all the other times tables, possibly including the 2x ones, but I'm admitting to nothing.

After about five minutes of this fruitless line of questioning, Squirrel slides off to stuff Arseface up a tree and Dig turns to me like I might have something to do with this maths education. I deny that completely. I say he has a physics A level, therefore he is Einstein's separated family. It's his job.

In fact, you are looking at a woman that at age 8 had a length of chalk thrown at her head by Mrs Smitty because she did not understand the 1x table. 1x anything? It just makes no sense! No sense! How you can you times anything by one when it's only one? One of something is what it is! I'm already on the brink of existential angst, just thinking about it, so traumatic is the thing that is the 1x table.

Dig, who says that little girls in today's world should know a thing or two about 6x7 says that Something Must Happen.

Which explains why today we take delivery of a package of CGP Maths books.

Taking delivery of that package not only shows how completely opposite are Grit and Dig when it comes to most things in life, that package immediately plunges me into home ed schizophrenia.

One half of me is mortified.

The horrified inadequate battered half of me throws myself on the ground, rends my clothes, tears out my hair and generally disgorges a lot of bottled up selfhatredbitterfrustration over 6x7, maths in general, and Mrs Smitty in particular.

When I have done with this side of things, the other, rational, resourceful, clear-thinking Super ego part of me will stand over the snivelling frog Id and wag a finger in the air.

Because of course being crap at maths myself is no reason not to show a positive attitude to it for the little grits. Although I hated this subject at school and have the chalk dents to prove it, remember that home ed means a learning adventure for us all, so we can all expect to follow the remarkable cooperative journey that is 6x7.

Well, Dig is out the country soon, lecturing everyone on how more commas are used than ever, so I doubt the CGP books will be studied for some months yet.

And Grit will thrash around between her Id and Super ego for some weeks to come, and probably, alongside Squirrel, come up with an answer somewhere in between.

And I hope it's 42.


Firebird said...

42 ... and off we fly on a wonderful tangent via Hickhikers Guide and Last Chance to See and aren't Sea Turtles amazing and you've definitely lost Shark.

I love HE!

Michelle said...

C binned the CGP books. She has an eclectic maths resource collection but cgp is the only one she hated si much she said she was never ever going to do it.

"Using maths" series / stile / nezert are her current favourite choices.

Helen Armfield said...

Noooo not the CGP...

DD1 (she-who-loves-worksbooks-but-still-throws-CGP-ones-accross-the-room-in-annoyance) used the Nezert books to death. Bog basic maths but can be taken or left as desired. Cheaper and from a fellow HE'er as well.

Mind you - car maths is possibly the way to go... thus far they've all developed some nice maths skills and haven't quite realised it yet. No doubt yours are much the same.

Or there is always the study of economics (also known as 'how far can I stretch pocket money' or 'hmmm how much can I spin the allowed £2.50 into a drink *and* cake in starbucks and argue for a bit more to get there by putting in a good case for familial inflation'....

sharon said...

My younger son has an 'A' pass in Maths in the Western Australian 'A'level equivalent and he still doesn't know his tables. Refused to learn them at primary school as he could add them up in his head! Talk about making life difficult for yourself. Tables are boring but they really are a useful tool when the batteries die in your calculator.

Maths workbooks do not sound like you at all. I think Dig should be responsible for this part of the gritlets education. They can study it during the odd few days/weeks he is home from foreign parts.

kellyi said...

WE've got the CGP books and although I can't claim they love them (they don't love any workbooks) we do the odd page a week and it's fine.

They are happy enough with them. The books are simple to understand and we don't get too stressed as there are normally only three or four questions on a page.

At least I can shove the books in front of the EWO if they ever come knocking.

Maire said...

Don't know my table myself, never dreamt of expecting my schooled kids to know them, but one has A level maths. Still doesn't know his table. I know a few number facts that I extrapolate from, and I am actually quicker than average at most mental maths. However a table loving friend did beat me to the answer to a problem by a definitely measurable number of nanoseconds. That is the only time I can remember when my method has been a disadvantage.

Lots more to maths than that, most of it more interesting, some people just don't do rote learning.

Love your puzzlement Grit, you are so right and I bet you had your teacher totally confused.

Gong to search for those nezert books now.

Grit said...

all these comments are so fantastic and supportive people, thank you. i shall tell Dig that it is no shame not to have read Hamlet either.

Jax said...

don't know CGP but we're wandering through Singapore maths here, and it doesn't seem to cause too much anguish. In fact Small really enjoys it and Big doesn't actively hate it.

mamacrow said...

no idea what CGP is but, being somewhat loose and easy when it comes to maths workbooks, frequently cruise the cutprice offereings in supermarkets and rather like the DK Carol Voderman ones. They have lots of shiny gold star stickers for a start.

Oh, and maybe find a dvd of that BBC2/OU programme, The Story of Maths, presented by Marcus du Sautoy. We were REVITED to it, even watching the hour long episodes in one go rather than in bite size chunks, because they were just so good.

Also worth reading - A Mathematician’s Lament by Paul Lockhart, available in pdf here - http://www.maa.org/devlin/LockhartsLament.pdf

he's american so talking about the american school system really, but it's still VERY apt, and worth a look.

Merry said...

We've followed a fairly different path here; i was so petrified of maths that i decided we'd throw ourselves into it formally from fairly early on - and we did and i have no idea about the kids, but certainly i am much better at maths than i used to be.

We love Galore Park books - the maths in particular is excellent; friendly, explanatory, informative, with some good extra bits. And can be done quite randomly, so we tend to pick chapters that come up in our life and explore the topic.

CGP has its place for some things but i never found the maths any cop at all.

Grit said...

thank you for all these brilliant suggestions here, folks. now we will creep around gathering ideas and new resources and be all inspired!

these boots said...

We have this scheme:

But haven't started it yet. The course material is for downloading and then you buy various books to refer to from Amazon. She does a list somewhere so you don't have to go mad buying ALL the books, just the ones that are used most often. Basically it's about learning about maths through learning about its place in history. And doing lots of practical stuff through stories and following the examples of the great mathematical discoveries.

For the times tables thing we have cuisinaire rods, cos the girls love fiddling with them.

That Marcus Thingy dvd looks fab - thanks.