Fainjin has the start-of-year blues. “School’s so *boring*!” he complained. “Everything’s *boring*!”

“What exactly is boring about it?” I asked.

“Everything!”

“It can’t all be boring. Is lunchtime boring? Playtime?”

“No…” he admitted reluctantly. “Maths is boring. It’s not even proper maths!”

Ah. This takes me back. When I was at primary school, it was the fashion to teach everything in terms of set theory (at least, that’s how I remember it). At the start of every year we would go over the definition of a set, the members of a set, the empty set, union, intersection, cardinality and so on. It was interesting the first time. Every first day of school after that I would stomp into the house and my mother would ask, “How was school?” and I would snarl back, “We did sets. AGAIN.”

“What’s proper maths, then?”

“Like, plus and equals and stuff! Take aways!” the poor boy was pining for sums.

“And what are you doing instead?”

“I don’t even know.” So I took a look at his maths book and discovered they’re doing statistics. How many siblings each classmate has, people’s favourite animals, favourite sports and so on – things that can be counted and expressed in bar graphs. It *is* maths, and it’s also really good for the kids (and teacher) to get to know each other, since they’ve come from several different Year 2 classes last year.

I had a word to the teacher and he promised to help Fainjin find something “proper” to do too. Meanwhile, I’ve been bribing him to school with the promise of extra addition and subtraction worksheets to do at home or at lunchtime.

Rather like I used to bribe his sister with grammar worksheets!

*© UpsideBackwards 2014.*