Posts Tagged ‘mathematics’

A keen social observer

August 22, 2011

Pearl sat a competition exam for mathematics today.  She tells me it went “quite well”; it sounds like she found a few questions tricky.  That is completely fine, as I told her – it’s her first time entering this competition after all, and we’re very proud that she was even chosen by her school to enter in the first place.

She sat a similar exam for English (reading comprehension) earlier in the month, and really enjoyed it.  She was nervous beforehand, but came home exultant.  I hope her confidence is well-founded, and/or that she won’t be too disappointed when the results come out if they’re not quite what she expects.

This morning she was more nervous, and cranky with it.  She refused to get up and get dressed, then snarked at everyone when she did emerge from her room.

Fainjin, meanwhile, was in fine form.  He was eating Sultana Bran Buds, which is only relevant because it’s cereal that comes in little square “parcels”.  He held five of these up in one hand, and cheerfully said, “Here, Babess, I’ll read you a story!”

“Once upon a time there was a biiiig family and they lived in a house with a new kitchen.  One name was called Daddy [he pointed to one Bud], one name was called Mummy-Kate [another one], one name was called Big Boy Fainjin, one name was called Little Babess, and one name was called Angry Pearl.”

I wish I could have heard the rest of the story.  But I was too busy biting the inside of my cheeks, and ducking out to laugh with The Dad.  I need to build up my resistance to this sort of comedy so I can report it more accurately in future…

© UpsideBackwards 2011.

Museum fatigue

May 31, 2011

“It’s very sad,” I said to myself as I gazed wearily about a hall in the Victoria & Albert Museum, “that the human mind seems to have a finite capacity to absorb beauty in a set period of time.”

Plaster cast of Trajan's column, V&A Museum, London

We had been to the Science Museum in the morning.  We all (our friend C was with us) loved Launchpad, an interactive learning area full of very cool things to see and do.  Pearl was less impressed with the Mathematics section, despite the amazing beauty of models like this:

Uniform polyhedra at London's Science Museum

We ate at the museum’s little cafe, then went across the road to the V&A.  We just wandered, looking at all the wonderful things, and gazing open-mouthed at the enormous ceramic collection.

After a while, our brains went into overload and we just couldn’t look at wonderful things any more.  The marble floors (I think?) were making my sore leg ache, too.

So we took the tube and went to Buckingham Palace to see where the Queen lives.  She wasn’t home, so we didn’t knock on the door.  Handy, that flag system.  We collected ice-creams from a kiosk in St James’s Park, and wandered along the lake towards Horse Guards Parade.

We got there at just the right time to see the Changing of the Guard, lots of horses and shouting and Pearl was thrilled.

The Horse Guards, London

And then, worn out but still exhilarated by all we had seen, we scoured some tourist shops for obligatory postcards and SMALL! souvenirs, then took C out for dinner on The Strand.  My ambitions of a show or night-time ride on the London Eye were foiled by general exhaustion and the need to get up early in the morning to get our next plane.

© UpsideBackwards 2011.

Writing and maths

March 20, 2011

Fainjin wrote his name today!  He and Babess were playing on the whiteboard at Nana’s house, and he wrote his name in capital letters, in mirror-writing.  Until now, I’ve only seen him write single letters from it (usually the first or last letter), or trace his name when I give it to him and call it “playing schools”.  He also wrote and identified Babess’ initial (also mirror-writing).  I was so proud, and quite surprised.

Babess, not to be outdone, was “writing” on the whiteboard, and singing.  Her “letters” are all little round squiggles, although occasionally she writes an M by coincidence.  She usually names it correctly when she’s done it.  This time, as she wrote she sang the alphabet song.  Usually she sings a small stretch of it and leaves out letters.  Today she sang deliberately, and in tune, all the way up to T before a cousin interrupted her (unaware of the half-dozen adults listening intently with bated breath in the next room!).

While we were having lunch, Fainjin came up to me, holding his hands up.  “Mummy, you do one so I can do eleven?”  He was holding ten fingers up and knew he needed one more.  I started asking him simple questions – “What’s five and five?” “Ten!”  “What’s two and two?” He would put up two fingers on each hand… “Four!”

We did this for a little while, and then Auntie B asked him, “What’s twenty and twenty?”

He looked at his fingers perplexedly, wiggled them a bit, then said sadly, “I can’t do dat one.”

She helpfully offered all her fingers and toes as well as his, but he decided the task of counting them all was just too much.

© UpsideBackwards 2011.

End of term, end of year

December 18, 2010

So, that’s that then.  School year 2010 is over.

Pearl will be in Year 4 next year, “Standard 2” for old people like me who still need to translate into the old NZ school system.  I have fond memories of Std 2, I had an excellent teacher (all my primary school teachers were outstanding, I was extremely lucky) and a great group of friends.  I hope Pearl will have a year like that.

She will be in a composite Year 4/5 class, which might be good for her in terms of extension and challenge, and she’s excited about her teacher, who is known for his love of literature and writing – very good news for her.

Also good news is that one of her steadiest friends will be with her.  They weren’t together this year because M is a year ahead – but they can be together in the composite class.  M was so excited when she found out, she met me at the door to Pearl’s classroom, having rushed straight there to share the good news.  She’s a lovely little girl, I really like her, so I’m pleased for them both.

I didn’t manage to get those maths worksheets after all, so I’ll be making up my own for us to work on together in the holidays.  I think we’ll do some “basic facts” work and then some fun extension stuff, maybe clock arithmetic…  We’re going to do more Latin, too, at Pearl’s request.  Today I got some books out of the library on Rome and modern Italy for her, so she can compare and contrast.  I think she thinks people in Rome still speak Latin and wear togas.

It’s not going to be all school-work, though, fun as that might be!  Pearl has a list of films she wants to see, craft that needs doing, and biscuits to bake.  I think we’ll probably take walks along the coast and go into the city to visit the observatory/planetarium once or twice too.  (I also need to clean this house top to bottom, there is dust everywhere and I’m blaming the builders!)

That can all start in a couple of weeks.  Christmas and family come first.  Time to kick back, relax, catch up with in-laws and cousins.  There are birthdays, anniversaries, and a wedding to celebrate.

Hooray for summer!

© UpsideBackwards 2010.

Let’s work together

December 10, 2010

In a conversation with Pearl’s teacher this week, we heard that Pearl is more-or-less stuck at a level in her mathematics.  It’s an interesting conundrum, because Pearl claims that the maths is too easy and she wants harder work – but her teacher says that when she tries to give her harder work, Pearl can’t do it and gets upset.

We know that Pearl tends to be a perfectionist and is risk-averse – she would rather not answer a question than take the chance of getting it wrong.  She definitely has the brains, just not the confidence.  Learning a new skill, or taking something up a level, requires intensive effort on her part and the part of whoever is teaching/coaching her – lots of reassurance, patience, repetition and encouragement.  Sooner or later there is a “tipping point” or “a-ha!” moment, and all of a sudden it’s easy for her, she picks up confidence and we’re away laughing.

The exception seems to be languages – she says Japanese is “fun but hard” (exactly what schooling is meant to be, in my opinion – you’re learning, and enjoying it), and has begged me to re-start our Latin lessons, which have been on hold during the renovation chaos.  She really loves the work involved in learning a language, and doesn’t seem to suffer from confidence problems with them.

Back to maths.  With some advice from friends, I decided to ask the school for the “harder” worksheets and skill sets that she’s been struggling with, so I can give her the one-to-one attention she needs, at home over the holidays.  I was a bit worried, though, that she would be resistant to doing school-work over summer, or even feel like it was a punishment – certainly not my intention.  So I asked her what she thought.

Her eyes lit up, she rubbed her hands in glee,  and gasped, “That would be SO! FUN!”

I suppose it’s alright then.  Summer Maths Camp, here we come!

© UpsideBackwards 2010.



November 10, 2010

Babess found a piece of breakfast cereal on the floor this morning (as you often do, at 7am in our house).  It’s a brand that comes in the shape of a torus.  She held it up, considered it, and said, “It’s a zero”.  I was so proud!

It also occurred to me that Fainjin seems to recognise more numerals than he does letters.  I seem to remember Pearl learning her letters, and indeed reading words, much much earlier than her numerals.  Yet another reminder that they are very different people.

© UpsideBackwards 2010.

By the numbers

September 8, 2010

All three children’s ages are prime numbers at the moment.  That will change in a couple of weeks.  Next time they’re all primes, I will be too – but we’ll only be primes together for three weeks.  The Dad will not be prime at the same time.

He’s not bothered, though.  He’ll be smooth (or so he says).  3-smooth, in fact.

And next year, two of the children will be square!

Poor kids, their parents are geeks…

© UpsideBackwards 2010.

Times tables

August 15, 2010

For several years when I was growing up, we had a poster of the times tables stuck to the back of our loo door.  (For American readers: it is common in NZ houses to have separate rooms for toilet and bathroom, usually right next to each other).  I am the eldest child, so the poster stayed up for my siblings long after I had learnt the tables.  It may even have still been there when I left home.

The toilet door was considered the best place for such a learning aid – you get regular, uninterrupted* time to study, and no distractions!  Later in life I would use similar placement to help me commit to memory various snippets of information from my university studies.

And now, we have come full circle.  This afternoon, The Dad hung a poster of the times tables on the back of the toilet door.  Fainjin made a big fuss about Pearl getting a poster when he wasn’t, but we assured him that it’s for him too.  (And a big thanks to the bookshop saleswoman who kindly offered him a cardboard tube to carry instead – he wasn’t very gracious, but we were immensely grateful for the gesture).

Hmmm, I wonder whether Babess will have learned her tables by the time Pearl is ready to leave home**?

*This assumes it is not the mother of the household who is trying to study.

** A terrifying thought!  Luckily, it’s years and years and years away.

© UpsideBackwards 2010.

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