Wednesday 10 June 2009

cold mathematics.....

Waking up this morning, post-injection, without feeling like I'd been hit by a bus was certainly a good way to start the day. I actually woke up a little before the alarm and had surprisingly little trouble getting out of bed and performing those upper body exercises that usually guarantee that I will spend an extra five minutes in bed putting off getting up. Surely the day could only go downhill from here? It was Wednesday though, so actually my day was about to get better: Wednesday is, after all, the day when I spend the first hour of my working day reading with some seven year-old kids at a local primary school. It's a funny thing, but although I do this voluntarily and even though it gives me tremendous enjoyment and satisfaction, I still have to push through a slight feeling of inertia as I make my way past the turn-off for work and head an extra mile in the other direction to reach the school.

Why? Because the whole thing is slightly outside my comfort zone. I love to read and I would dearly love to pass some of that on to some kids who might otherwise never discover this boundless world of enjoyment and enlightenment, but I'm not really naturally comfortable around kids and would doubtless find it much easier to simply head to work, boot in my laptop, make a cup of coffee and get on with my day. But I don't, and every single hour I spend in that school seems to somehow recharge my batteries and set me up for the rest of the day, if not quite the rest of the week. It's certainly the most valuable thing that I do on company time, anyway.

Today I read with Jevon, Bethany and Dion, who were all great and have really come on in leaps and bounds over the last twelve months - not that I'd claim any credit for that. What really made my day was the ten minutes I spent at the end of the hour watching, and loosely supervising, as the whole class worked on some maths exercises. The aim of the game was to put numbers into a line: you get a line with two numbers at either end; you also get a set of other numbers. Your task is to sift through the numbers and to place them in numerical order on the line. That's reasonably straightforward if the numbers at either end of the line are 0 and 100 - you simply have to put all the numbers you have onto the line in numerical order. It becomes a somewhat harder task if the numbers on the end of the line are, say, 27 and 82, and your set of numbers includes some that are less than 27 and some that are more than 82. In that situation, your job is to sift through the numbers and place in numerical order on the line only those numbers that fall between the numbers on either end. This means that you may well have numbers left over, and the key to success is in realising this and not trying to squeeze all the numbers onto the line.

Easy, right? Well, yes.... although perhaps not quite as easy when you're seven. As you might expect, some of the kids got the general idea a lot faster than others, and some needed a bit of help, but it was fantastically rewarding simply watching the teacher going about her business patiently explaining to the class what they needed to do and then helping them as they set to work. I'm no mathematician, but I was still roped in to help half of the class as they worked, and I spent some time with a couple of the kids in particular, helping them to get their heads round the sequencing of the numbers. It only lasted ten minutes, then I had to leave to get myself into work, but it was a ten minute spell that put a definite spring in my step and saw me through the rest of my day with a smile on my face.

I don't know if I'm helping any of those kids, but they're definitely helping me.


  1. glad some things are still making you happy to get up. don't try doing that test again in two weeks - we'll all fail!! don't miss the the bus......

  2. You are definitely making a difference in their lives: an adult who cares enough about reading to come read with them? Priceless, as the ads say.

  3. This post made me wonder why schools always have people in to read with kids, but they rarely have them in to help with other subjects. Reading is certainly important, but it is odd that we don't ask math-type adults to help out with math. Hmm.

    Either way, reading or math, you are definitely making an impact!