Posts Tagged ‘maths’

Like father, like daughter


As the children grow and fill out their personalities, I find Eliza is closest to me in her motivations and preoccupations. Here are two silly examples – but telling for me.

When having a bath, Eliza lets her legs sink gradually to create two shrinking dry spots on her knee caps which, inevitably, tantalisingly, become tiny before being immersed.

In the kitchen, Eliza was trying to reach into a cupboard, but I was leaning across her destination, peering into the microwave.

“Sorry,” I explained, “I’m trying to see if my porridge can last the whole two minutes without bubbling over.”

“Oh, that’s OK” she said, stepping back and waiting, recognising that my little obsession deserved time and space.


Gabe scored 85% in the second of his three science tests this year. He was disappointed – with the result and with his position relative to friends he feels he should be out-performing. “I think I’ll have to revise more”, he conceded in a rare acknowledgement that working harder has a part to play.


Robin has struggled with arithmetic. This became plain to us with difficulties he was having learning the times tables. L and I decided we should help with extra practice at home. His teacher gave me a website address and we registered for Robin to place mental maths races against children from across the world. The game scenario backfired. Robin was keener on beating the opponent than getting a good score for himself. Despite trying to frame to activity in terms of personal best scores, Robin sought victories, or became disheartened.

We moved on to more traditional verbal tests. Robin progressed, through successful completion of tests at school, to the eight times table. For two weeks in succession at school, Robin could answer just five of the 20 questions set, with our preparation at home not counting for much at school. He seems not to have an affinity for the patterns in numbers, or a framework for retaining a sum that he’s just learnt.


Six pack

Two wet weeks of the Christmas school holiday are nearly over. We’ve been at home, had a few visitors, but mostly just the five of us.


Robin noticed on Boxing Day that all his presents were for outdoor activities. He found an indoor pursuit to specialise in during the wet days. L has a large, weighted hula-hoop as an exercise aide. The kids have played with it occasionally, but Robin has mastered it. First he managed one minute; then five minutes. He announced he would do ten minutes, which he did and kept going and going for 25 minutes. Everyone else who tries winces at the discomfort, but he’s building an abdomen of rock.


Eliza is the most comfortable of the three with indoor activities. She received Cluedo for Christmas and won her second game, taking out her closest challenger with an assassination move before coasting to victory. Eliza has also been learning card tricks. She takes equal delight in developing a patter as she does with the illusion.

Eliza’s other enthusiasm has been Tutpup, an on-line maths and spelling competition. She has worked her way up the levels, racing competitors from across the world and reached 10th place on the global leader board this afternoon.


For Gabe, the holiday means time to play FIFA. With a new TV he can do this in his bedroom. Most efforts to get the kids out of the house are met with his ill-humour as they frustrate his efforts to dedicate the holiday to PS3.

But there is another side: when we have visitors, Gabe shows charm and sociability on a level I can only aspire to. Whether children his age or younger, or adults, he talks, engages in games and continues to project to the world his mature, positive self.

Young grammarian


Two sets of results in three days, and two more comfortable passes, for Grammar South and Grammar Central, the secondary school of choice for Gabe, L and me. Gabe got the latter result well into the evening after football practice. He was delighted and ever so chirpy. All sorts of hopes and plans for the next phase of his schooling came tumbling out, suppressed up until now for fear he may not have achieved the pass mark. Understandably, he marvelled at his maths score, which, allowing for the inscrutability of the score normalisation process, looked a lot like 100%.


Eliza’s skinniness makes her look fragile, but not frail. She showed her wiry strength when arm wrestling with Gabe. She pushed his arm to the carpet with very little struggle, despite his several years and stone advantage.


Robin has been a proper member of the football club since September, playing in its under 6 squad. With that comes the right to club kit. L took him to the local sports shop to order the kit (small, small and small), which was to be presented to the squad one Saturday morning. Each night and often in the morning and during the day, Robin asked how many days it would be until he got his kit (squad number 30). Naturally cautious, I gave long lead times, but several of these came and went. Finally, on Saturday the kits were handed out. Robin changed into his immediately he got home, wore it again on Sunday, after school on Monday and tomorrow gets to wear it at football practice for the first time.