A Conversation At Parents’ Evening

It’s now a few years ago, so I guess my son won’t mind if I disclose mathematics wasn’t the high point of his school career. To some extent this was personal taste – history and languages were more his forte – but a succession of teachers didn’t do much to light any fires.

The one occasion which needed any originality and problem-solving techniques was when he wanted to find the surface area of a hemisphere. He and his friends had decided to while away a particularly boring series of lessons by establishing the amount of material needed to make a pair of trousers for the generously portioned backside of Mrs F.

Mrs F was certainly his maths teacher I remember best. All the evidence suggested that not a spark of creativity or enquiry made even a fleeting appearance in her lessons. As Parents’ Evening approached I put a lot of thought into how I might gently and tactfully comment. “I’m afraid he doesn’t come to your lessons for intellectual stimulus”, I began.

“Oh, thank you, thank you”, she gushed, “you’re very kind”!

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4 responses

  1. Well, I had a middle school teacher who made mathematics a crushing bore, but I did come out of it all right, and with one eccentric trick I picked up that nobody else in the world uses for anything.

    1. You are going to tell us, aren’t you?

      1. Happy to! It’s this magic-square-like scheme for polynomials and I can’t say it’s really generally very good. But it’s a fun trick where it works.

  2. I’d certainly never seen this before, and I have to admit I’ve probably no intention of mastering it now. But I can see the fascination – at roughly the same age I came across a method which allowed you to show off by doing long multiplication in your head. And because it started with the most significant digits you could announce the entire number – albeit in my case as a rather slow lightning calculator.

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