My son came home from school today and as usual I asked him how his day was…what did you do? Did you have fun ? Expecting the usual lacklustre response of “yeah it was good…” you can imagine my surprise when, with gusto, he replied “well today in maths I used rounding, doubling, subtracting, multiplying and previous knowledge all in one sum!”

Not only was I surprised that he said more than four words but the vocabulary he used was fab!

During our following discussion Zinedine told me how he “solved the sum” His sum that he was so proud of was 29-15…

“First I thought that I could round the 29 to 30 because that is easier to take away from and then I noticed that 2 times 15 is 30 and by the way mum that’s the same doubled so that’s how I used doubling AND multiplying. So then I halved the 30 that I had from adding the one which left me 15 and I just had to take the 1 away that I added to the 29 and the answer was 14 …”

Now to me that was a pretty round about way to work that sum out but he clearly used what he knew about fundamental mathematics in order for him to get the answer. The fact that he was so excited about using all his Knowledge was really, as a parent, lovely to see. It also served as an eye opener to how children apply their understanding of fundamental mathematical concepts, sometimes several at once, in order to solve problems.

It should be noted that this discussion took place in the car on the way to exchange his age 13 school trousers that were too small (Zinedine is 9 years old, he is a big lad!) and he was not impressed at having to use the little daylight left to *go shopping. * I told him we would be 45 minutes maximum. Zinedine looked at the car clock, in 24 hour format at 15:56, and counted out on his fingers 13, 14 , 15. He deduced that it was 3: 56 and that if we were only going to be 45 minutes that he would indeed still have some time left to play before dark. I took this moment to ask him if he would prefer it if the clock only had up to 10 and each hour was 100 minutes. The discussion went a bit like this:

ME: so if each hour had 100minute instead of 60 half an hour would be what ?

Zinedine: 50 minutes

ME: Yeah so what would you prefer then ? 100 minutes in an hour or the normal one that we use now 60 minutes?

Zinedine: I kinda like the 100 one better.

At this point I thought yeah he likes it because its easier to work with, My adult brain likes this too. However when asked why he liked it , this was his response:

“when you tell me I can get another half an hour on the computer it means I get nearly an hour”

I am now totally unsure if he now thinks that we are going to have a different time system in our house or whether he just doesn’t understand the whole concept. Either way I have a feeling that we may well be revisiting time in the future. No pun intended!

Looking at time it became quite clear that it is really quite a difficult concept to grasp with several base systems at play all at once. Namely 12, 24 and 60.

This realisation for me has partly come through talking and listening to my own children and the inputs on base systems delivered by Mathew the enthusiastic lecturer!

Never before had it occurred to me that time was anything other than just that …time. I had no prior knowledge of base systems and to be perfectly honest had no idea what one was.

Maths is complex and we sometimes forget that as adults we expect too much of the children. Without being taught a basic understanding of concepts then the actual “doing” of the maths is without depth, without meaning and ultimately without fun. It becomes, a chore, a grind which could quite easily turn into a loathing which I believe is what has happened to me. The school system I had growing up mainly consisted of rote learning and was a far cry from the more holistic approach that we have now.

Zinedine has a wonderful NQT teaching him this year who really has her finger on the ball ! Little does she know though that through her teaching him and igniting this fire she has unintentionally educated me and lit a fire for me too!