Sunday, February 3, 2008

two plus two makes learning

The other night, as is my wont from time to time, I had a couple of jars with my friend Professor Calculus. Minima was with us, and Calculus was, as ever, impressed by her blessedly unquenchable thirst for knowledge.

Minora showed us how she had been taught to multiply, which left us both scratching our heads. It involved drawing out a grid, multiplying units, tens and hundreds separately, then adding them up. It takes much longer than doing the sum the traditional way, which was derived from the writings of the 13th century mathematical genius, Leonardo da Pisa (Fibonacci). The only good thing I can say about Minora's version is that I needed another pint after trying it.

It was an honour to be present at Minima's eureka moment as Professor Calculus explained the progression of the Fibonacci numbers, ie that each is the sum of the previous two. Soon she was working them out for herself - 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34...

We parted with Minima promising to remember the Fibonacci numbers - and she has done. she now plans to make a frieze going along the top of her wall of the Fibonacci numbers.

Although I'm not prone to extremes of emotion (they're too much work), I was left amazed at the wonders that can be wrought by letting a child discover the beautiful collusion between nature and mathematics ostensibly by herself, with a guiding hand which, using traditional pedagogical skills, will be invisible.

Instead, the British Government subscribes to the semi-psychotic target-and-tickbox mentality which derives from game theory as interpreted by some evolutionary biologists who see self-interest as the premier motivating force of individuals and individual organisations in a cock-pit of competing interests shriven of the concept of society and of the responsibilities that civilised people of whatever political outlook feel that society imputes. I know that where Dawkins and his daschunds are concerned I'm about as unbiased as Osama bin Laden watching The Waltons, I should note that the phrase "semi-psychotic" is tame beside the descriptions that sane evolutionary biologists apply to the unfettered application of game theory.

I have nothing against Minima's teachers, who I know want to explore other areas but cannot due to having to compile information that will enable commissioners to tick their boxes - which commissioners are allowed to do in any way whatsoever that will get boxes tick, and damn the poor sods on either side of the chalk-face: such is the application of games theory to politics. Teachers are a good lot labouring under a yoke from which one hopes they will soon be freed.

Education should be lifelong, and it should be fun. Following Professor Calculus's ministrations, I can't wait to help Minima make her frieze.

Related posts:
another attack on excellence
two plus two makes learning

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