# Slice #25: Sin/Tan= Cos Y?

My daughter came home the other night and groaned about her impending Maths test the following day. I asked her what she was studying and she replied with “sin, cos and tan” quickly followed by “why do we even need to learn it? I mean, when am I ever going to use this?’ I admit, the teacher in me automatically stepped in to formulate a ‘because you just do/because it is in the curriculum’ type response but then the realist in me took over and, after pondering for a few minutes, replied ‘actually, I don’t know.’

I too studied sin, cos and tan in high school. (I remember it distinctly because it was the 1 maths topic in which my twin sister was better than me.) Truth be told,  I still cannot actually name 1 situation since high school that has required me to use any of the functions. I remember my teacher saying at the time that he had used it the weekend before he taught us about it when creating a pergola at his house. (Great that he could give it a practical example but really, as a female I can’t say I was immediately convinced of the importance/relevance of it me and my future).

Discussing the work that my daughter had done in maths while learning about this topic I was astonished to discover that the historic method of every 2nd question down the left hand side is STILL being employed to teach Maths concepts (that arguably shouldn’t be taught anyway). With all of the advances in technology (including the ability to share research and best practice) I was surprised to find this method still being employed. This prompted me to wonder -Have I missed some mind blowing research sprouting this effectiveness of this model of teaching maths? I digress.

I have spent a bit of time since the sin,cos tan question from my daughter wondering about our high school maths curriculum today and I am left with a few questions…

• Is this style of teaching prevalent across other schools/states/countries?
• Should we be moving our Maths teaching to a ‘just in time’ model rather than the ‘just in case’ one that I believe we have now? Is this even possible? What would it look like?
• What are the must have Maths skills for students leaving high school? What makes these skills must have?
• What research is there on the effectiveness of problem based learning in a secondary Maths classroom? (Surely, this is a more effective method of teaching than a focus on repetition and drills of abstract concepts?)
• What Maths does the average person use most in real life after high school? Is there any room in the curriculum for real life Maths applications such as the credit cards maths, life budgeting maths etc?
• What role can streaming play in ensuring the curriculum is relevant for the students? When should this streaming start? Who should decide on the stream a student follows?
I will commit myself to paying more attention to Numeracy from now on, in search of answers to my wonderings. Until then, I have introduced my daughter to the wonders of Wolfram Alpha and the Khan Academy.

# Slice of life #17: Let the games begin!

Let the games begin!

One simple rule got me started: “You must read the book before you watch ANY movie.” This was not new news to my 15 year old daughter.

3 weeks later I find myself struggling to stay alert at my keyboard after a 2:30am finish. Yes, I am both proud and embarrassed to say that I lined up with hundreds of annoyingly excited teenagers to watch the midnight premiere of the Hunger Games.

I wasn’t even sure what the book was about myself. I purchased it for my daughter and then couldn’t help but have a quick read of the first few pages to get a gauge for what it was about. About an hour later my husband came looking for me wondering what I was doing. Little did he know I was caught up in the excitement of a book where the protagonist could have easily have been me. In fact Katniss Everdeen and I share many similar characteristics and I was desperate to read on to find out what I, I mean she, was capable of achieving.

As I looked around the theatre last night I saw many other females who probably saw themselves as Katniss Everdeen- fiercely independent, highly skilled and intelligent and someone who could outwit and outplay others. It is this ability to include the reader in the life of the protagonist that is the sign of a great writer. (A craft clearly demonstrated in Harry Potter and Twilight). I wonder if males associate with Gale or Peter as females do with Katniss? (They certainly were outweighed at the screening last night.)

Overall, I didn’t think the movie was too bad (I am a staunch movie-after-book hater) although I am not sure I am fully qualified to comment on it as I really was struggling to stay awake in the latter part of the movie (not because it was boring, more because I am boring!)

As a book I loved it but, as I found out while on my recent camping trip, I have found it hard to talk to others about my enjoyment. This is something that has never happened to me before. I have found it akin to saying I thought a funeral was really good. ‘(Is that right to say that about something that involves death?’ I often wonder). I have found it hard to explain this book to people who have not heard anything about it- ‘it’s about some kids that have to fight until only 1 of them is left’- what a morbid idea an outsider must think! I don’t think I have quite been able to convey the incredibly talented way in which the author has dealt with the death and killing in a completely new and novel way. I wonder what the publishers first thought when the idea was proposed! I think this book is really one of those books that you really have to read to appreciate, understand and judge.

As for my daughter- she enjoyed the movie too. It is not any wonder that she is still in bed as I type this though as she had to read almost ¾ of the book in one day yesterday in order to attend the premiere last night- what a tough Literacy loving mum I am  :)

# Slice of Life #10: Camping

We’ve just had the luxury of a long weekend here in Vistoria, Australia. A luxury only afforded to a few times a year. This year I decided to introduce my 5 yr old nephew to the wonderful word of camping. He was most excited to be going on his first camping trip ever. Being as articulate as he is the trip provided him with many opportunities to announce many other ‘firsts’ along the way- his first sleep in a tent, his first night bush walk, his first campfire, his first time using ‘bush’ toilets, his first sausage eaten on a camping trip etc etc.

On the way there he asked me what camping was all about and I thought long and hard about my answer. I pondered the answer to this question as I sat around the campfire recollecting stories of past camping trips with our friends. It seems funny to think about it now but for me, that is exactly what camping is all about! Talking about past trips while poking the fire with your carefully selected stick. It is about bushwalks in the night with torches being shined in other people’s faces, it is about sharing meals without the buzz of the TV in the background and about meeting new people at the camping ground.

The thing I love most about camping is the fire. I love to play with the flames on the end of a strong stick (not to be confused of course with the long skinny stick reserved for marshmallow cooking). I believe camping is a time for everyone to let out their inner pyromaniac in a social acceptable way. As the responsible aunty that I am, I am pleased to have passed my pyro skills on to my beautiful nephew- and what a great student he was And so the tradition of camping shall continue in our family…

# Slice of Life #5: The ‘keeping things interesting’ list.

I came across a blog post (thanks to Twitter) the other day that caught my eye. It was an ‘un-boring’ list. The general idea was that the author created a random list of things she wanted to achieve by the end of the year in order to mke her life less boring. This list caught my fancy and I decided to develop one of my own. I have decided to change the name though as I think the ‘un-boring’ list implies that my life is already boring and I am trying to fix it. (Something I think does not accurately reflect me). So here it is, the first draft of my ‘keeping things interesting’ list (or my KTI List). I think the next thing I will do is to talk about this idea with my husband to see if we can revise the list to make it something we can both achieve.

1. Watch a live basketball game ( I have never seen one)
2. Participate in a bookclub
3. Go on a cruise
4. Volunteer for something I have never done before
5. Visit one of the ‘big’ things in Australia
6. Attend a photography lesson
7. Play a sport I have never played
8. TBA
9. TBA
10. TBA

What would be on your list? Have you got an suggestions for mine?

# Slice of Life #4: Goodbye to Summer

Today’s slice of life is a goodbye to summer. All those hot, sunny days appear to have been quickly shoved to the side by dark clouds and icy wind. How can things change so quickly?

Summer is opening the fridge to shelves full of juicy watermelon, oranges and grapes.

Summer is the juicer being worked overtime.

And ice! Summer if full of cold refreshing ice!

Summer is licking icy-poles for morning, lunch and afternoon tea.

It is accusations about who didn’t fill the water jug or the ice tray last.

Summer is not knowing what to eat because you would rather drink thirst quenching water allllllll day long.

We are only 6 days past the end of summer but as I sit here in my long pants and jumper it seems like a distant memory. Having said that, the one thing I am looking forward to is scarf wearing season- oh how I love to wear warm security-blanket-like scarves!

# A Slice of Life #2 – Tea on the road

On a recent school visit we stopped for lunch in a small town cafe. We had obviously, and thankfully, just missed the lunchtime rush. We were like Goldilocks, checking a number of tables for comfort before settling on one out of the draft of the artic blast from the air conditioner. The entire time we were followed by a tireless waitress, disinfectant in hand, wiping every table that we showed any inclination to sit down at. She reminded me of a hawker in a busy market trying to sell her wares.

What made this quick bite of lunch more memorable than most was the elaborate pot of tea. Picture this if you can. A white tray that in a previous life had been a large serving platter. White ceramic teapot sitting on a paper doily weraing a hot pink, knitted tea cosy, crowned by not a traditional pom-pom but an elegant knitted rose.

A china tea cup patterned with forget-me-nots. Steam rising from the scalding tea – job well done tea cosy. On one side sits the strainer with the forlorn looking tea leaves that were forbidden to enter the cup. On the other side a small dish containing lemon and honey for those with a sweet tooth.

What more could you ask for?