10th February

Just caught the end of the Today program on Radio 4 this morning and they were discussing the teaching of Maths in schools and how it needed to be made more “sexy” in order to attract more pupils to take the subject – they gave an example of how Brian cox has made Physics more interesting and this has lead to an increase in pupils studying Physics. This of course wasn’t a problem for me as a child as I adored maths! the only issue I had was a mismatch in levels between where I took my O level and where I took my A level which meant I was behind not having done calculus at O level but I digress. It did make me think of two lecturers I had at University and their different teaching styles.

The first was one of the professors that the department had and he reminded me of Beaker from the Muppet show – he always wore a white lab coat and copied equations from his notes onto the blackboard. As someone pointed out at the time “If he’s a professor and he can’t remember them how does he expect us to?!” He also spoke in a dreadful monotonous voice that made thermodynamics sound like the most boring thing in the world!

The other lecturer took us for, among other things, acoustics. He was a different kettle of fish altogether! His teaching style was more laid back and would go off at a tangent to discuss related and, more often than not, non related issues – I remember him discussing how it was a complete waste of time demonstrating the quality of that new fangled compact disc on the radio and then drawing diagrams on the board to show that the CD had a much higher bandwidth than the radio broadcast! However my favourite discussion involved electricity – he pointed out that a very small current could kill you if it was passed across your chest – he reckoned 13 mA. He then pointed out that given that a standard 13A plug could kill 1000 people before it blew! There was then a pause to which he added “Of course you’d need to wire them in parallel!”

I guess that as I can remember more about what happened in the second chap’s lectures, it would appear that the more relaxed example of teaching with a free flow of ideas and deviations from the topic have allowed more to stay with me than from the formal method of teaching. And now to finish off an example from my O level maths days – this was a genuine question!

A tramp goes around collecting dog ends to make cigarettes. He needs 9 dog ends to make one cigarette. How many does he need to collect in order to be able to make 10 cigarettes?

If you answered 90 you are of course wrong! He only requires 81 as this would make 9 cigarettes and he could use the dog ends from those to make the tenth!

Probably wouldn’t be allowed today!

Finally Postkat has made it to the Uk and handed over my Meerkat toy to the Royal Mail for delivery in the next 7 days. Thank goodness for that!



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