#### Returning To Maths

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, 06-13-2011 at 06:03 PM (1370 Views)
It is 31 years since I failed, retook and passed my O’Level Maths as a bemused 16 year old who had little idea, beyond the narrow calculations of my experience, about the world and its machinations. I did as little Maths as possible at the time, avoiding it at home, and dreading double maths on a Thursday afternoon. As a young teen I little appreciated that it takes effort to improve in anything worthwhile.

I did get a big clue about learning in those years. A friend, who was pretty good at Maths, once told me that it was playing around with numbers. I didn’t have the mindset to see it like that. It was work and effort. I preferred reading and writing and playing with words. I focused upon writing poetry and understanding literature instead. I thought I was good at that.

It was as a trainee teacher that I first found myself coming back to Maths. It caused me a little anxiety, as, by then, I had not thought about schoolroom Maths for 10 years or so, but I found the lecturer to be an interesting bloke committed to the subject. He would regale us with stories of teaching kids called Wayne or Elvis in the North East of England, as he presented us with interesting methods and ways of thinking about and teaching the subject. It was him, as much as the Maths, that got me interested. So I did my training and tried a few things and found I enjoyed teaching Maths to the kids I taught, and then to the Adults I came across later.

I see Maths as essentially a problem of language. How do I explain, in a variety of simple ways with understandable illustrations, what is a very logical system of numbers? How do I explain the logical to the illogical – which we can all be at times. How do I create an environment of learning that will inculcate that feeling of play, alongside the importance, that my friend had indicated years ago?

Anyway, by a fluke of administrative ineptitude, or something like that, last year I found myself entered for a L3 qualification in Maths. I had an O’Level, but needed to qualify to a level above that to be able to teach it, and to put myself forward as a competent teacher of Maths in schools should my own job with the local authority go belly up.

I got the same kinds of fears – I’m rubbish at Maths, I’m not a natural mathematician etc, etc. All the old excuses came rolling back. The difference this time was that I knew it was all lies. Things might be difficult, but any average Joe, like myself, can learn things with effort. I couldn’t escape the conclusion of years of teaching reluctant children and adults that, yes, you can learn something if you put in the time and have a bit of fun.

So today I took my first Maths exam in 31 years. I did prepare, as I have a professional reputation to keep up. Of course, it wouldn’t be a real qualification without there being the strong possibility of a fail dropping onto the mat in August. Still rubbish at Maths? Possibly.