Are the Times Tables Turning?

Non-blog life (otherwise known as life) has eased up enough to get back to posting, and there’s quite a backlog of topical, “must do today” posts, plus a requested TNDOT. Usually, if I don’t get to a topical post quickly then I just drop the idea. Some recent media stuff has sufficiently annoyed me, however, that I’ll pretend it’s all still topical and I’ll post anyway.

First, another quick word about Tony Gardiner, who unexpectedly died last month. Tony’s death has affected me deeply, particularly given that I never met him, modulo attending a memorable lecture, and given that it was for only a couple years that we conversed, by email and through this blog. But I had begun to realise, and more so with his death, how much Tony had been guiding me, by explicit, admirably blunt, advice, and much more by example. I realised that I had started to compose blog posts with a “What would Tony think?” voice in my head. And Tony’s example is unparalleled. The amount that Tony contributed to mathematics education, for decades, is simply phenomenal, much of it dirt cheap or free. Tony had a missionary dedication to the mathematics education community, and he had a wisdom about mathematics education second to none. I know how fortunate I am to have Tony’s voice in my head. It will always be there.

Continue reading “Are the Times Tables Turning?”

Maths Anxiety Is Still Not a Thing

I’m late to this. Things have been busy, and not good. Still, the work goes on and this has to be done.

Last week, The Centre For Independent Studies came out with yet another “Analysis Paper”: Facing Up to Maths Anxiety. The paper is by “eminent professor David C Geary” and was launched with the standard fanfare, including a Canberra Times op ed by Geary and a companion ABC article by CIS’s Lead Education Pontificator, Glenn Fahey. Continue reading “Maths Anxiety Is Still Not a Thing”

The Game of 24

As a traditional Chinese parent, my girlfriend1 Ying is concerned with our daughters’ arithmetic skills.2 To this end, Ying has played a game with them from an early age and still plays it with them: the game is called 24. The rules of 24 are simple: deal four cards, and then use all four cards and any basic arithmetic operations (and brackets) to make a total of 24. Given the four cards above, for example, we could get to 24 by

(3 x 6) + 10 – 4

For clarity, suits do not matter, only the four basic operations are permitted, each card must be used exactly once, aces count as 1, and jacks, queens and kings count as 11, 12 and 13, respectively (or can simply not be used for younger players).3 Of course some card combinations are very easy and can be solved in multiple ways, but others are much more difficult. Some combinations are impossible. A great challenge, courtesy of Tony Gardiner, appears below. Continue reading “The Game of 24”

The Devolution of Games

I’m not sure if this is really a thing, but I’ve run into it a number of times and it feels like a thing. In recent years I’ve come across again long-familiar games only to find that there has been instituted some change, a serious simplification of some rule or the introduction of some perverting element. Readers can make of it what they will, but here are four games from my childhood and their subsequent alterations. Continue reading “The Devolution of Games”