Working hard for my living

I include this anecdote from last Friday’s lesson to illustrate what (satisfactory) education looks like today in an FE college. I am teaching a class of students whose grades indicate that they should not yet retake GCSE maths but certainly ought to be increasing their numerical skills.

For this kind of learner we offer Functional Maths. Not only is this to become a pre-requisite to the real GCSE for future students but it takes a look at how maths actually works in real life. You know, the kind of maths you have actually done at work, rather than Pythagoras, Trig and Lowest Common Multiples.

It boils down to being able to think for yourself and solve problems imaginatively.

(Something my class have not been showing a great deal of acumen in.)

However, I was pleasantly surprised when a student reached the bottom of a page of questions on Friday morning. Not only had it been worthwhile preparing more work, but it turned out he had reached a question about making a graph of the days of the week the members of the class had been born on. (I didn’t write the question).

I don’t know about you, but this kind of thing is not easy for a person to remember, especially if you are the kind of person who has trouble dividing six in half. I had a vague memory that I was born on a Saturday – not that I remember the day itself – I think my mum mentioned it once or twice. Saturday’s child works hard for her living.

What really pleased me was that the class realised that the mobile phones they had been using as calculators (i.e. real life problem solving) could be used to bring up a calendar with the month of their birth on it. One lad asked his friend what day of the week 13th June 1992 was on and was told it was a Wednesday. Full of woe, he came straight back with ‘what time?’


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