Mathematics--it either terrifies you or makes you ecstatic. You either like it or hate it. Somehow with Math, there are usually no middle paths.
Many people even fear it and I know some of my friends who still get nightmares about themselves being in the examination hall and not knowing a thing on the Math paper, even twenty years after they have left school! Such is the impact of the subject.
I like Math. But the last Math exam I gave was ages and ages back. I got a chance to relive that vicariously as my son has his Math papers tomorrow and day-after tomorrow at a National level examination. He too likes Math and so we have fun revising together and going over the concepts together.
What I really like about the U.K is their approach to education. In India, the Math teachers usually never make it fun. Also the schools really do not encourage any fun activities connected to Math. Here they have so many activities to make it interesting and now with the reach and penetration if Internet and Multimedia, the way they do it terrific. (If you have a child in the school going age you may find this site useful) Look at this activity for instance on Mental Math, which is from the BBC site.
What fun! They have activities like these for every topic at my son's level. For Median,Mode,Averages, Decimals, Percentages, Fractions, Probability, Co-ordinates,Data-interpretation (yeah they do all this at his level. He is 11)--you name it, there is a fun activity, revision bite and a quiz which you can do.
I am giving you a question from a previous year's question paper, that we had fun solving today. In case you don't get the answer (I am quite sure you will--but sometimes it just doesn't strike you) I shall give it to you as an addendum, after hearing what everyone has to say.
Here is the question:
The numbers in this sequence increase by 7 each time.
The sequence continues in the same way.
Will the number 777 be in the sequence? Explain how you know.
Please remember that you are NOT allowed to use equations to explain it, as they have not yet been taught any kind of equations at their level. So you cannot use terms like n, or x etc--as the children will not understand it. How will you explain your answer?
I will update this post tomorrow, giving you the names of two people who explain it best.[Remember I am looking for the best explanations that I think would appeal to a child of that age. So keep your explanations simple and clear. No point copying. Be original and as creative as you can,but relevant too :-) *Don't I sound like a real Judge in a TV contest? Have laid the parameters based on which I will pick the best two* :-)]
Let's see how good a Math teacher you will make!
Update as promised:
Oh My God! What an overwhelming response! And what wonderful explanations. It was really hard to pick whose explanation was the best. So I did a smart thing and delegated the task to one of my closest friends (who arrived from India today with her two children--she will spend a week with me) and to my husband. Both of them sat and read through all the responses. Then they came up with several categories like you see in the beauty contests (Miss. Beautiful hair, Miss, Beautiful skin etc) Based completely on their inputs (therefore my personal bias does not come in) here are the final winners *Drum rolls* *Trumpets* *Curtains rise*
The Bill Cosby award for the most humouros (and misleading) comment goes to
Ramesh of Business Musings. (He writes a remarkably good business blog and he updates every day with relevant, useful topics, which have behind them the weight of his experience at very senior levels in leading Multinationals)
The Ramanujam award for Mathematical brilliance and for sheer perseverance and interest shown in this post goes to
Ajay Chauhan (He doesn't have a blog--so linked his orkut profile, but he has a great sense of humour and writing comes easily to him. If he starts a blog he will have a great following for sure. ( provided he does not decide to dazzle us all with his math abilities :P He not only answered this question but also answered the question posed by anonymous brilliantly. (I don't know why anonymous is hiding though )
The Manoj Kumar award for patriotism for bringing in the 'Mera Bharath Mahaan' angle to Math, goes to
Prateek Gupta of Ginger and Cardamom (He was one of the first people who agreed to do the blog marathon with me when I was still dilly dallying and testing waters. He was also recently mentioned in the Pune Mirror as one of the most interesting twitterers in the City)
The Early bird award for right response goes to
Vinoo John of Vinoo (She too is a participant in the blog marathon. She also went to college with me and we go back a long way. Her explanation was good too)
The true blue Mommy award (as she was the only one who actually put the question to her seven year old) goes to
Geetha (she does not have a blog and I am not sure if she would like me to link her orkut profile. She has been one of my most loyal readers and is sensitive, warm and kind)
The most simple and Child friendly explanation award goes to
Aadi of 'The God particle' I don't know him at all and I think it is the first time he has commented on my blog. He was the only one who used figures to explain it.
Thank you to all who explained! I am sure you will agree like true sportsmen that the joy was in the ride not the destination, because we all got there, didn't we? And the post did make you think, didn't it?