Roasting Old Chestnuts

Age 11 to 16
Article by Lyndon Baker

Published 2000 Revised 2010

The talk was entitled "Lets look forwards by glancing back". It was concerned with mathematical 'starters' and questions used during the last century or so. The audience was to be Heads of Mathematics Departments.

The hope was that a discernible shift in the prevailing educational thinking could be detected along the way.

What surprised those colleagues present - aged roughly from the mid twenties up to the mid seventies, was how in certain circumstances the wheel was coming full circle. For some, the only change to be seen in the 'starters' and questions was the degree of severity and the over reliance on arithmetical slog in yesteryear.

Many there were familiar with practising fractions! Here is part of the first overhead transparency:

Division exercise

Nowadays few children have to manipulate monsters of this order. But, could they, others asked. But, why bother was also queried.

While many of the younger staff present 'enjoyed' coming to terms with a word problem, did they know at the start it was to do with fractions?

Two men can mow a field in 8 days; one of them could do so by himself in 12 days. How long would it take the other man by himself.

To compare directly yesteryear with present day thoughts of numeracy and the 'mental' start to every lesson, the following was displayed:

Oral Practice

Traditional fayre for youngsters of 13 years and above. Time limit FOUR MINUTES. How well did you do? How well would your pupils make out?

The next article in series is More Old Chestnuts .