The Cottage Smallholder

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Tales from a big bed: Algebra and physics

Photo: Tree

Photo: Tree

When I was at secondary school there were a couple of subjects that just didn’t sing to me.  Algebra and physics.  They came on the same day, bang in the middle of the school week. But I knew that if I woke at dawn and coughed hard I could create an instant sore throat by the time my mother came in to wake me. She’d immediately make me a hottie and bring up a cold drink.

Then my mum would proffer a thermometer – the old fashioned type with mercury that you had to twist to see the result. And as she went to the medicine cabinet to find me some aspirin I’d put the thermometer on the hot water bottle.

It worked like magic. I’d get the day off school and spend a happy day reading and watching the to and fro of neighbours through a cheap pair of plastic binoculars that I’d won at a friend’s birthday party. By the end of the day I’d be so bored that I’d be longing to return to school.

Years later my mum admitted that the temperature on the thermometer was so high that it clearly had been tampered with. But she reckoned that sometimes I just needed a day at home so she went along with the ruse.

After four days in the human dog basket the Min Pins are getting restive. Perhaps they are longing to learn algebra and physics.
“Danny. Do you have a moment?”

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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Joanna

    There’s nothing wrong with physics and algebra. I reckon that it’s the way that they are often introduced and taught to kids is the problem.

    So much of the knowledge that I needed to design my drip feed watering system, for example, needed me to comprehend the basics of physics. Luckily I had D on hand to guide me.

    If I’d been told that algebra was a code, I might have enjoyed it. At the time I just couldn’t understand the point of if x=2 and y=3 what is the sum of x y. Why not just use the numbers? I had no idea how useful these formulas would be when studying advanced maths (a joy not undertaken by me).

    Hi Danny

    At least you understood the basics of physics and could help me years later!

    Hi Linda

    Missing fundamental lessons can cock up everything especially if the school is unable to offer catch up coaching.

    I agree, taking kids out of formal school to go on holiday is not a good idea. Especially at the start of the school year. This is when friends are made and foundations are dug.

    Hi Toffeeapple

    I loved English and Art too. And History. We had a wonderful Biology teacher so I got my exams with little effort and a lot of fun.

    Hello Mandi

    I loved this comment. You did so well but in a field that your parents had no experience or knowledge.

    Nick Faldo would make an interesting newsreader 😉

  2. I hated all subjects where you didn’t ‘make’ something or need to talk… my poor mum after the pride of finding out I had passed to go to the grammar school was plunged into the depths of dispair when my O levels were subjects of cookery needlework english drama french and religous studies, she told everyone I was going to be a cook in a Paris convent until I was 20. Once i left college and started cooking for the rich and famous she regained some of her pride, although she spent many conversations telling people how I’d cooked for Nick Faldo without knowing he was a golfer….she later confessed she thought he was the man off the 9 o’clock news… 🙂

  3. Toffeeapple

    I couldn’t get on with those subjects either but was good at biology, English and art.

  4. I struggled with physics too, but mainly because I had to miss the fourth or fifth week of the first term in my grammar due to a bereavement.
    Despite reading up the text books on what I had missed, I never caught up. Some simple explanation for something basic had obviously been covered that week, and nothing really made sense to me after that.
    I did’t mind not knowing the physics as such, but it made a difference to my overall marks, and also to the attitude of the teachers.
    I actually get quite cross when I hear of parents who take their children out of school to go on holiday. Don’t they realise that structured lessons are sequential, and they are affecting their kids’ future.
    Sorry Fiona, I think you’ve hit a nerve here!

  5. Danny Carey

    I’m with Fiona regarding Physics. I think it was the subject in which I got the worst score in my final results. Languages were my forte. Strangely enough, I went on to study Optical Physics initially but found it the driest, most boring subject imaginable.
    Then I discovered the joys of computer programming and took to it like a duck to water. Building a program was akin to composing an essay as far as I was concerned. However, in my first month I caused an entire factory to down tools one Friday afternoon when their pay packets were late in arriving because of a bug I had introduced into the payroll program. Unforgettable for an 18 year old!

  6. Joanna

    What’s wrong with Algebra and Physics? I gave up O’ level French after two weeks in order to do Physics, so glad that I did. I love science and enjoyed teaching my kids Maths when I home-schooled them but it is only when teaching them that I also discovered the joy of English, Geography and Sociology.

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