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Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Sands of Time

I am always impressed by the ingenuity of children and their parents. It is no secret that we run 11+ courses. On the courses we talk a lot about timing - and we do practical exercises based on timing. Naturally we encourage the children to bring their own watches.

“Can I use my mobile phone? I have forgotten my watch.”
“ I didn’t bring my watch today. Can I bring it along tomorrow?
“I don’t have a watch. My mother times papers for me.”
“My mother uses our sand timer to make sure I watch the time running out.”

The idea of using a sand timer shows one very sensible mum. The flowing sand seems to start so slowly - but towards the end the sand seems to be ebbing remarkably quickly. It must be quite distracting to look up from an 11+ paper to see just a little bit of sand left in the hour glass.

We know that sermons used to be timed by a sandglass. An hour glass was placed upon the pulpit. The whole congregation could see the preacher speeding up his delivery as time ran out.

Archimedes developed a number system that he felt capable of counting the number of grains of sand which could be fitted into the universe. We know that he was a great educator - and he produced a large number of theorems that have delighted mathematicians, and some school children, for many many years.

Suppose an 11+ question read:

An hour glass holds a large number of grains of sand. Using the number system developed by Archimedes (the myriad is 10 000 and a myriad myriad is 100 000 000 - but you know that already), how many grains of sand would you need for a verbal reasoning test lasting 50 minutes?

So well done to that mum mentioned earlier. It would have been easier for her to have bought a watch for five pounds - but think of the fun she, and her daughter, had watching the sands of time flow by.

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