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Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Eleven Plus and University

How do children think of these things?

I was peacefully passing a bright eleven year old when she asked me why the angles at the centre of a rhombus met at a right angle.

She had drawn two different kites and she said that they did not `look’ as if the angles at the centre of the rhombus met at a true right angle.

To tell the truth I did not really know. The only thing I could think of was that we could possibly use Pythagoras to find the answer.

All this took place in seconds. She drew a kite – on graph paper. We measured the length of the sides. We did two quick Pythagoras calculations – and surmised that the other side of the rhombus would be the same.

I was content with the work that we had done together and walked off to find her next piece of work. When I turned back, she (our pupil) had engaged a one of our very bright ‘A’ level assistants to verify our findings. It wasn’t that she thought we had made errors – she wanted to find out if there were any circumstances when the rule would not hold true.

This discussion then began to involve the teacher in charge of the room and two more assistants. We then began discussing where in an `A’ level mathematics syllabus we had to prove theorems.

The whole series of events took just a few quick fire seconds.

When the girl is at the interview for her place in the mathematics department at her chosen university she may be confronted by a similar question by the interviewer.

We can just hope that she argues as good a case as she did with us today. What a lucky grammar school she will attend. Just think of the pleasure her `A’ level teachers will have as they work with her. Think too of the university lecturer being able to go home at the end of a long day and being able to say: “Well, I had a bright one today!”

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