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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Eleven Plus Mathematics

In theory we should never ask a question if we do not know the answer. Well I don’t know the answer which is why I am asking the question.

Mathematics is supposed to be one of the most exact of human thought.

In many eleven plus examinations mathematics plays a large part in the selection process. We must presume that a number of the topics that are likely to appear on an eleven plus paper have been carefully selected to allow a child to show the ability to think and reason.

At what stage in the examination do the questions change from attempting to test understanding of a group of skills to investigating thinking and reasoning?

Do we dare hope that there are questions on the paper that will not have appeared in a sample paper – and are therefore designed to try to find children who can think beyond the bounds of a so called eleven plus syllabus?

When I was once in Baltimore,
A man came up to me and cried,
‘Come, I have eighteen hundred sheep,
And we sail on Tuesday’s tide.

‘If you will sail with me, young man,
I'll pay you fifty shillings down;
These eighteen hundred sheep I take
From Baltimore to Glasgow town.’

He paid me fifty shillings down,
I sailed with eighteen hundred sheep;
We soon had cleared the harbour’s mouth,
We soon were in the salt sea deep.

The first night we were out at sea,
Those sheep were quiet in their mind;
The second night they cried with fear –
They smelt no pastures in the wind.

They sniffed, poor things, for their green fields,
They cried so loud I could not sleep:
For fifty thousand shillings down
I would not sail again with sheep.

This wonderful poem by W.H. Davis has so many elements we can admire - and has the potential for a multitude of eleven plus questions:

How many legs were on the ship?

What is the difference between fifty shillings and fifty thousand shillings?

The questions could march on.

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