Aspects of Non Verbal Reasoning are supposed to be reasonably culture free. Matrices, for example, are questions children meet in non verbal reasoning exercises aimed at testing ability. Many studies were done on the `Ravens Matrices' to investigate how different societies interpreted the items in the tests.
Can mathematics be culture free? Five pus five will equal ten in any language. The sum of the angles on a straight line will always equal one hundred and eighty degree. But who said that the sum of the angles in a triangle must add up to one hundred and eighty degrees? Cultures must, to a degree, have their own mathematics language.
Can questions in the eleven plus be rated as culture fee? If we take a question that parents would probably have met when they were at school – could we say that this question, and the method of solution, is culture free?
A bike is travelling 1.78 metres in a second.
How many kilometres an hour is this?
Some eleven plus children will look at this question with raised eyebrows. Some will reach immediately for pencil and paper. Others will whisper: “What?”
Some parents will be able to use the skills they learnt at school and university to help their child to answer the problem.
“Well dear, how many seconds are there in a minute?”
“And how many seconds in an hour?”
“How many seconds altogether?”
“That is easy. Sixty times sixty is three thousand six hundred.”
“Well now multiply the 3600 by 1.78.”
“What do you need to divide by to bring the metres to kilometres?”
“Wait a moment, I see, 1.78 times 3600 divided by 1000.”
(A little pause.)
“He or she was not riding very fast! That is only 6.4 kilometres an hour!”