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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Philosophical Eleven Plus Discussion

What goes through the mind of a teacher or a parent when an eleven plus child asks: “Why?”

We know, for example, that 12 + 3 = 15. We can prove this by adding twelve objects to three objects and then counting up to fifteen.  We could also have made four groups of three from the twelve and then added one more group of three to make fifteen. Naturally there could be a problem if there was a miscount – but on numbers up to fifteen we should be on reasonably safe ground!

Suppose you asked your child; “Does your sister have more objects in her room than you have in your room?” This creates a multitude of problems. Your eleven plus child may ask you to define the word `object’.  Are there more in her collection of books than you have?  Suppose she dropped a plate of cakes – and the plate broke. Are the broken pieces of plate worth as much as an object as a mashed piece of cake?

What happens if your eleven plus child asks the family to run outside and count raindrops running down the window? Is a misshapen raindrop an object with the same value as a perfect rain drop?

Parents may then choose to use the well-worn example of Newton. Did Newton just happen to be in the orchard when the apple fell on him? Did Newton just happen to be in the orchard while he was thinking about gravity – and so was able to join up the dots? (By the way – did Newton eat the apple or did he preserve it?)

Some parents may choose to complete a rather philosophical discussion by using an adaptation of the well-known phrase: “The harder you work the luckier you get.”

If your child then asks: “Why?”

You simply offer a mash-up and hope for the best in the examination.

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