We have just enjoyed the pleasure of some eleven plus courses. Some of the children were finishing off exercises which they had not managed to complete. Some were relaxed and confident. One rather `bright spark’ asked why a square number was called square – when it was not a square. No-one likes to show complete ignorance so I had to confess that I had no idea at all. There was general pleasure.
Someone from a different table asked why cube numbers were called cube numbers when a cube had a very different shape. The children looked to me for an answer. I raised my eyebrows. There was general pleasure.
By now the children in close proximity were `in the zone’. The chatter grew very swiftly. One girl, however, was writing on a page. She said: “I know!” She wrote:
1 x 1
2 x 2
3 x 3
4 x 4
The girl, and her friend beside her, drew one dot, then four dots in a two by two array. Of course others took up the challenge with patterns of three by three and then four by four.
Of course one boy did not join in. He had listened to the chatter about square numbers but he was trying to prove cube numbers. Now cube numbers may not be taught to many Year 5 children in the National Curriculum – but could come up when discussing volumes.
In a few moments there was a group around him. Someone wrote:
1 x 1 x 1
This was followed by
2 x 2 x 2
3 x 3 x 3
The interest of the children, however, was gone as quickly as it had arisen. The moment was lost.
As I bent to write: “Good thinking!” beside the work of the children concerned I wondered why they didn't ask me how the purity of solid can be proved by finding its melting point. Again I would have had no definitive answer to this question and would have had to expose my ignorance. How long, however, would it have taken this very bright group of eleven plus children to come up with some sensible theories? Why can’t the eleven plus examination leave room for children to be able to think freely and imaginatively?