Sunday, December 14, 2008

When English gets in the way of maths

So I've been trying to teach Andre some of the basic maths topics for p3 during the holidays, just to give him a little headstart. It's been tough going, I think he needs constant repetition in order to grasp concepts - something he'll get in school more than at home from an impatient mum.

Sometimes the results are just off the wall - his brain is wired so differently that it gives me a glimpse of his world view (which is probably very different from the average person!) It also makes me think that for kids like him, English is probably a handicap when it comes to maths.

Take this example. He was trying to do a problem sum which entailed finding out the age of Bobby. I was perplexed as to why he couldn't solve it as he had done similar sums many times before. Finally, I had to lead him step by step until he arrived at the answer.

Andre: (incredulously): Bobby is 66 years old?

Me: Yes.

Andre: He can't be 66 years old!

Me (puzzled): Why not?

Andre: Because Bobby is a boy's name! How can he be an old man?

Me (amused): So if a boy called Bobby grows up, what should he be called?

Andre (thinks for a bit): Bobbious!

No wonder he couldn't solve the problem, he had gotten the correct answer but assumed it was wrong because in his understanding, Bobby couldn't possibly be that old. (By the way, when you're only eight, 66 might as well be 100.)

Another day, Kenneth came across the word "dozen" and asked Andre whether he knew what it meant. I'm sure he's been told this before but his memory is like a flour sifter (ie it only retains the useless bits). Andre brightened up at a question he thought he knew the answer to and replied, "Like a dozen muffins."

Kenneth: That's right, so how many is a dozen?

Andre: A lot.

Me: It's a specific number. How many?

Andre (without hesitation): Eight.

Me: Nooo...

Andre: 10,000.

Me: !!!!!

Kenneth: It's 12. And do you know what's a baker's dozen?

Andre (confidently): 12 bakers lah!

I think 2009 will be a difficult year...


Lilian said...

Yalah, the examination board should definitely use appropriate names.

Ages 0-12: Tommy, Nicky, Susie, Charlie, Bobby.

Ages 13-30: Thomas, Nicholas, Susan, Charles, Robert.

Anyone older than 30: Mr Lee, Mr Tan, Mrs Teo.

He's so funny!

Speaking of baker's dozen, did you ever do the quiz where you had to solve for phrases such as 13 L in a B D, amongst others such as 7 W of the W, 64 S of the C B and 15 M on a D M C? Loads of fun.

monlim said...

Yup, I did that one! quite good, although many of them too skewed towards American stuff like baseball. I think they came up with many follow-up quizzes after that? But the original is still the best!

Anonymous said...

He is so very hilarious but it shows that he thinks and thinks deeply!! Such type of personality is easily missed byb people whenever they are missing in action. :)


monlim said...

QX: I dunno! I suspect it's endearing when you hear about it in other kids but can drive you bananas when it's your own :D

bACk in GERMANY said...

Hey Monica!
This is exactly what I'm worried about...
You know, it's cute when they make such remarks when they are 3 or 5, but not so funny when they are in school and teachers get irritated by my kids' strange logic.

And Lilian... yes, you made a good point!
Actually, we do try to make a difference in the names leh... at the very least for myself and my very critical language specialist at the centre then.

Aiyoh... most Sg wouldn't have an inkling that Bobby is from Robert anyway. How many teachers know that???

Andy wouldn't have any problems in the States... geddit Andy??? Andre? :D

monlim said...

Cindy: Wah, you actually make a difference in the names? Good for you! I'm pretty sure the teachers here don't even think about it. Maybe when Andre grows up, I'll call him Andrew :P

Alcovelet said...

There was once this remisier called Georgie. Made millions! I don't think he was an 8yo!!

Sorry lah Monica, Andre really has a different viewpoint, and he's really very endearing.

A baker's dozen, I thought, was 13??

monlim said...

Ad: Yup 13, but no way Andre would have guessed it on his own! I once knew a grown woman called Baby. Imagine the disconnect in Andre's brain if he knew...

bACk in GERMANY said...

Try my Chinese name on me in 10 years' time... sigh, don't know what my parents were thinking then...

There are some Chinese names that don't age well too, e.g. Mei Ling! An old lady called Mei Ling?
Or Xiao Jian for an old man?

I totally agree with Andy. Maybe I too was like him when I was young? :s
That's why I make a distinction when I set my paper... just like how some German names sound ancient to me.

With that kind of mindset, I think Andy will give his children wonderful names!

monlim said...

haha, I wouldn't count on it! Maybe they'll end up sounding like Snow White's dwarfs...

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