The Importance Of Angles

April 20, 2014 § Leave a comment

Say the word “angles” to a class of 10 year olds and everyone sighs! But without certain angles, life would be very different.

Think about this angle: 23.4 degrees. That is the size of our Earth’s axial tilt. Earth isn’t upright as it travels round the Sun; instead, it has a slight lean. And it’s quite a tilt – the Leaning Tower of Pisa only has a tilt of 4 degrees, so it’s pretty straight in comparison!

That angle of 23.4 degrees is more than just an interesting fact. Without that angle of tilt, we would not get our seasons. During summer in the Northern Hemisphere, the North Pole is tilted towards the Sun, so the Northern Hemisphere gets more sunlight and warmth than the Southern Hemisphere. Then, in winter the North Pole is tilted away from the Sun, so there is less sunlight and it becomes much colder in the Northern Hemisphere. And, of course, during autumn and spring, both hemispheres are receiving equal sunlight.

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Yes, we enjoy the variation of the seasons, but more than that they are vital to our survival. If the Earth’s tilt was different, we would not get the same regulation of temperature that we have now. The extremes caused by more or less tilt would make life very difficult – impossible in certain parts of the Earth. Not just that, without seasons we would not be able to grow food in the same way. Just think about how important it is to have the variations that make seed germination and plant growth possible. Without the seasons, food production would be seriously affected.

So, yes, angles may be incredibly boring when you’re 10! But, maybe certain angles need a little respect every now and then!

The 11 Plus Fear Factor!

April 13, 2014 § Leave a comment

The Eleven Plus – a term that strikes fear into the hearts of parents across the country! In the business I am in, every day is made up of phone calls from parents looking for guidance, advice and reassurance that they are doing the right thing.

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At the end of the day, there is no single “right way” of doing things; every child is different and requires a different approach to learning. Some children pick it all up “just like that”, while others need a slow and gradual approach to make sure it all sinks in. So, having a parent call, reel off their entire 11 plus revision schedule for the past year and ask you if they are doing the right thing, having only spoken to them once and never having actually met their child, is easier said than done!

But, of course, having seen hundreds of parents go through this every year has given some insight into the “krypton factor” of 11 plus success. And the keys, really, are:

  • Start revision early enough to avoid panic, but not so early that they get fed up with it!
  • Practice makes perfect, so make sure they get plenty of practice in all the subject areas covered in the exams you are entering for. But, don’t overload them – they are only 9 or 10, after all.
  • Don’t push your children to be something they are not. If they are not cut out for grammar school, it is not fair to push them into it. Even if they pass, this is no guarantee of success in the high-pressure world of grammar school.
  • Don’t let other parents worry you! The phrase “I’ve just found out Mrs So-and-So’s little boy has had a tutor since he was 8” is an all-too-common one! That is their choice, but it doesn’t mean to say that would have been the best option for your child.

Despite the efforts of the education authorities to make 11 plus exams “tutor-proof”, I do believe that tutoring still has a place in the 11 plus preparation process. The 11 plus exams have become more and more difficult and often contain topics that students may not have even learnt at school yet. Tutoring has the benefit of being able to cover all the elements required in an environment where they can get the support that they need from people who know the current methods of teaching.

I recently spoke to a parent who said that they had been going through the work at home, but had now got to the stage where they could no longer help with the questions. So, they decided to get a bit of help from a tuition company. I thought this was a very balanced way of dealing with things. Just because you haven’t had a tutor the whole time doesn’t mean that your child is going to fail! If they are bright enough and get the right help (whether it be from you or from someone else), they are on the right track.

I guess the point I am trying to get across is that the key to success is to find the balance. You’ve got to put the work in, but don’t let it take over your life!

Busy Bee Geometry

April 6, 2014 § Leave a comment

“When there is no honey, the Pooh takes his tummy wherever the honey will be,” sang Pooh.
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But, whilst poking his paw into the nearest beehive, did he ever stop to think about the ingenuity of the humble honey bee? Let’s hope not, a mathematical analysis surely wouldn’t make for a good Winnie the Pooh episode!

We are all used to the hexagonal shape of the cells within a beehive. But, why do the bees choose hexagons?

It was way back in the 4th century that Pappus, an Ancient Greek geometer, started to think that maybe there was more to it than just being pretty . . . it’s actually a very efficient building technique. To make the most efficient use of space, they need to use shapes that tessellate – that means shapes that fit neatly together without leaving gaps.

But, you may say, why not use other shapes that tessellate, like squares or triangles? Well, for one thing, regular hexagons have a smaller overall perimeter than squares and triangles – once they have built one hexagon, they have already built one of the walls for 6 other hexagons, so it makes the workload much quicker and easier. Plus, the regular hexagon pattern has now been proved to be the most efficient pattern for curved walls. This means that the individual cells can bulge with honey and still make the most efficient use of the space.

So, next time you are using a protractor to measure an angle, spare a thought for the worker bees that are instinctively setting the walls in their beehives at exactly 120 degrees without so much as a spirit level!

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