Remembering High School Maths

Maths problem solving and equationsD’s maths teacher sent through ten maths problems for him to solve over the weekend, and helping him with this has taken me back to my maths education at high school.

I never liked maths. I was always a word kind of person, enjoying English the most out of all of my subjects (although I never really liked the required reading texts much). I always struggled with maths and the different concepts presented, possibly helped along in no small part by the belief that I wasn’t a maths person. In Year 7 the problem sheets we were given for homework were always difficult and challenging but being the kind of student I was, I hated getting red crosses for anything so diligently put in the effort to solve them correctly.

Despite not liking maths and not considering myself good at it, I got excellent grades until Year 11 when we were able to choose our subjects. At Year 11 level there were two levels of maths, Further Maths, which was dubbed veggie maths, and Maths Methods, which was far more technical and demanding. My friends were all science-maths types and they convinced me in joining them in Maths Methods. From the very beginning that was a bad idea. I was in a class with all the kids who went on to become engineers and scientists, people for whom complex mathematical equations would be part of their university degrees. I had no such ambitions and really should have taken veggie maths along with the other students who were aiming for business degrees.

My Year 11 Maths Methods class became hell and I the demon who terrorised it. I mostly copied the work from my friends, still not understanding anything or how it was applicable in the real world. I spent great chunks of time distracting other students, which for my goody-two-shoes student persona was a huge departure from my reputation at school and I developed a bad attitude. In one particular class, a fellow student complained to the teacher that my wandering around the classroom and loud voice was distracting so the teacher gave me an ultimatum, to sit down and focus or leave the classroom. So I defiantly packed up my books and chose to leave the class, surprising everyone including the teacher who still considered me a responsible student.

I do not know how I managed to pass the year, but as it came to selecting subjects for the final year of school, I was not swayed by my friends’ encouragement to continue with Maths Methods, that I would make it through. So I dropped down to Further Maths at Year 12 level and discovered an interest in maths I never knew I had. Maybe it was the wonderful teacher, maybe it was being back in an environment where I understood the mathematical concepts or maybe it was because I could apply percentages and probability and the like to real life needs for problem solving. I aced the class and ended up with the best Further Maths score from my school, 49 out of 50, which equated to getting a couple of questions wrong on the end of year exam and was way higher than any of my other preferred subjects. Only years later when I organised an event of the Premier’s VCE Awards for my state celebrating excellence by giving awards to the students who received study scores of 50 out of 50 did I realise just how well I had done.

Nowadays I rely on Excel formulas for most of my maths problems, but that interest in percentages, probability and statistics remains. So helping D with his homework on fractions is interesting and something that I get. Unfortunately, though, he doesn’t get it.

I had printed out the sheet of problems from the teacher and left it for him to work on yesterday morning while attending an Escuela de Padres (Parents’ School) on values at his school. I was in a bit of a bad mood about this, as I usually am regarding Escuelas de Padres, and especially since they set it for a long weekend and with mandatory attendance, although there weren’t many parents there.

I came home to find that D hadn’t done the maths homework because he didn’t understand what to do. So this morning we sat down to the first three problems.

“If Juan, Antonio and Carlos each received 12, 36 and 48 respectively on the test out of a maximum 96, what fraction did they each receive.”

Cool! I thought. We had discussed fractions expressed as percentages yesterday while cooking lunch when I asked him to fill the saucepan 3/4 full and I checked to see that he had understood.

Unfortunately he still couldn’t work it out as I explained the problem and what he needed to do. I wrote the equations he needed to do with long division (something I never ever understood and cannot help him with, but D seems to be good at long division). He eventually solved the problem and I said how he could learn little shortcuts to help, things like how 96 is close to 100 and 48 close to 50, so 48 should be about half of 96 and that you can figure this out at a glance if you use these kinds of logic tricks.

We moved onto the second question about needing 1/8 of a gallon of paint diluted in 1/16 of thinner to paint 1 door, and therefore how much is needed to paint 3 doors. This also escaped him and we spent a good 15 minutes on it with diagrams of bottles broken into eighths and sixteenths to colour in the levels.

The third question was much more difficult, but structured in a way of being able to check your answer doing a few additional equations, yet my patience evaporated as no amount of explanation seemed to help him. I guess the additional check equations confused him rather than helped and he then couldn’t go back and put his finger on which one was the answer to the question.

So while he copies out the answers to the first three questions on a fresh sheet, trying to remember exactly which scratchings on the scrap paper are the relevant ones, I sit here typing in my blog about the time I hated maths, hoping to soothe my impatience because we still have another seven questions to go.

 

 

Food find: Lula

While out and about doing our favourite thing on a Sunday (riding our bikes along the Ciclovia), hunger stopped me right in front of a cute little place I’d often admired but never stopped at. What captured my attention today was the sign out the front saying “Brunch 9 – 12”.

Brunch has long been a very special mealtime event for me. Seeing the English language word in a sea of Spanish made me nostalgic for the weekend brunches I would often have with friends and that I miss enormously. Brunch is a great opportunity to debrief from the previous night out, catch up with friends in a relaxed manner and of course to drink long and languorous coffees.

So I pulled the brake levers on my bike and told mi novio that we were going to have brunch. I think I also said, with a starry-eyed expression, that brunch is my favourite meal of the day and that before sampling any of the restaurant’s offerings I was already going to return with a colleague and also anyone else who comes to stay with us.

Lula is a bakery and coffeeshop with two dining areas, the front courtyard covered with an awning and with greenery all around, and the inside section with gorgeous wooden chairs with a vintage style oval pink and white fabric-covered back in one of those designs you usually see on fancy crockery.

We took the advice of the waiter, who upon asking if it was our first visit, suggested we start with the bread basket while we decided what to order. Out came a beautifully presented tray of assorted breads and croissants and four glass jars with wooden paddles stuck in the top. It looked divine. The smallest pot contained cubes of butter and the waiter explained the other three; a white chocolate and red berry cream, a peach, orange and almond marmalade, and a chunky chocolate and hazelnut spread. We set to work trying out everything from the fanciest bread basket I’ve ever seen. The chocolate and hazelnut spread was exactly like crushed up Ferrero Rochers. The white chocolate and red berry cream had that syrupy berry flavour mixed with the creaminess of the chocolate but my favourite was the runny marmalade which left the orange in the backseat and let the peach and almond flavours and textures dominate.

Our meals of baked eggs with bacon and asparagus and the Mexican styled fried eggs unfortunately didn’t live up to the high expectations the bread basket had set. My delicious and perfectly flavoured baked eggs could have been cooked a bit longer as the runny yolk only added to the thick creamy hollandaise soup they were served in, which was nigh on impossible to eat with a fork. Mi novio’s Mexican ranch style fried eggs lacked flavour and the presentation lacked flair.

As I think has only ever happened to me in Colombia, our lattes came out with the coffee topped with a dollop of froth in the cup, and the milk on the side in a teeny little jug for us to fill ourselves, and only reached three-quarters of the way up the cup.

Despite a few small disappointments with our meals and a sizeable bill for brunch, the bread basket trumped it all and we’ll definitely go back again; even if it’s just for the bread basket as that was the winner of the day.

LulaCalle 116 No. 15B-78, Bogota
www.lula.co

The smell of LA

When I moved to LA last year it was as though all the moisture got sucked out of my skin. My friends and I all marvelled at how dry our skin had become, seemingly overnight, and the enduring nature of it was more than could be blamed on a 14 hour flight over the Pacific.

I wandered down to my local CVS Pharmacy on Glendale Boulevard and spent a really long time looking at all the beauty products, most especially moisturisers. I still remember comparing all the different brands, the prices (calculating currency conversions in my head) and features until finally deciding on Alba Botanical natural very emollient body lotion. It had a pump pack which I thought was a bit different.

After bathing myself in the moisturiser for more than a week, I managed to bring back my skin’s normal smooth appearance.

I loved it so much I made sure I brought some back to Australia and now every time I apply it to my arms and legs I am taken back to LA, to our cool apartment in Silverlake and to the vivid feeling of excitement I had while living there. I love that certain smells can instantly transport you to another place and another time and am glad I have a strong association to take me back to my memory of LA.

Do you have a special scent that takes you somewhere else? What is it and where does it take you?