Harry Chapin – Flowers are red

Criticising our education system is not new – why would it be when it’s like shooting fish in a barrel? One of the better known recent commentaries came from Sir Ken Robinson at a TED conference a few years back who made a very convincing argument for changing our focus away from the  academic subjects and instead develop a greater emphasis on the arts as part of our students’ formal education.

Sometimes the best critiques come not from ‘experts’ but from those well outside the academic circle. Harry Chapin’s Flowers are red  always been one of my favourite songs in this regard. It really doesn’t require anything more to be said. Listen for yourselves and if you’re a science teacher ask yourself which teacher you want to be like.
And then try to answer honestly which of the  two teachers your students would match you with.

Remember almost every student comes into secondary school with a deep sense of wonder which is all you should need to succeed in Science. Few leave with this passion still in good working order. We must at least allow for the possibility that we teachers are part of the problem.

Aims and Objectives won’t get us out of this one.


Benoit Mandlebrot and The Colours of Infinity

The Colours of Infinity is a wonderful title for any documentary so it is only right and proper that  the program itself lives up to the title.

I show parts of  it to Transition Years in an attempt to stimulate a sense of wonder for Mathematics. It by no means manages to undo the damage caused by their maths education up to this point, but it may just mitigate it somewhat. I have shown excerpts of it in the last couple of days to most of my students in all years, not because it’s Maths Week (or was that the week before?) but because the central character, a man by the name of Benoit Mandlebrot, died last Thursday. In each class the assigned homework was merely to go onto YouTube and watch as much of the rest of it as they could get away with.

I won’t try to explain what it’s about; what would be the point? By this stage you are either a fan of my recommendations or you’ve given up reading them. Either is cool. But if there’s only one extra-curricular maths program you ever watch in your life, make it this one.

Come to think of it, it should be mandatory for all Art students to watch it also; just one more example of the cross-over so beloved of our school inspectors.
Finally, if you have an iphone why not download some of the incredible images associated with fractals? Just do a search for ‘fractals’ in the app store.
In fact when entering the title into YouTube, the images alone from the page it brought up should be enough to entice you in.