Politically, 2016 was a terrible year, what with Brexit and Trump. I didn’t want to write a depressing, negative round up of the year so I am writing a more personal post about some of the high points for me – things I’ve done and places I’ve been.
- Summer holiday in Majorca. We went on our usual all inclusive week in the sun, where the children can eat as much ice-cream as they like, and I can drink as many watered down cocktails in plastic cups, and nobody has to do any cooking or housework. The highlight of the week was a visit to the Caves of Drach which was memorable and spectacular and included a concert in a cave with the musicians floating on a boat. Well worth a visit if you’re in the area.
- My mum’s 80th birthday. It’s not every day you turn 80 and my mum threw a great party for family and friends featuring a drumming workshop. My mum really knows how to live! I made a giant birthday cake which was intended to be covered with raspberries until I realised how much raspberries cost in October.
- I asked a question on Question Time! This has to be my absolute highlight of the year. I was very lucky to be selected to be in the audience because about a thousand people applied and they only chose 150. Then I was even luckier to have my question selected as everyone submitted a question but only about four were used on the show. It was so exciting and for a long time afterwards people came up to me and said they saw me on the show. You can watch me ask my question here. Please do watch the whole of the clip as the ensuing discussion is very good, especially Ken Loach’s contribution.
- Christmas in Italy. I managed to find cheap flights with Ryanair so that all four of us could fly to Italy for a week over Christmas for less than £200. We stayed with my husband’s sister in Merano which is a pretty town near the Austrian border. We were hoping for snow but sadly we were disappointed. The boys got to spend time with their cousins and I got to drink plenty of the local vin brulé. The best bit of the week was a visit to the thermal pools at the Hotel Terme. We sat in a hot, bubbly pool watching the sun set behind a mountain. A fantastic way to end the week.
- Getting a grade one in my teaching observation. Just about every time I’ve had a graded observation, the observer awards me a grade 2 with aspects of grade one. I am always told that my lesson would have been a grade one if it hadn’t been for one little thing that they made up that means I am merely good and not outstanding. But in my latest observation I finally achieved that elusive grade 1 which I guess means I am officially an outstanding teacher.
- One of the most memorable family outings of the year has to be our trip to Birdland at Bourton on the Water. This is where my 9-year-old’s obsession with penguins began.
- Association of Teachers and Lecturers Annual Conference. This is a fantastic event held every year in Liverpool. This year I was chosen to be on a panel of ten people to meet Nick Gibb, the minister for schools and ask him questions. We gave him a good grilling.
Here are some Christmas maths ideas for all of you who are maths teachers or who just like doing maths.
- This picture shows two Christmas tree shapes. The first shape has eleven corners. How many corners does the second shape have? How many corners would the 11th shape have? Can you write an expression for the number of corners on the nth shape? Would there be a shape with 100 corners?
- Santa is buying clothes for his elves. He has trousers, jackets and hats in red, blue and green. He wants all the elves to be different. How many combinations of the three items of clothing can he make with the three colours? (They can have two or three items the same colour.) What about if he had some yellow clothes too?
- There are approximately two billion children in the world. If Santa has to give each child a present in 24 hours, how many presents does he need to deliver each second?
- My friend collects toy cars. They come in cube shaped boxes with length y cm. I have bought her 32 of them for Christmas and I want to wrap them. What will the surface area be, in terms of y, if I wrap them individually? I could wrap them all together in a cuboid shape to save wrapping paper. How many different ways can I put 32 cubes together to make a cuboid? Which way would give me the smallest surface area? What would the surface area be?
It’s November and the toy manufacturers are vying for our money. There are so many advertisements on the television for all kinds of games and toys and this year there seems to be some kind of competition for the most disgusting toys. When I watch the adverts I can’t help wondering who thought up these ideas for toys that are so different from the Etch-a-sketch and Spirograph of my own childhood. Here are some toys I will not be buying this Christmas.
- Doggie Doo. “The hilarious Doggie Doo action game! Feed the dog, throw the dice and take turns to pump the lead. If he poops on your turn, scoop the poop and it’s the first to three poops wins!” Yes, it’s a game about dog poo. Why would anyone want to play a game about dog poo? I don’t even want to think about what the poo is made of and what it looks (or smells) like.
- Gooey Louie. “Take it in turns to stick your finger up poor Louie’s nose and pull out many stretch gooeys, eurgh! Be careful if you pull out the wrong gooey then his eyes will bulge and his brain will explode!” Oh, what joy – a game about bogeys! Why? Just why?
- Seagull Splat. “Seagull is flying happily around?. Splat! What is falling on the beach?” Oh great, another game about animal poo. Apparently it comes with “seagull foam solution”. Sounds delightful.
- Og on the Bog. “Og the Ogre has retired to his outhouse toilet and players must carefully steal his loo rolls to win! Trigger a noise and if he farts, you lift a loo roll or if he shouts, your turn is over. But if the toilet explodes, you lose all your loo rolls and have to start again!” No, there will be no exploding toilets in my house this Christmas.
- Gross Magic. Everybody loves magic tricks, don’t they? What could possibly be objectionable about a box of magic tricks? “Pull brown slimy poo from an empty toilet, clean a snotty rag with the flick of a wrist or magically fill an empty dustbin with rubbish.” OK so this one is off the Christmas list too.
- Pig Goes Pop. “Feed burgers to the pig and watch his tummy grow until he pops. His arms snap out and his jacket flies open!” OK so this game is all about force feeding a pig with burgers until he explodes from over-eating. What kind of relationship with food will my kids grow up with if they spend their childhood playing Pig Goes Pop?
- Pie Face. “Just put whipped cream or a wet sponge on the hand of the game unit and turn the handles. It could go off at any time, so keep your fingers crossed it’s not you.” Oh, what fun! You get to humiliate yourself and get whipped cream all over the living room! This game also comes with the warning: “Only for domestic use.” What does that mean? What other use would you use it for? Industrial use? Office use?
I might moan when my children just want electronic games for Christmas but at least they have not asked for any of the above. I’d rather get them a Wii than a game about poo.