Magazine article Mathematics Teaching

# 18 Correlation Street

Magazine article Mathematics Teaching

# 18 Correlation Street

## Article excerpt

The mathematical soap opera that is my classroom ...

Pupils' Laws

For certain mistakes, the weary teacher may sometimes feel like clubbing a student to a slow and painful deatii. Andrew, a bright but sloppy student a year and half into his A- Level course, offered me this die other day:

"I've cancelled the x's," was his hurt explanation, as he tried to fathom why I was weeping in a heap beneath the whiteboard. Yet there are other times when a teacher's desire to brandish a red biro like St George's lance can be a little hasty. The other day, I was marking Luke's work on elastic impact. I came across this:

This is because e = (angle of rebound)/ (angle of inmcidence)

I'd never seen anything like this before, and it brought me up short. "This can't be true!" I murmured, and indeed, it gave completely the wrong answer. I wrote a harsh comment - 10 are busking this, Luke!' - awarded no marks, and ploughed on. But there was sometiiing in his bravura that niggled. I decided to bring it up in the lesson.

"I wonder if we could examine Luke's Law for a minute."

Ears perked up around the room. There is nothing students love more that the idea that one of their number might have come up with a new law, sometiiing that might just feature in future textbooks for millennia to come, bringing its author a slice of immortality along the way.

"Luke, how did you discover this?"

"To be honest, Jonny, I was making stuff up," said Luke, surprising me witii his frankness. "But it just felt right"

And a little exploration revealed his intuition to be (almost) spot-on. …

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