Monthly Archives: July 2017

The potential pitfalls of making international comparisons!

I had a fab visit to Australia earlier this year, and I was invited by Becky Cook, Director of Teaching and Learning at Southern Vale Christian College, South Australia, to meet a group of parents.
It was so interesting to see that the parents I met in Australia wanted to know the same sort of things that parents here in England want to know about how to make the most of helping their children with maths. I gave them a Maths for Parents session which went down really well.
But speaking internationally does have its potential pitfalls… I wanted to bring over the point that there is often more than one way to tackle a maths problem and we need to be flexible.
‘In Dorset, England where I live, is there a right way to get to London?’ I asked rhetorically. ‘No! There are several ways: the motorway or the scenic route, to name but two,’ I said; ‘There’s the route that just uses A-roads …’ Here in England we have so many roads that I can make the point easily using one mode of transport – travel by road.
So I then asked my attentive audience, ‘Is there just one way to get from Adelaide to Alice Springs?’ The parents looked puzzled, and I suddenly realised – actually there is only one road!
Fortunately, Becky had my back! ‘You could fly,’ she chipped in, ‘or take the train.’ So there is more than one way! Eventually the point was made and taken on board with much good humour. Most of the time, there isn’t just one ‘right way’.
Oh! The potential pitfalls of making international comparisons! You do have to be so careful when using real life examples. You cannot always easily just slot one example into another situation. You may need to adapt things slightly.
Above is a photo I took on the way from Alice Springs to Uluru (Ayres Rock), Northern Territory, Australia, whilst on my journey using the Lasseter Highway.