Sunday, August 12, 2012

Another bragfest

“Those Rees boys must be simply stuffed full of science all day by their parents”.
“But she just works in an office, and he doesn’t really do ... well, anything!”
- An imagined conversation between other parents at our school. 

The boys entered the University of NSW Science Competition, and were 2 of the 3 students at school to gain High Distinctions. (Well done to the other one, Keiren Black). The questions ranged “from egg incubation to the direction of gears, from electrical circuits to food webs”.

The mid-year reports came in last week, now in a back-to-the-future “A = excellent, E = poor” format, after 5 or so years of the most byzantine and poorly explained system of dots and circles. Both boys are going very well, and Michael has really surged in maths in the last year or so. It has caught his imagination.

While Marcus and I were watching the football, he called over “Dad, what would 1000 be if you were using base 7 instead of base 10?” Marcus and I both lazily agreed it would be 7x7x7, or 343. I realised later that this was backwards to the right way to work it out, and showed Michael how he could work it out himself. He needed to be reminded how long division works.

Our friends Peter and Fleur dropped in and were impressed that Michael was sitting there doing long divisions on a Sunday evening, presuming that we were making him. I explained that he was doing them of his own volition, in fact as tool to solve a more complex problem that he had posed himself. He got halfway to the answer (2626) before getting lost in his tiny scribblings.

Towards the end of the footy, Michael returned to the fray, and asked me what 0.5 would be in base 7. I wasn’t even able to get my head around the question while willing the Tigers to kick another goal before the siren, so I asked him to give me a moment. He came out with a few answers he worked out in his head while I was stalling him. When I sat down to work it out, his first answer (0.33333...) was correct! Possibly just lucky.

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