Dear Sasha, The first time I went to school I was three years and seven months old. There were two other pupils at the school, girls rather older than me, so there was no streaming. The teacher was probably in her teens. We had a mathematics lesson. We were each given a piece of cardboard that had the outline of a one (1) with all the trimmings, thus ____ /__ | | | | | | | __|_|_ |______| We were required to colour this in red, and after some effort we more or less achieved this task, and the best effort, far far better than mine, was held up for general admiration, and we were asked what this might be. The two girls answered `The figure one' in unison. I had the impression that they had been coached to do this. However, I was not so sure and remained dumb. I had a suspicion that as even this high quality art work was inclined to go over the lines, and leave some parts of the interior uncoloured, it might not be quite a figure one. I am still not certain of whether I was right to be cautious, but I went right to the bottom of the class. Later of course I went to a big school, with some twelve pupils and two teachers. It was an excellent school; I think the teachers, who were sisters, were in their seventies; perhaps a little younger; unmarried because of the slaughter of the men in the first world war. I was at this school till the age of six or seven, and was taught a fair amount of French, Latin, History, Norse mythology, spelling, art and mathematics. We were taught arithmetic up to the extraction of square roots and the calculation of hcf's and lcm's by factorisation. I was reasonably competent, except perhaps for the art, but was inclined to think about things (or gaze out of the window) rather than getting on with my work, a tendency that the teacher regarded with some understanding. Sometimes, when doing a long multiplication, I would set it out the other way from the way we had been taught; so I started by multiplying by the unit entry of the second number instead of starting with the most significant digit. The teacher took this in her stride, and learnedly told me that I had set it out in the German style. She was a brilliant teacher, but they retired and closed the school as I was leaving, raising the fees for the last year from £2 per term to £2 10s per term. At my next school, which had 70 pupils in 6 classes, having rather lost track, through lack of pratice, with how to set out multiplications, I set out a multiplication in some way unknown to God or man, but got the right answer, to the confusion of the teacher. I also surprised him by knowing the word `colloquy' at the age of seven. Not infantile precocity, but spelling lessons at the previous school.
Posted by: Alexandre Borovik | September 8, 2009
Childhood memories: Charles Leedham-Green
Posted in Uncategorized