Tag Archives: algebra

Ananda College, Colombo, Ceylon: 1960 to 1967 List Of Prizes Won By Anura W.P. Guruge.

Anura Guruge December 2014 thumbnail.
by Anura Guruge

Related posts:
>> Ananda College prize giving 1969.

++++ Check Category ‘Sri Lanka’ or search ‘Ceylon’ for other posts >>>>

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Doing the post on June 7, 2015 about Udeni Wijegunaratne receiving a prize (in this case a pile of books) at the 1969 Ananda College, Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) annual Prize Giving definitely got me thinking.

I knew I I had won a fair number of prizes. How could I forget. Winning prizes was one of the many things that was expected of me. I also knew that I had a document from August 1967, just prior to me leaving Ceylon, of all the prizes I had won. My adoptive father, a professional educator, believed that all these documents that I received an education in Ceylon would be necessary to get me into a public school in Buffalo, New York. Little did he know. I don’t think anybody ever looked at these documents.

Anywho … I wanted to capture and preserve that document for posterity. Now I have. I counted the prizes (and awards). 39.

To me, and to YOU (if you are interested at all), only two things in this list really count.

The Challenge Cups (highlighted in yellow) and the ABSENCE of Grade VI.

I did NOT attend Grade VI — the 1st year of Middle School when you start learning Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, Chemistry, Physics and Biology. I was, for my SINS, given a DOUBLE PROMOTION. School year in Ceylon started in January. We had the whole month of December off. My adoptive father told the school that he would make sure that I would learn a WHOLE YEARS worth of all those subjects in a month — and to top it all I got measles or mumps during that month. That did not deter my adoptive father. I was taught, tutored, beaten and punished 12 hours a day UNTIL I learnt all of what I had to — that I was sick, very sick, was not an excuse. This is why working 14, 16, 18 hours a day is a piece of cake for me. Plus now there is nobody who beats me if  I don’t work. And I was 12 years old.

So that was the Double Promotion.

The other BIG thing that was demanded of me was to WIN the damn Challenge Cup EVERY year. Yes, it was a silver cup BUT I never got to keep it. It was for my adoptive parents ego. I see that there was, on average 39 students, in each of my early classes. There were typically 6 classes per grade. So roughly 230 to 240 kids per grade. The Challenge Cup said that when all the grades, and this was the British system where grades are numeric, 0 to 100, were added up I had the HIGHEST aggregate score. First in Class is what they would say in the U.S.

Well as you can see I won that damn Challenge Cup every damn year other than in Grade 3. I think I actually set out to NOT win it. Because I, probably given all the beatings and punishment I took, was quite a devil, already. Well I got beaten to a pulp. All of 1964, and I was 11, UNTIL I won the Challenge Cup again was hell. But what the heck. It made me what I am. My life now is walk in the park. When you had the life I had as a kid you grow up rather immune to most hardships.

Well it gets better. Remember that Double Promotion. Learn a year’s worth of 6 subjects in a month. I was EXPECTED to win the Challenge Cup after that! I think I won one Challenge Cup in Grade VII AFTER the Double Promotion BUT not THE cup. But, I did the following year! And for the WHOLE Middle School. That one was MY doing. After the Double Promotion I was the youngest in the class. I took my stick. So I wanted to stick it to all of them. OH, I got an air rifle, as a present, for winning that! That was big. We had to go to India to get one. You couldn’t get them in Ceylon.

So that was my life in Ceylon. It was hard. I wasn’t allowed a dog or any pets. I wasn’t allowed a bike. (I WONDER whether this has anything to do with why I am surrounded by dogs and toys, like Jags). My life was to study, study, win prizes and most of all the DAMN Challenge Cup. It wasn’t all bad. I had plenty of food, all the books I ever wanted, my own chemistry lab and a fair amount of toys. I also got to travel.

But it has stood me in good stead. So I don’t regret it. I would never dream of imparting what my life was to my kids. I took enough punishment for a few generations.

And SOME people wondered why I did not attend my adoptive father’s funeral (last year) and actually was on a cruise of the day of his funeral.

Can YOU Subtract ’12’ From ‘9’ Using ‘Number Bonds’?


..by Anura Guruge

Related posts:
>> PI day — Mar. 7, 2013.
The Math Museum In
>> New York City 
Mar. 4, 2013.

If so, as the incomparable Kipling said: “You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!”.

I guess unlike me, an old man pushing 60, who learned his 3 Rs in the 1950s (in a third world country), you must know all about ‘Number Bonds‘. Just this year, looking at Teischan’s homework I became vaguely aware that they were doing this stuff called ‘number bonds’. Initially all I had seen was the two dangling ball efforts to deconstruct an integer and I had no problems with that since I do think that kids should appreciate how a number comes to be what it is. Now to be fair, ‘number bonds’ is part of the new, ‘new math‘ – the so called ‘Singapore Math‘ (and in case you don’t know, ‘Singapore‘ is a tiny Asian country, really best known for its infamous capture by the damn Japs during WW II, when it, like my home country was a British colony). Singapore Math is being taught all over the place, not just in Alton.

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Click to ENLARGE.

Then yesterday Deanna showed me this homework that Teischan was struggling with. It took my breath away. I never realized that they were going to use the two dangling balls to do arithmetic operations. So, have a look at this.

They had done the top 2 in class, on the blackboard. She had supposedly transcribed the method and answer from the board onto her sheet. Number 2 was wrong and we asume she copied it wrong.

Though I had never seen subtraction done this way, I could work out how they got ’14’ for #1 and the (correct answer) ’12’ for #2.

Then I noticed that we had a problem! Number 3 and 4 (’17.’ & ’18’ on the sheet) were very different to the other three, and the two they had done in class. Can you spot the difference? Yes, the ‘ones’ number of the second operand is BIGGER than that of the first operand. To use the same technique as for one & two, you would have to use a NEGATIVE NUMBER, in this case ‘-4′ which when added to the ’10’ will give you the right answer ‘6’! But even I, with my high expectations of kids, do not really expect 6 and 7 year olds to be that conversant with negative numbers. IF you don’t use negative numbers, then you have to use a DIFFERENT technique to handle numbers 3 & 4!

I had no idea what that different technique would be. So I did what I always do when I am stuck. I Googled. I found this excellent video tutorial, with exactly the right example, at ‘onlinemathlearning.com‘. Here it is. You have to watch it.

Click to access page. It is the 1st video of the three.

Click to access page. It is the 1st video of the three.

Notice the BIG ‘No!’. I was mortified.

There is an exception to the method. This is for 6 and 7 year olds.

I have two issues with using this strange, two dangling ball approach for teaching kids subtraction.

1/ This method does NOT ELIMINATE the need to do subtraction! Ah? Kids still have to do subtraction with this approach. So what is the gain. I would be all in favor if this method eliminated the need to subtract and said kids could do subtraction by just adding numbers. Now that isn’t as crazy as it may sound to the uninitiated. Logarithms. Now that is real math. We (as kids who didn’t have calculators) used logarithms because ‘logs’ allowed you to do complex multiplication and division using just addition and subtraction. That is neat and useful. You eliminate a complicated process with an easier, better mastered technique. Not so with the two dangling balls. You still have to do the damn operation — in this case subtraction. Plus, how do they teach subtraction. They count the difference between the two numbers. If so, why bother with the two dangling balls. Just count the difference to begin with!

Click to access article.

Click to access article.

2/ Having an exception to deal with a common occurrence is beyond unacceptable. The abiding, (to some of us sensually stimulating) beauty of maths is its predictability, its uniformity. You can’t have a so called ‘easy method’ that has exceptions to deal with common occurrences. This is plain crazy.

Yes, I am the first to admit that I am an old fashioned and stuck in my ways. But, I see no problems with the way we learned our arithmetic, algebra, geometry and trigonometry. We had no electronic calculators or even mechanical ones. We learned things by rote and repetition, over and over and over again.

This was the dedication in one of my recent books.

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P.S.: I collect old logarithmic/trigonometric tables (i.e., the  so called ‘log’ books) and old slide rulers. Send me pictures and quote me a price. Yes, every once in awhile, late at night, when I feel that I am due a treat, and have a few dollars stashed away, I log onto eBay and see what they have. Got a real beauty of a slide rule, cheap, very cheap, a couple of months ago — making use of the eBay, ‘make an offer’ feature.