Jeremy Lewis: Why I wish I'd listened in 'nerd' subjects
I HAVE been wondering how I would have reacted had my parents asked me to give up Saturday mornings for extra lessons in mathematics.
Nobody said "Yeah, right" in the 1960s. You got a clip on the ear and a reminder that you should say "Yes, right" and preferably without sarcasm.
But seriously, a couple of hours of mathematics on a Saturday morning when any self-respecting youth should have been taking an interest in Association football, or at the very least sitting on a wall staring vacantly at passers-by?
I'd sooner have heated up a blunt and rusty nail and driven it into my right eyeball.
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Mathematics and Lewis J did not go. I was OK at English, history and languages but hopeless at what we (stupidly, as I now realise) called the "nerd" subjects.
"Nerd" subjects? Only the lads with the worst acne and thickest spectacle lenses opted for maths and science at A-level.
Three times I attempted to pass maths O-level. Three times I failed.
A teacher looked at my third F-slip and opined, with an unjustifiable flourish of optimism, that I could look forward to a career sweeping the roads.
As it happened, things didn't work out quite that well and to this day I remain baffled by figures.
And logarithms? For heaven's sake, what was all that about?
I am heartened to see the younger generation giving "maffs" a chance – as they are at Bulwell Academy, where extra Saturday morning tuition sessions are attended not by pupils who have been frogmarched on to the campus but by those who have volunteered for extra tuition either because they recognise they need to catch up or because they have a passion for numbers.
In my youth I'd have marked them down as teachers' pets, cruising for a bruising in the playground. I now wish I'd had the same determination.
The most important subject at school? Without question, English, for the mastery of language is the key to all learning.
And after English? Probably maths, and I accept that although I have muddled along with no great expertise, life would have been easier had I known my long division from my compound fractions.
For starters, I'd have been quicker to file my expenses claims.
I should not blame my failure on my maths teachers but, let's be frank, they were a bunch of stiffs. I might have reacted better had someone tried to convince me that arithmetic, algebra and geometry were there to be enjoyed, not feared.
The Department for Education takes the point. Britain is short of good maths teachers and incentives are in place to encourage talented applicants.
"Through coursework and classroom-based training," says the DfE website exhortation, "you can hone your skills to make a lasting impact in a job that will ultimately help young people build better futures."
It sounds as if Bulwell Academy already has its ration of talented maths teachers. Good luck to them and to all their pupils. It may be too late for me, but not for them.