I read with interest an article about the way maths is taught in Singapore. It reminded me of how dad had taught me multiplication.

I was 5 or 6 years old and the family had an Apple ][e compatible PC. We had a maths game which was nothing more than basic arithmetic problems rendered in giant ASCII fonts - stuff like 6 x 9 = ?. Dad sat down with me in front of the PC and using Lego bricks we would count out 6 sets of 9 bricks. I would then count the total number of bricks one by one, on my fingers and toes (to keep the tens). :D

It was tedious work and I can't remember exactly how long it took but I only recall maybe 5 sessions over a couple of weeks before I could begin accurately answering the questions without the Lego.

I couldn't understand why when I got to 4th grade (3-4 years later) students were still having difficulty with their times tables but now I do. I wonder how many people would find practical applications for basic maths if they had only had someone to teach them to understand maths rather than apply rote learned formulas and tables. Thanks dad. :)

In general I think I've been quite lucky with teachers. My final 3 years of high school maths were spent with one of the finest teachers one could ask for - an engineer who through his past work was able to help us relate our theoretical math to real problems he had encountered. It also didn't hurt that he recognised that I was talented but lazy so he would prod me along as required.

And just before I took my driving exam I did a series of lessons with a professional instructor (who duly informed me that a 3 point turn in someone's driveway is technically illegal :) and even he related the differentials I was doing at school back to the acceleration, speed and distance travelled during our driving lessons.