#21 Math, Math and More Math!

#21 Math, Math and More Math!                                                            July 17, 2015

Except for distributing the scarves to the form 4’s yesterday and my ½ hour tutoring of struggling form 3’s, I was a little math troll, toiling away at my corner desk.  I had decided to work out all the problems on the math “mock”, the practice exam for KCSE taken by form 4 students all over the country.  Students have been known to go on strike out of fear of the mocks.  It’s a rite of passage here.

I’ve done this in the past and found shocking errors in questions (some impossible) or poor typing by a secretary who doesn’t know math so doesn’t realize the typing is wrong.  I also found many mistakes on the “marking scheme.”  The exams are grueling.  The mocks take 2 weeks, with most subjects having 2 parts, each 2 ½ hours in length.  Brutal!!!  The form 4’s have now taken math paper 1, with paper 2 coming on Monday.  Teachers are marking as fast as they can, so students get their results ASAP.  After they finish, they are there another few days to “revise” their exams to see what they need to work on for the real deal which takes more than 3 weeks, beginning in October.

I helped to mark some of paper 1 and was sorry I hadn’t finished it in time to catch some of the typing errors.  Students missed questions out of misinterpreting them and this is a very unforgiving system.  You misinterpret a poorly worded or incorrectly typed question?  Tough!  Wrong!

But today I was able to give the teachers the errata list for paper 2, which they will use to tell the students where to make corrections.

I’m also making 2 copies of the 2014 math KCSE, all problems worked out carefully with explanations.  It has taken hours and hours, but I think it helps them in their preparation and it helps me be ready to answer the hard questions they ask about.  But by this afternoon I was totally wrung out, washed up, done!!!  So I went home, ate something and slept for 2 hours.

My fatigue wasn’t just from too much math.  The church bell is right outside my bedroom window.  When it rings at 6 am (fortunately not every day) I lie there resignedly counting, sometimes up to 20 rings.  ARGH!!!  This is definitely not one of my favorite parts of being here!  Often I fall back asleep, but not today.

I do love an afternoon nap and today’s was particularly luxurious.  I was awakened by what I thought was rain, but was only the wind rustling the leaves of the non-productive banana tree just outside.  But as I lay there I heard distant thunder, then closer and very close.  Then the rain began, not too heavy at first, but then it was a real elephants and giraffes rain.  So welcome here in the dry season.  It has been several weeks since the last rain and the dust is so bad that I have to pay the SFG gateman every 2 days to wash my car.  Every morning I have to use front and back windshield washers so I can see to drive to school.  Unfortunately, by morning the rain will all have soaked in or drained away and by noon it will be dusty again.

My eager readers arrived soaking wet, but wanting new books.  The 2 boys who had the kerfuffle are again best friends.  I forgot to finish my story several days ago.  That was the day Lucas was the peacemaker.  I found him later to tell him how impressed I was with his gentle approach to both of them, but particularly the one who kicked and punched.  He’s pretty settled down again and seems to be the leader of the math movement as well, although I begged off tonight on the grounds that the rain had slowed and they needed to get home lest it pour again.  It didn’t, but I had had my fill of math for the day.

Stopping by Julia’s door I was surprised to see David Mungai, one of the Mji Wa Neema kids who is now in med school, studying public health.  He came for the weekend, his school having closed in honor of the end of Ramadan.  It was so good to see him!  Last year he had told me he was away at high school when all of the kids here had received beautifully hand knit stocking caps, made by a lady who was then 97 years old.  She has since passed away, and I had promised David I would make him a hat.  I had started it, but had less than 2” complete.  So while we talked I knitted.  Here he is last year with Judy.

2015-21 1 David Mungai and Judy

Later he stopped by to chat more while I finished the hat.  Here he is, wearing the hat.  He tells me it is cold and damp in the mornings in Thika, where he goes to school.

2015-21 2 David Mungai and spiffy hat

= Margo


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