Fun with long division

May 30th, 2013 by dad

A fellow parent in Dorje’s class posted recently on the horror of Grade 4 maths. In particular, the long division problems they are getting.

Dorje is a bit like me, likes to be right too much for his own good, so he was horrified to have corrections this week. For two of the three corrections he got the same answer as he originally did, which turned out to the be the right answer, so either the teacher was wrong – I remember my Standard 5 teacher being unable to do maths, so much so that he was sent for remedial lessons, as his “I was just testing you” five times a class got a bit much – or more likely he miscopied the question.

The third one, however, he did get wrong, so he asked for help. Maybe he was hoping I’d give him the right answer, but no such luck. First I got him to check if the answer was right – he should be able to multiply back, and so be absolutely certain about his answer.

His answer was wrong, so he showed me how he was doing it.

I can’t remember how to do long division, school-style. It’s horribly tedious. Divide here, carry this, remainder that. I can see why schools teach it, as it’s a technique that doesn’t require any thought, but people doing long division outside of school either:

  • use a calculator or, if they’re doing it in their head
  • use a shortcut

A calculator defeats the purpose of doing maths homework, and I couldn’t follow Dorje’s explanation of his method, so I decided to show him my way of doing it. It’s useful to look at different ways of doing a problem – people who can do maths well in their heads almost always have a shortcut technique.

As a simple example, let’s say the problem is R1735 divided by 17. My easy technique is to use multiples of ten to simplify the problem. So, 17 times 10? 170, far too low. 17 times 100 is 1700, which is about right. So that’s 100 remainder 35. 35 goes quickly into 17 twice, so the answer is 102 remainder 1. It can all be done quickly in the head, much quicker than tediously carrying this carrying that.

I showed him my way, and he correctly worked out the answer, and then saw the mistake he’d made using the school technique.

Dorje and I used to play number system games at breakfast, although it’s been a while now. I’ve introduced him to the wonders of binary, where 1 and 1 is 10. We’d also make up maths rules. So for example we’d make up a problem where 12 gazunk 6 is 78. 11 gazunk 5 is 60. And the other person would have to work out what “gazunk” is (in this case, both times and plus).

I’m guessing if it’s up to me, Dorje will be quite good at maths. Luckily he has other influences too, as if it was up to me in visual creativity, Dorje would be in trouble, as our deer prancing vs monster behind the hills draw-off showed.

Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Luxury camping, Barbarian Attack and Wild Ways

May 19th, 2013 by dad

Dorje and I went camping this weekend.

The car was packed full of games as we headed off into the sunset. So was it the wilds of the Cederburg? A nature reserve? Hiding out on Table Mountain? A holiday camp? Not quite – we went went camping at a friend’s home. Their home is currently a caravan park, and we camped right in front. The best of both worlds – camping in a tent waking up to the sound of the waves over the dunes, and spacious indoors with a heater for a marathon game of Catan Barbarian Attack. It’s the second time Dorje’s played this Settlers of Catan variant, and he persisted with his all-or-nothing strategy, armies of blue knights sweeping the island keeping the barbarian hordes at bay, ignoring the more mundane things like gathering resources by building cities and settlements. He came even closer to success this time, one dice roll from victory, but Noel’s multiple metropolises around the grain fields eventually saw him home, a mere half a victory point ahead of Dorje.

My game saw me stuck in the desert with nothing but bales of wool, wishing I’d attended more knitting classes so I could find a use for them all.

If it’d been just Dorje and I camping in the wilds we’d have been lucky to have baked beans, but the friends were Noel and Natalie of Earthshine, so the food was scrumptious and the blender was in full swing for warm chocolate nut milks.

On Sunday, we left our semi-urban campsite and Dorje headed off to Wild Ways, a programme aimed at celebrating natural spaces and connecting people more deeply with nature through direct experience.

The approach is fun, filled with games and stories, and Dorje loved it, and loved telling me all about it. I enjoyed the story of the human-like ‘stalkers’, hypnotised aliens who can’t stop moving and are destroying nature, who the children had to overcome in one of their games.

All the other children I know who’ve attended have immensely enjoyed it as well, so if you’re interested, email wildways (dot) sa (at) for more information.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Crippled by the goblins

May 10th, 2013 by dad

Last weekend, Dorje, Joan, a visitor from Kenya, and I went up Table Mountain in the cablecar. As is often the case, it was sunny and warm below, and chilly up top.


I’ve been up and down once before with Dorje, but this time we decided to walk down. We wandered around before ending up at Maclears Beacon, the highest point of the mountain.
Maclears Beacon

Dorje climbed to the top, fighting off the goblins, to get one half of the sacred stone.
Collecting the stone

Unfortunately, as the guide, I had enjoyed the stay on the top too much, and it was already sunset by the time we reached the beacon. We headed back, with the goblins in hot pursuit, empowered by the spreading gloom.

We got to Platteklip, enjoying some beautiful views of the city lights, but it was already dark, and so began a slow descent, the goblins requiring all of Dorje’s magic to lure astray.

Joan demonstrated her remarkable Kenyan climbling technique, descending on all fours, only her fear of the goblins behind overcoming her night blindness and fear of heights.

It was well-past Dorje’s bedtime and I was worried I’d have to carry him down, but the screeches of the goblins kept him awake and energised, and he was bounding back and forth waiting for myself and Joan.

We got back to the car at about 21h45, just ahead of the goblins.

Dorje was fine the next day, I was a bit stiff, but I feel very guilty for crippling Joan, who couldn’t leave the house for two days. She said she felt 83, and looked it too. When we finally made it out again, to the Waterfront with Dorje on Tuesday, the Justin Bieber fans pouring into the waterfront were backing up traffic for miles. A crippled Kenyan taking ten minutes to cross the road added at least another mile.

Dorje felt a few twinges a couple of days later, but luckily Joan was ready for the clubs of Long Street on her last weekend in Cape Town.

Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

A burning sensation

January 27th, 2013 by dad

We were about to start a game of Catan Cities and Knights when I decided to make some tea. Dorje helped carry the flask full of hot water back to the lounge.

He’s been singing like Bianca Castafiore ever since starting to read Tintin, so when he started shrieking again, it seemed like anther famous “Jewel Song” was in the offing.

Unfortunately, he was helping to carry a flask with hot water to the lounge, and the top had come off, pouring scalding water on his arm.

He spent the next while melting all my icepacks. An initial look at his arm didn’t show much damage, but some impressive blisters came up about an hour later.

The main blister

Both affected areas

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Deer prancing

January 13th, 2013 by dad

Dorje is lucky enough to come from a highly artistic family. We decided to have a drawing competition to see who’s progressed the most. Dorje is all of nine, so it wasn’t really a fair match, but we went ahead anyway. First, Dorje’s entry, entitled “Sea monster behind the hills”.

Sea monster behind the hills

Next, my contribution, “Deer prancing”.

Deer prancing

As I said, Dorje is already nine, so passed my level about eight years ago. Still, I quite like the way my deer turned out. Which do you think was better?

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Melrose and the bibble

December 19th, 2012 by dad

Dorje and I have been playing quite a bit of 30 Seconds recently.

It’s a great game. There are five words on a card, and a questioner has 30 seconds to guide the listener to as many correct words as possible without saying any of the actual words in the answer. So, “your mom’s dad” might be a clue for “grandfather”, but not “your father’s father”.

Since he’s nine, we play the Junior edition. I’ve played quite a few Junior versions of games, and most quickly become as boring for Dorje as they are for me, highly simplified versions without any of the enjoyable gameplay of the original.

Junior 30 Seconds is an exception. The senior edition contains all sort of politicians, celebrities and sports stars even the most TV-addled junior would barely have heard of, so a junior edition works well. Most of the words are generic, some very easy, for example “ears”, others a little trickier, such as “venom”.

It’s fun to see which words Dorje understands, and the creative explanations he comes up with. “Not frenzy but?” was one clue, which had me scrambling for adjectives for “calm”, missing the correct answer, “peace”.

It’s equally fun to see which words he doesn’t understand. It’s normally just the two of us playing, so we play co-operatively, and it’s rare that we get all five.

So where is his education lacking?

Geographical place names understandably almost always stump him. Botswana, Paris, Asia are all as mysterious as Phuntsholing and the Chambo River to most adults.

Similarly difficult are, “My Little Pony” and the like, being both a bit dated and him having little exposure to them, and he was equally at a loss to explain “the bibble” (the Bible)

Dorje is however crippled in one area compare to me, my childhood knowledge in the area far surpassing his. “Melrose”, “NikNaks”, “Oros” and “Milo” would all have been easy for nine-year-old Ian, but to Dorje they’re as arcane as the simple “quinoa”, “spirulina” and “amaranth” were to me.

Long may he remain blissfully ignorant of such horrors lurking in the world.

Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Master Wu’s worst day ever

December 19th, 2012 by dad

It was hot. Very hot. I’d gone to Anique’s house (otherwise known as ‘the oven’, even on a cool day) to look after Dorje for the day, and Dorje and I decided to go swimming at Silvermine.

When Dorje was a baby, I remember thinking packing couldn’t get any slower. The baby sits there unhelpfully while you try remember nappies, bottles and whatnot.

I was wrong.

Searching for costumes, towels, boogie board is infinitely slower when Master Wu is practising his ninja skills on me, and trying to get “where’s your boogie board” in amidst “Heeya! Waho!” and blows to the chest is challenging. Eventually, after a phone call to mom, we learn the board is at his gran’s house. A 20-minute detour, but we can’t go swimming without it!

It’s hot. I plan to go past SA National Parks to renew my Wild Card, and vaguely remember that they’ve changed offices. I decide to pull over and do a search for the new premises on my phone.

10 minutes later I’m wondering where all the freshly painted yellow lines came from, and why I’m feeling so law abiding.

I finally find a spot to pull over, a few scraggly branches providing more of a magnifying effect than any shade.

“SA national parks wild card” comes up as a helpful alternative. Click that. I seem to have pulled over in spot that makes me yearn for the speedy days of my first old dial up connection. Half expecting screeching modem sounds, the results finally appear. Perfect looking link, I click it. Or at least try to. My cellphone’s browser seems to have got a life of it’s own, and immediately starts scrolling to the top of the page, without me doing anything. Clicking on the minute link while moving proved beyond me and I go to the wrong page. Click back. Nothing happens. Back again. Whirr, click… Gone too far back, and reloading the Red Bull default home page that helpfully came preloaded on the phone. I’m sure they think their campaign is a roaring success, getting thousands of visits to their front page every day. Perhaps they’ll realise one day that their retention rate is just about zero.

Back to the search. Whirr, click. This is ridiculous, maybe I should find another spot. It’s hot. With the car off, the cooling fan has the effect of a high wind in a bush fire.

Here it is. My dexterity proves up to the task this time and I click the correct link. Whirr, click. I’m instead directed to an utterly useless mobile version of the site that has prominent links to the forum and other I’m sure exciting pages to visit, but nothing usefull I can find. I click a few links, each page costing me a gallon of water as my shirt begins to resemble Peter Siddle’s underpants after yet another Australian bowler has broken down and he’s asked to keep going for just one more over.

A few useless and painstaking results further, I disable the mobile page and get the original page I wanted to. Searching its vast caverns while the browser is helpfully auto scrolling out the way is a test in both dexterity and patience. I fail both and decide to drive to the original offices, hoping that they’ll either still be there or that there’ll be directions to the new premises.

On the way some screeching psychopath in a 4×4 tries to ram me and then sits on his hooter as I do a U-turn. I decide to set a good example and smile calmly while picturing what I could do with Peter Siddle’s cricket bat.

We get to the original offices. They’ve moved, but there’s a sign up with the address of the new premises. Back we go. We find it relatively easily, although by this time Dorje says he has a headache, and the joys of the wide freedom of the road are wearing thin.

Dorje waits in the car while I go to renew my membership. The staff are friendly, but it soon becomes apparent their backend systems are up to the same standard as their mobile website. They can’t renew my membership, and I have to apply for a new one. Now they need not only my ID number, address, phone number 1, phone number 2 and what I had for breakfast but Anique’s too, since I want to get one that Dorje, his mom and I can use anytime.

It’s the busiest half hour of Anique’s entire week and I can’t disturb her to get her details, so we’re stuck.

“Sod this” I think (or words to that effect), I may aas well just go directly to Silvermine and forget about the card for today.

By the time I get back the car has heated up nicely, and is now ready for frying veggie sausages. Luckily meat takes a bit longer and Dorje is still alive.

We drive to Silvermine. A car in front at the entrance gate. Looks like a National Parks staff member, as they’re chatting away nicely with no money passing hands. “Hot weather we’re having hey?” “How about Torres miss then?” “How long do you think we can keep talking before the car behind gets annoyed”. Timing it to perfection, finally he moves on. In at last! I hand over my credit card, not begrudging the lack of a Wild Card, my thoughts focussed entirely on the cool oasis ahead of us.

“Sorry, we don’t take credit cards, you’ll have to pay cash”


“Sorry, we…”

I had had cash as the day began, but Anique had been robbed on the weekend, and had no way to draw money, so I’d lent her my cash, and only had my cards with me.

“I don’t have any cash, only my credit card”

“Sorry, we…”

“So how can I get in?”

“Sorry, we…”

And so on and so on.

Choices, choices. Roar through the booms? Leave the car right where it is and walk in? Thank him politely and leave to go draw money down the mountain? What to do, what to do… I decided to on a Silence of the Lambs mask, Smaug demeanour and Ozzy Osbourne vocabulary, and expostulating with the hapless attendant on the wonders of SA National Park’s systems, went roaring off down the mountain again.

Since I’m going back down to draw cash, and now the half an hour is over and I can get hold of Anique’s life history, I may as well try to get a Wild Card again. The office is not much further than any ATM I know about.

Dorje reminds me about the dangers of driving the car while the revs are in the red. Luckily the traffic prevents any engine explosion. I see some humanoid shapes on the road and roar onwards, thinking they must get out of the effing way. They turn out to be baboons, who I know are not very good at getting out of the effing way, so I slow down, and calmly drive on to the SA National Parks office.

There’s a queue out the door. The staff are run ragged. “I’ve been waiting three years for my card!” says one. “The lady at the counter said she’d fixed it for me…”

“I want to add an activity to my Wild Card” goes another. “It’s a present for someone”. At least this one’s going smoothly.

“Sure” says the friendly staff member. “You need to bring two ID photos…”

Bit premature with my judgement there.

Another one begins with a staff member explaining that the new “Cape Cluster” doesn’t actually allow anyone into any Cape Nature reserves, and if they actually want to visit Cape Point, or Boulders, or anything in the Cape at all, they need the “National Cluster”. Obviously.

None of the transactions are going smoothly, the systems seem unable to do anything that anybody actually wants to do, and the angelic staff are patiently answering phone calls between every query, mostly sympathising with someone’s failure to signup or renew online, but gently trying to dissuade them from jpining the growing queue.

I’m beginning to compare the experience unfavourably with a Telkom office (at least in the days they still had lots of customers), and even have happy memories of halycon days in a Peruvian home affairs queue.

Since by the time I get the whole thing sorted out Dorje will either be French toast in the car, or Silvermine will have closed, I decide to leave.

Driving back gloomily, too hot and tired to even get the engine into the red, Dorje tells me “it’s been the worst day ever”, and in the moment I can only agree.

After some time, he reconsiders, and decides it hasn’t been quite as bad as the day Sims 3 wouldn’t work on his uncle’s computer.

There, not so bad then.

All things come to pass, and the day ends with a cold shower punctuated by lots of shrieking. The blocked plug even seems fun, just adding more entertainment to the shower.

After the return of Master Wu, and my subsequent beating to a pulp (amazing what stored up frustration can do to a master ninja), 30 Seconds, and more Master Wu, Dorje manages to beat Chess Shredder at his highest level yet.

A very impressive game, and I’m left contemplating the prospect of soon being surpassed in both ninja and chess skills.

Yes, definitely not so bad then.

Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Soccer (re)match

October 29th, 2011 by MUM

Saturday October 29, 2011
Venue: Malta Park

Dorje/MUM 8, DAD 15

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Soccer scores

October 21st, 2011 by MUM

Friday October 21, 2011
Venue: Malta Park

Dorje/MUM 7, DAD 10

MUM badly bruised (:eek:)

Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Hermanus weekend funnies

October 2nd, 2011 by MUM

#1 DORJE “Waterlemon” (:lol:)

#2 DORJE “Bath’s make me wrinkly like an oma” (:lol:)

#3 MUM “What did oma give you for breakfast”
DORJE “Brown stuff”
MUM “Was it muesli?”
MUM “Was it cereal?”
DORJE “What’s that?” (:lol:)
(Turns out it was a cereal of sorts)

#4 DORJE “You took to long to make me tea, so you are banned from reading me my story!” (:lol:)

Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

« Previous Entries Next Entries »