Posts Tagged ‘news’

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_______ Politicians vs Reality ______ Why BACK-to-BASICS Maths FAILS

December 8, 2019

“There are many such examples of excellence across Australian schools. But there are not enough. While individual schools might shine, the results of international tests, released earlier this week, suggest our education system as a whole is stagnating. For the first time, Australia failed to exceed the OECD average in maths, and the nation’s results in reading and science have declined since Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) testing began in the early 2000s.” More here.

What about SINGAPORE?

Meanwhile, SINGAPORE students do well in maths because they have very ENTHUSIASTIC teachers. If you want to see how Singapore and other countries promote maths in the classroom go to Maths News: Around the World from International Congress of Mathematical Education 2016.

Here we go again!

I wrote the following post in 2014 and here we are, 5 years later, back where we started. 

Louis CK Quote

…………………………………..

Is maths becoming a dead language?

mathspig fractionsIn the 1980’s American restaurant chain A&W was going to kick Mcdonald’s marketing butt. How? Instead of a quarter pounder burger they brought out and promoted a third pounder!!!! The promo failed. Why? Americans didn’t get fractions. More frightening, in Why do Americans stink at maths?, Elizabeth Green, The New York Times ( 23 JUL 2014), was the US study that found 17 percent of medication errors were caused by maths mistakes made by doctors or pharmacists.

Meanwhile, students in Australia, the USA, and the UK are dropping out of maths like flies.

Something is seriously wrong with the way we teach maths.

…………………………………………………………………………………..

Vote 1 Me. (Probably can’t count to 2 anyway.)

vote slip 2

Politicians around the world use education to win votes. We will raise numeracy standards they promise. Of course, this may not help your child, just the state averages.

Nevertheless, Back to Basics concepts are constantly pushed in the UK, the USA, and Australia by politicians.

us flagIn 2009 Obama backed “common standards” and “common core” curriculum in maths supported by $USA 4 Billion in grants. (Why do Americans stink at maths?, Elizabeth Green, The New York Times, 23 JUL 2014).

.

.

uk flagLater this year a new ‘Back to Basics’ Curriculum will be rolled out in the UK with an emphasis on times tables and mental maths. (Schools must go back to basics to raise maths standards, Graeme Paton, The Telegraph, UK, 18 FEB 2014)

.

aus flagAustralia has introduced a National Curriculum and National Testing (NAPLAN) in numeracy and literacy in recent years. The current government just put up $22 million to back Direct Instruction in Indigenous Schools across Qld, NT and WA (Noel Pearson’s learning engine, Jamie Walker, The Australian, 5 JUL 2014) Direct Instruction is a commercial product involving very rigid and proscriptive Back to Basics curriculum and testing program from National Institute of Direct Instruction based in Eugene, Oregon.

Teachers use strict guidelines and must keep within the program. Eg:

Picture 2

Picture 3……………………………………

Do back to basics programs work?

Maybe. It depends on what you are measuring. Students can improve some maths skills. The worksheets are very clear and that is to be applauded. And so, in time, standards may rise on paper.

But there are still two huge problems.

…………………………………………………………………………….

We have ways of teaching to make you hate maths!!!!

Firstly, there is the McMath Element. Do you want Pythagoras with that quarter pounder? Repetitive, pre-packaged, parrot-style learning is easily forgotten. According to Professor Roediger professor of psychology at Washington Uni ‘effortful, varied practice builds mastery’. (How tests make us smarter, New York Times, 18 Jul 2014).

Secondly, rigid drilling is boring. Students grind through the exercise after exercise being constantly reminded that maths is dry, dull and boring on a coma-inducing scale. Students will, as is the current trend, drop maths as soon as they can.

…………………………………………………………………………. 

 

Why do some kids think maths is a cruel and unusual punishment?

According to Peter Sullivan, Professor of Mathematics Edu at Monash University students drop maths because it is:

not related to the real world,

repetitious,

boring

and restrictive.

See STOP THE PRESS: Maths Teaching Fails

But it is not just students who find maths boring. Teachers who are forced to adopt rigid, repetitive and monotonous prepackaged courses also become disillusioned.

……………………………………….

One size does not fit all and local knowledge counts

Grade 3Elcho Island MapI’m sitting in a Grade 3 classroom in a remote Indigenous School on Elcho Island off the coast of NT. (Last week I ran some fun/creative workshops for staff.) The young enthusiastic teacher (with the help of two indigenous interpreters) was teaching the students to count to 10 and write the numbers from 1 – 10.

Students arrive at school speaking only the local Indigenous language. They must acquire literacy skills in their own language before they are taught English in Grade 4. There is a good deal of catching up to be achieved in numeracy skills. Many Indigenous languages only name the numbers 1, 2, 3 and many. The teachers on the island are familiar with the difficulties facing their students and work hard with empathy and enthusiasm to overcome multiple disadvantages of their students.

Teachers on the island have developed extraordinary resources and create programs to engage their students in learning maths. Imposing a rigid curriculum regime like Direct Instruction on Elcho Island schools will further disadvantage the students and also demoralize the dedicated staff.

………………………………

Ways of teaching maths that work

Here are two teaching methods that are not only flexible and fun, but they have also been proven to work in the classroom.

The Walker Learning Approach

Walker learningKathy Walker is an Australian educator, author and early years curriculum expert. Her books include What’s the Hurry? and Play Matters. The Walker Learning Approach, which is used in many schools around Australia including Elcho Island, is an evidence-based strategy that encourages play-based discovery and learning as well as explicit instruction in numeracy and literature (K – Year 8). More here.

…………………………………………………………….

Magdelene Lampert: Learning by Communication Method

teaching probMagdalene Lampert, until recently professor of education at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and author of “Teaching Problems and the Problems of Teaching, has replaced ‘answer-getting’ with ‘sense-making.(Why do Americans stink at maths?, Elizabeth Green, The New York Times, 23 JUL 2014)

She advocates incorporating communication in maths as ‘being able to explain your thinking so that someone else grasps your ideas’ improves your understanding ( as any teacher knows from their own experiences in front of the classroom.)

…………………………………………………………………………….

LET TEACHERS TEACH

Mathspig Pedagogy

Yeah! MATHS: Guaranteed to be boring one day and scary the next but always a complete waste of time – there’s a product that’s not going to sell.

Let teachers teach. This should be a campaign slogan to put maths teaching back into the hands of the people, who know what is going on in the classroom. Imposing rigid regimes on teachers is counter productive as the teachers become as bored, as angry and as disenfranchised as their students. I mean ‘why bother?’ We need teachers with passion, enthusiasm and creativity to teach maths, not Mathsbots pre-programmed by politicans to win votes.

Politicians do not teach your children. Teachers do. If politicians and the bureaucracy make teachers lives miserable, this misery will be passed onto their students … Your children. There must be checks and balances – and cliches, I guess – but it is the teacher who passes on their love or hatred of maths to your children. If the community gives teachers the chance to teach maths creatively and with humour, they will take up the challenge and your child will benefit.

Mathspig Let Teachers Teach

I was taught by a young and enthusiastic Maths teacher at a small rural hgh school in the sixties. That’s almost 50 years ago – OMG! Don’t do the maths. His name was Barry Underhill.

Mathjspig a gogo 1I’m Mathspig. And I love maths.

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Maths News: Around the World

August 9, 2016

MATHSPIG ICME 13 HAMBURG

Mathspig’s head is almost exploding with the maths ideas she picked up at the ICME 13 maths conference in Hamburg last month. Mathspig’s interest is in ‘Popularising’ maths. Enthusiastic conveners of this group were:

Patrick Vennebush (Discovery Channel, USA), Carlota Pires Simoes (University of Coimbra, Portugal), Prof Chris Budd (University of BAth, UK) and Christian Mercat (Universite Claude Bernard, Lyon, France).

QUICK SUMMARY:

HARNESS CURIOSITY: Maths educators from many countries have found that informal styles of maths education encourage students’ interest in maths.

ENCOURAGE INVOLVEMENT: Maths educators from around the world have found maths activities engage students more in mathematical concepts than simply opening text books or handing out worksheets.

POLITICAL INTERFERENCE: Politicians of all flavours believe they know more about maths eduction than maths educators and use funding to push their ideas into the classroom.

CURRICULUM CONFLICT: Politicians around the world have virtually opposing views on ‘good’ maths teaching methods. See UK vs SINGAPORE vs AUSTRALIA. 

So here are some of the fabulous ideas from the International Congress of Mathematical Education ICME 13 plus some additional research and links.

UK: Screen Shot 2016-08-09 at 3.39.28 PM

The UK govt has offered £41 million to encourage half their primary schools to adopt Asian-style methods of teaching maths used in Singapore, Shanghai, Hong Kong (The Guardian, 12 July 2016) and return to using math text books. One favoured (and expensive – try  £4000 for a text book package) program is INSPIRE, which is a very visual and very structured text book series. But, as maths educator Dr Jennie from University College London commented, just because something works in Singapore does not mean it will work in London.

SINGAPORE:        Screen Shot 2016-08-09 at 3.53.51 PM

Meanwhile maths educators from Singapore are adamant that there is no such thing as SINGAPORE MATHS. There are just a lot of maths teachers working hard. While parents, teachers and cultural expectations also make a contribution. In fact, there are many struggling maths students in Singapore. Tin Lam Toh from the National Institute of Education, Singapore, gave a – dare I say – ‘inspiring’ talk on the use of maths comic books to engage reluctant students. Would the UK government be happy if some of that £41 million was spent on COMIC BOOKS? But it is SINGAPORE MATHS! (The Straits Times, 30 May 2016)

 

PORTUGAL:        portugal

Andreia Hall, University of Aveiro, and Sonia Pais, Polytechnic Insitute of Leira demonstrated the power of maths magic from their MATHEMATICAL CIRCUS PROJECT. Their Circo Matematico road show has delighted and astounded many students and teachers. (More info on this project coming soon). 

Portugal pic

But others explained that Maths education in Portugal has its problems. Every time the government changes, the maths curriculum changes because – you know how it is – politicians know more about maths education than maths educators. And guess what? After 3 years of a disastrous regressive curriculum, there has been a change of government. ‘So what will happen next?’ maths teachers wonder.

COSTA RICA:      Cost Rica

Costa Rica has, however, avoided some of Portugal’s curriculum headaches. The very cheerful, Angel Ruiz, University of Costa Rica, explained that he and others schmoozed the politicians of all political flavours before each election so that educators remained in control of the curriculum. There is a clear message for maths associations around the world in this news.

FRANCE:      French

Glorious France. The French have long admired philosophers and mathematicians so it is no surprise that some amazing maths projects are taking place in France. Martin Andler, University of Versailles St Quentin, described the exciting Animath Project, which has been running for the last 4 years. With a €2 million government grants expanded to almost €6 million with private contributions, the project funds maths clubs, expositions, websites, competitions, prizes and more. (More info on this project coming soon. Look at Animath Facebook for now.)

 

GERMANY:     German

Wow! Andreas Matt and Bianca Violet, Mathematisches Forschungsinstitut Oberwolfach, Germany, introduced the extraordinary Imaginary Project.

This free, open source, collaborative website encourages involvement from around the world. Imaginary is funded by a Philanthropic Foundation and embraces concepts from Cloud Conferences to shopping mall displays to 3D printing competitions. It is mind boggling in its mathematical breadth and creativity. Just go to the website for a quick shot of amazement. (More on this project soon). And it is in ENGLISH.

USA:     USA

My good maths friends at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics provide resources, conferences and support for maths teachers. The NCTM are, significantly, not shy about making public comments on maths education topics from the teachers’ perspective. The NCTM is highly critical of the misuse by governments et al of high-stakes testing and the No Child Left Behind initiative, which produced a maths curriculum focused on ‘mostly low-level and disconnected skills’. Meanwhile, it was Marta Civil, Arizona, who highlighted the challenges faced by the individual math teacher especially in a multicultural classroom. Here, for instance, are two samples of long division USA-style and the Mexican Method.

Long Division Mathspig

No wonder some students and their parents get confused.

CANADA:   CANADA

Frederic Gourdeau, University of Laval, Canada, is one of the editors of the maths magazine, ACCROMATH, that has been promoting math in Quebec for the last 10 years. The success of the magazine – apart from the vibrant layout, fascinating topics and broad mathematical content – is based on tireless testing of the articles until they appeal to a broad range of students and teachers. The magazine is in French, of course, but if you Google Accromath images you’ll get the picture.

FINLAND:    FINLAND

Finland is held in high esteem among maths educators because of its consistently high math scores in the PISA tests for 15 year olds. But Prof Matti Heilio, Lappeenranta University of Technology, Finland, advises caution before jumping to conclusions. Yes! Teachers are highly trained and school quality is consistent across the country. But Finland’s success in maths education doesn’t necessarily flow onto their tertiary level.  As Prof Heilio explained ‘we need maths fundamental to the sustainable development of a technologically-based society’. Meanwhile, my favourite comment by a Finnish educator: ‘Our mission as adults is to protect our children from politicians’.

But, at least, Finland did give us ANGRY BIRDS.

AUSTRALIA:    AUSTRALIA

Last year the Australian government granted $1.5 million to Prof Robert Fitzgerald of INSPIRE Centre, University of Canberra (Not the Singapore Inspire) to bring back STUDENT ‘fascination’ with maths and science because, according to the professor, the ‘old text book approach is not working’.

Meanwhile, the mining conglomerate BHP has donated $22 million to fund the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute ‘Choose Maths’ program to do what? Guess? Produce text books! And these text books do not appear to be very exciting at all – definitely not up to $22 million worth of excitement. Go here to have a look at The Laws of Arithmetic and their use in Algebra for Year 7. This approach could excite you into a coma! What’s going on?

NEW ZEALAND:   NZ

In his keynote address (Full video recording here) Bill Barton, The University of Auckland, NZ, emphasised how little maths education had changed since Felix Klein criticised teaching methods over a hundred years ago. If maths students were apprentice carpenters then we would subject them to 14 years of repetitive tests of their hammering and sawing skills without ever letting them build even the smallest dog kennel. His talk was a plea for innovative thinking in maths education. He also criticised streaming students into ability groups as a form of Human Rights abuse. Think about it. The lowest ability group is always given a watered down curriculum, which is against their rights to a standard education.

RUSSIA:    RUSSIAN

Sergei Pozdniakov, Saint Petersberg Electrotechnical University, Russian Federation, spoke magnificently as if driven by the full force of Russian history. Yet he did not speak about tradition but rather the need to enhance the ‘bookish’ approach to maths education with activities for students of all ages. These activities included websites with algorithm challenges for all ages (See pic below) and Olympiad competitions with open and difficult problems. In each case students are encouraged ‘to build their own solutions and also find individual paths of searching for the solutions’. 

RUSSIAN PIC 2

THE NETHERLANDS:   NETHERLANDS

Bumping into middle-school maths teacher Jeroen Spandaw proved that a creative approach to maths education was alive and well in The Netherlands. In one maths challenge  for his students, he asks  ‘if all the people in China – the world?- stood on each other’s shoulders would they reach the moon?’

ISRAEL:    ISRAEL

Nitsa Movshovitz-Hadar, Israel Institute of Technology, had a unique approach to popularising mathematics. She runs public lectures open to all. It is astounding to learn that, say, 85 members of the public would turn up and pay a fee to listen to a lecture on Infinity. But they do. The fee supports grants for innovation in maths teaching. Nitsa carefully prepares each lecture and wins the audience with intriguing titles such as ‘The wonders of logic or: A mathematician’s April fool trick’ and ‘How many guards are needed to protect an art gallery?’

SOUTH AFRICA:   SOUTH AFRICA

Duduzile Mkhize, University of Johannesburg, South Africa, described the program she has developed to help some of the poorest students in her country. This Outreach program works beyond curriculum to improve high school students self-perception. Teenagers are forming their identities and it is as this time they decide they are NOT mathematicians. This 10 day residential program aims to change this view. Students are immersed in mathematics and return to their schools feeling more confident about their maths abilities. And this new found confidence persists throughout their education.

INDIA:   INDIA

Rajaratnam Athmaraman Veeravalli, The Association of Mathematics Teachers of India, explained that maths education is celebrated in India with TV shows, competitions, displays, Maths Awareness Months and even a National Maths Day celebrated on 22nd Dec, the birthday of the celebrated mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanujam, whose life was portrayed in the film ‘The man who knew infinity’. Nevertheless, the attitude to maths in India is not good. Many think maths is not useful so efforts to popularise maths will continue. And ‘the target audience has to be almost the entire population—young and old, the well educated as well as the poorly educated, and, of course, men and women. Sometimes, it may have to include reluctant mathematicians.’

TURKEY:  TURKEY

Education is a servant of politics. This became sadly apparent when we learnt that the Turkish presenter for my popularising maths group, who I will not name, was prevented from attending the conference. The audience sat in stunned silence as we watched his video presentation of a very normal, busy middle-school maths classroom filmed only 4 days before the political turmoil began in Turkey.

ITALY:   ITALY

Marco Turrini, MMLab-University of Modena e Reggio Emilia, described how his Laboratory of Mathematical Machines is used to popularise maths in Italy. Students work with or create similar machines to develop an understanding of the underlining mathematical principles (see pic below).

ITALIAN MACHINES

ICME 13 photographs 

ICME 13 2016 2Row 1: 1.ICME 13 Hamburg Opening Ceremony, 2. Friendly Helpers at Congress, 3. Fabulous French PhD maths students Alix Boissiere and Lisa Rougetet,

Row 2: 4. Patrick Scott, IACME, USA and Angel Ruiz, University of Costa Rica, 5. Mathspig and Christian Mercat as a comcam Mandelbrot set,

Row 3: 7. Dr Axelle Faughn, Western Carolina University, 8. Jana Sierk Mintfit HamburRow

Row 4: 9. Christian Mercat  at the Mayor’s Reception City Hall hamburg, 10. Mathspig’s Workshop ICME Hamburg, 11. Mathspig at her Hamburg Workshop

Row 5: 12. Amazing image from the IMAGINARY website, 13. Prof Matti Heilio, Finland, 14. Patrick Vennebush (Discovery Channel, USA), Carlota Pires Simoes looking as if they’re giving  Prof Chris Budd (Looking like his head as a trophy, The Popularising Maths Group.

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Beware Maths Fundamentalists

July 28, 2014

Louis CK Quote

…………………………………..

Is maths becoming a dead language?

mathspig fractionsIn the 1980’s American restaurant chain A&W were going to kick Mcdonald’s marketing butt. How? Instead of a quarter pounder burger they brought out and promoted a third pounder!!!! The promo failed. Why? Americans didn’t get fractions. More frightening, in Why do Americans stink at maths?, Elizabeth Green, The New York Times ( 23 JUL 2014) was the US study that found 17 percent of medication errors were caused by maths mistakes made by doctors or pharmacists.

Meanwhile students in Australia, USA and the UK are dropping out of maths like flies.

Something is seriously wrong with the way we teach maths.

…………………………………………………………………………………..

Vote 1 Me. (Probably can’t count to 2 anyway.)

vote slip 2

Politicians around the world use education to win votes. We will raise numeracy standards they promise. Of course, this may not help your child, just the state averages.

Nevertheless, Back to Basics concepts are being pushed in the UK, USA and Australia by politicians.

us flagIn 2009 Obama backed “common standards” and “common core” curriculum in maths supported by $USA 4 Billion in grants. (Why do Americans stink at maths?, Elizabeth Green, The New York Times, 23 JUL 2014).

.

.

uk flagLater this year a new ‘Back to Basics’ Curriculum will be rolled out in the UK with an emphasis on times tables and mental maths. (Schools must go back to basics to raise maths standards, Graeme Paton, The Telegraph, UK, 18 FEB 2014)

.

aus flagAustralia has introduced a National Curriculum and National Testing (NAPLAN) in numeracy and literacy in recent years. The current government just put up $22 million to back Direct Instruction in Indigenous Schools across Qld, NT and WA (Noel Pearson’s learning engine, Jamie Walker, The Australia, 5 JUL 2014) Direct Instruction is a commercial product involving very rigid and proscriptive Back to Basics curriculum and testing program from National Institute of Direct Instruction based in Eugene, Oregon.

Teachers use strict guidelines and must keep within the program. Eg:

Picture 2

Picture 3……………………………………

Do back to basics programs work?

Maybe. It depends on what you are measuring. Students can improve some maths skills. The work sheets are very clear and that is to be applauded. And so, in time, standards may rise on paper.

But there are still two huge problems.

…………………………………………………………………………….

We have ways of teaching to make you hate maths!!!!

Firstly, there is the McMath Element. Do you want Pythagoras with that quarter pounder? Repetitive, pre-packaged, parrot-style learning is easily forgotten. According to Professor Roediger professor of psychology at Washington Uni ‘effortful, varied practice builds mastery’. (How tests make us smarter, New York Times, 18 Jul 2014).

Secondly, rigid drilling is boring. Students grind through the exercise after exercise being constantly reminded that maths is dry, dull and boring on a coma-inducing scale. Students will, as is the current trend, drop maths as soon as they can.

…………………………………………………………………………. 

 

Why would some kids prefer water boarding to doing maths?

According to Peter Sullivan, Professor of Mathematics Edu at Monash University students drop maths because it is:

not related to the real world,

repetitious,

boring

and restrictive.

See STOP THE PRESS: Maths Teaching Fails

But it is not just students who find maths boring. Teachers who are forced to adopt rigid, repetitive and monotonous prepackaged courses also become disillusioned.

……………………………………….

One size does not fit all and local knowledge counts

Grade 3Elcho Island MapI’m sitting in a Grade 3 classroom in a remote Indigenous School on Elcho Island off the coast of NT. (Last week I ran some fun/creative workshops for staff.) The young enthusiastic teacher (with the help of two indigenous interpreters) was teaching the students to count to 10 and write the numbers from 1 – 10.

Students arrive at school speaking only the local Indigenous language. They must acquire literacy skills in their own language before they are taught English in Grade 4. There is a good deal of catching up to be achieved in numeracy skills. Many Indigenous languages only name the numbers 1, 2, 3 and many. The teachers on the island are familiar with the difficulties facing their students and work hard with empathy and enthusiasm to overcome multiple disadvantages of their students.

Teachers on the island have developed extraordinary resources and creative programs to engage their students in learning maths. Imposing a rigid curriculum regeme like Direct Instruction on Elcho Island schools will further disadvantage the students and also demoralize the dedicated staff.

………………………………

Ways of teaching maths that work

Here are two teaching methods that are not only flexible and fun, they have been proven to work in the classroom.

The Walker Learning Approach

Walker learningKathy Walker is an Australian educator, author and early years curriculum expert. Her books include What’s the Hurry? and Play Matters. The Walker Learning Approach, which is used in many schools around Australia including Elcho Island, is an evidence-based strategy that encourages play-based discovery and learning as well as explicit instruction in numeracy and literature (K – Year 8). More here.

…………………………………………………………….

Magdelene Lampert: Learning by Communication Method

teaching probMagdalene Lampert, until recently professor of education at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and author of “Teaching Problems and the Problems of Teaching , has replaced ‘answer-getting’ with ‘sense-making.(Why do Americans stink at maths?, Elizabeth Green, The New York Times, 23 JUL 2014)

She advocates incorporating communication in maths as ‘being able to explain your thinking so that someone else grasps your ideas’ improves your undestanding ( as any teacher knows from their own experiences in front of the classroom.)

…………………………………………………………………………….

LET TEACHERS TEACH

Mathspig Pedagogy

Yeah! MATHS: Guaranteed to be boring one day and scary the next but always a complete waste of time – there’s a product that’s not going to sell.

Let teachers teach. This should be a campaign slogan to put maths teaching back into the hands of the people, who know what is going on in the classroom. Imposing rigid regimes on teachers is counter productive as the teachers become as bored, as angry and as disenfranchised as their students. I mean ‘why bother?’ We need teachers with passion, enthusiasm and creativity to teach maths, not Mathsbots pre-programmed by politicans to win votes.

Politicians do not teach your children. Teachers do. If politicians and the bureaucracy make teachers lives miserable, this misery will be passed onto their students … Your children. There must be checks and balances – and cliches, I guess – but it is the teacher who passes on their love or hatred of maths to your children. If the community gives teachers the chance to teach maths creatively and with humour, they will take up the challenge and your child will benefit.

Mathspig Let Teachers Teach

I was taught by a young and enthusiastic Maths teacher at a small rural hgh school in the sixties. That’s almost 50 years ago – OMG! Don’t do the maths. His name was Barry Underhill.

Mathjspig a gogo 1I’m Mathspig. And I love maths.