Tag Archives: Maths

False Friends

Yesterday I took part in an interesting CfE exercise at MGS where class each class teacher teamed up with another from a different department to investigate common ground and curricular connections. As an instructor, I was not really programmed into this but was very pleased to be included, having put out some gate-crashing feelers. The power of Maths decreed that many would be paired up with teachers of the subject and I was pleased to see that one member of the Music Department was Maths-bound.

As all expected, there were many overlaps. However, there were also a few false friends – words, the interpretation of which in either subject, is so different that we ought now to be on the lookout for understandable confusion. Examples?

Scale: referring in Maths to order of magnitude but in Music to the various spellings of stepwise movement in a melodic line

Time: time is relative in Music and absolute in Maths

Happily, the connections outweigh the differences by miles – is that a mixed metaphor? I’ll ask the English Department when we pair up with them 🙂

Music in prisons

One of the thorniest questions in any justice debate is “what is prison for?” Punishment? Rehabilitation? The protection of society? A mixture of the above and more? As far as punishment goes, the debate continues. Is simply being there the punishment? Is the prison simply the location where punishments (imposition of this – denial of that) are administered? The perspective of the victims of crime are often brought into the debate. Such a conversation recently unfolded on Radio 4’s Today on the subject of music in prisons (scroll down to 0743 – the time this item was broadcast).

The discussion was prompted by the installation of listening posts in the foyer of the Royal Festival Hall where visitors can hear the compositions of offenders. Reporter, Nicola Stanbridge, discussed the varying points of view with Sara Lee (Projects Coordinator, Irene Taylor Trust “Music In Prisons”), Dr Loraine Gelsthorpe (University of Cambridge, Institute of Criminology) and a former prisoner. Needless to say, the conversations were punctuated by recordings of Johnny Cash from Folsom Prison.

Dr Gelsthorpe listed the rehabilitative benefits of involvement as including: “well-being, relatedness, confidence & learning.” These terms will surely resonate with anyone connected to the changes currently being wrought in Scottish education by A Curriculum for Excellence. Particularly withdrawn or troublesome prisoners, who had not previously taken part in education (in any sense that mainstream teaching would imply) were often targeted for this programme.

I looked in vain on the website of the Royal Festival Hall for a link to this project – but did stumble upon Art by Offenders (Koestler Exhibition).

I taught a guitar class in HM Prison Edinburgh (Saughton) in the late 80s. As far as I could make out (I was only there one evening per week) the most popular classes were Art, Music, Maths (numeracy) & Chess. These relatively informal classes ran alongside a more formal Open University programme.