Small Person 1 Of 2 is currently in the middle of taking her GCSEs. Actually, she is just over half way through. It seems in this day and age the exams are spread out over several months, unlike back in my day when we seemed to take them all in a couple of weeks just before the end of the summer term. The current school term doesn’t end until the third week of July and she doesn’t have to go into school if she doesn’t have an exam. This works out at less than 1 day per week left to attend!
Today’s exam was mathematics. Before Small Person 1 Of 2 went to school to sit the exam, She Who Must Be Obeyed asked whether Small Person 1 Of 2 had a calculator to take with her. Again, going back to the days when I sat these exams (although they were O levels in those days, not GCSEs) we were not allowed calculators in the exams.
We could take in a slide rule and associated log tables but calculators were so new (at least pocket size calculators were) they hadn’t yet been approved for use.
Of course, as soon as I mentioned that, I regretted it instantly. Trying to explain what a slide rule is and how to use one to a teenager was hard enough when I was that age when people actually used them but to do it now in this electronic age is virtually impossible! Not wanting to confuse Small Person 1 Of 2 before her maths exam, I just tried to explain how to use a slide rule for multiplication (one of the more basic functions!):
multiplication is performed on a slide rule by setting the left index on the C scale to line up with a factor on the D scale. Look on the C scale, usually labelled at the top, for the second factor then find the product on the D scale. Multiplications involving more than one factor can be found by using the smaller divisions between numbers.
As if explaining what a slide rule is to someone who has never seen one wasn’t hard enough, getting their head round a log table was just a non starter. ‘Why would anyone take into an exam a table made of logs’, was the question!
Things didn’t get any better when She Who Must Be Obeyed asked Small Person 1 Of 2 whether her calculator was battery powered. All sorts of images were conjured up by this question. What other type could she take into an exam?
Perhaps one that requires electricity? In which case she would have to take an extension lead in with her and plug it in somewhere. Or even a personal generator! Failing that, perhaps it would be the sort that was large, mechanical and clunky and took up half the desk.
I decided there was only one sure fire way of ensuring power was not going to be an issue and lent her my earliest calculator! 😉