When I'm not driving into London, I sometimes just get up and start work, so I was mildly embarrassed to find Michael and his mum knocking on the door at half past eight this morning when I was in my pyjamas. Could I help with Michael's homework?
He'd been given a table with a colum of three-digit numbers down the middle. On the left hand side, he had to subtract 1, 10 and then 100, and on the right he had to add the same. His puzzle was - should he subtract 1, and then 10 from the new number, then 100 from the next new number, or should he start his operation from the central number each time? The only thing to tell him - or me - was a printed number in the second row, that had clearly been subtracted from the original number. Once I'd spotted this, I could explain to Michael what he had to do.
But why didn't they explain the operation on the sheet? Is maths about reading implications into cryptic clues? If so, then children need to be taught to do this. Adding or subtracting 1 from a number is not difficult - not knowing what to do had Michael in distress, as I was with geometry until I found out how it worked fifteen years after I'd left school.
Michael has just been "assessed" as dyslexic by a psychologist, purely on the basis of his low scores on her tests. No consideration of cause and effect. If only it were so simple...