Geoff Tennant - Promoting access to mathematics for all
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12/5/19: at school (8): i know I'eve ranted about football before...

Some months ago my head of year told me that a group of boys, including a number from my tutor group and others from my maths group, were organising an event to raise money for charity  Fantastic!  Pupils taking the initiative, looking to help others whilst promoting a sense of community, developing organisational skills and having fun all at the same time.  Which teacher wouldn't want actively to encourage this kind of undertaking?
 
And the event itself?  A football match.  Longstanding readers will remember this post written during the World Cup, in which I described my feelings towards the game.  Alas, I never knew my paternal grandfather, he'd passed away before I was born.  But I take comfort that I am honouring his memory by perpetuating his view, 2 generations later, that 22 people chasing after a piece of inflated leather really makes no sense.
 
So, I asked one of the pupil organisers, what can I do to help?  Expecting an answer like: collect money for tickets at the gate.  Instead I get: could you be the referee?  No, I don't think that's a particularly good idea, it might be helpful to ask somebody who has at least some idea as to what is supposed to happen.
 
The day arrived, the weather was overcast and the forecast was rain.  So what, I ask the head of year who is also a PE teacher, is the wet weather routine?  He looked at me as if I had asked a monumentally stupid question.  Apparently it should be obvious that football games continue when it is raining.  So what, I wondered later, would cause a football game to stop?  Snow?  Hailstones?  Tornadoes?  Nuclear attack?  Anyway, as far as I am concerned, the footballers, referee and linesmen are welcome to get wet if they choose to do so, my concern was really for the comfort of the spectators.  Or, to be more precise, the comfort of one particular spectator, namely, me.  To then discover that we had hired the grounds of a club a short walk from school which had a covered spectator area.  So that solved that one.
 
I arrived at the appointed meeting place and time, slightly surprised to be asked to carry the football which felt like a huge and unwarranted over-promotion.  Oh look, say I to a boy who happened to be close by at the time.  This football is an approximation to a polyhedron made up of pentagons and hexagons!  Which means that it necessarily has exactly 12 pentagons!  You mean, he said sounding slightly puzzled, that you've counted them?  No, I reply, I don't need to!  You see, if you start with Euler's theorem....   I tailed off, judging that I'd lost the attention of my audience.  Strange really.  Football versus Euler's theorem, and football wins.  There's no accounting for taste.
 
(Parenthetical thought for the mathematically inclined: the proof that a polyhedron made up of hexagons and pentagons necessarily has exactly 12 pentagons is very beautiful and quite straightforward, happy to share on request!  End of parenthetical thought).
 
Credit where credit is due, the lads had done a superb job getting things ready.  The pupil-managers were dressed in smart suits with ties matching the colours of their  teams.   I made myself useful in a vague, shambling kind of way, letting late comers in, passing round a rubbish bag, and going to get the ball when it was kicked outside of the grounds.  Fortunately there was a spare, there was no way I was going to break into a run.  When not busy I did try to remember to look up occasionally from my phone.  The game came to an end to be told that one of the teams - I forget which - had won, apparently they'd scored more goals than the other. 
 
As we were leaving I had a brief conversation with somebody who worked at the grounds.  So what, he asked, what was the purpose of the match?  Dear reader, you'll be so pleased to hear that I bit my tongue so hard that it bled (actually that's not true but I feel as if it should be).  I mean, really.  The purpose?  Of a football game?  What kind of question is that?  How do you even attempt an answer?  I took refuge in talking about the charity for which money was being raised which seemed to suffice, I'm pleased to say.
 
As we walked back to school a number of boys were kind enough to thank me for coming, one of whom asked me if I'd enjoyed the match.  I took refuge in a vague mumble and the moment passed, when there is a conflict between being polite and telling the truth it gets a bit hard....
 
So, jolly well done, lads.  You were a credit to yourselves, your families and the school.  The charity will be grateful for the money you raised.  Because of your organisation there was a respectable group of spectators who showed every sign of having enjoyed themselves.  Do make sure you mention this on your emerging CVs!  My feelings towards football are, at the end of the day, irrelevant.  Although, if you're considering another event, I'd be happy to make some suggestions.  Sponsored Gregorian chant singing, maybe?
 

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