Today I visited Midland markets after Church to buy fresh vegetables, cheese etc and have coffee with my wonderful daughter!
As I waited to pay for my vegetables I noticed the young boy (about 11), had no help and at least 7 people waiting. I watched him carefully-expecting him to get frustrated, overwhelmed or at least to start making mistakes.
He was doing this amazing thing whereby he would weigh, total the amount in his head, tell the customer what they owed- then while they were fishing in their purse for money he would start serving the next. He stayed incredibly calm and was absolutely spot on with his mental arithmetic. (No calculator)
As I paid him I congratulated him on his maths skills-he looked a bit surprised as quite obviously this is what he does regularly. And yet-we spend HOURS trying to teach children of this age how to improve mental arithmetic. Maybe we should just assign them to a Sunday morning market stall minus a calculator! They could learn how to accurately weigh, calculate the amount owed and give correct change- all those basic maths processes but taught in context!