Teaching A Four-Year-Old Fractions! Really, Mr Gove?

14/08/2014 16:51 | Updated 22 May 2015

Teaching a four-year-old fractions! Really, Mr Gove?

Our four-year-old daughter starts school in September, and we're all super-excited to discover that from next year she'll be learning all about fractions.

The Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, has announced controversial sweeping changes to the national curriculum, including teaching five-year olds fractions and computer programming.

Being one of those pushy middle-class parents, I'm obviously keen to give our daughter a head start. Mr Gove says she must know about fractions, so know about fractions she will.


Unfortunately, the principle of fractions is sharing, and sharing is not something that comes easily to our daughter. She knows that if there's one of something, she wants it. She doesn't want to share it, divide it or split it. Not with anyone, and particularly not with her little sister. This is going to be tricky.


"Look sweetie, here's an apple."

"Can I have it?"

"Yes, in a minute. Look, if we cut it in half, there are two halves."

"I didn't want you to cut it in half. I wanted to eat it whole, like a big girl."

"Never mind that for a second. Look, there are two halves. If we cut it again, there are four quarters."

"Now can I eat it?"


What about pizza? "I don't like pizza."

"I know, but look, there are eight slices. Those are called eighths."

"Mummy likes pizza."

"Yes, she does."

"Are you going to eat all eight slices?"

"Yes, dear, very probably."

"Can I watch CBeebies now?"


Perhaps we could get the Tweenies to reach her about fractions. Maybe then she might listen. Or perhaps we could chop a Tweenie in half. That might be popular with parents, at least.

"Dear Mr Gove. In order to teach five-year-olds fractions, have you considered bringing back hanging, drawing and quartering for children's television characters?" Hmm. Perhaps not.

How about cakes? This might be a more successful teaching strategy.

"Look poppet, we bought a cake for Daddy's birthday."

"I want it to be my birthday."

"It's not your birthday until January."

"But I want it to be my birthday now. I don't want to give Daddy a present. I want to get presents. Why can't I have presents?"

"Because it's not your birthday, and if you carry on like this you won't get any of Daddy's cake. So look. Let's cut the cake up. How many slices do we need?"

"Four. One for me, one for you, one for Daddy and one for Lucy."

"Good. Well done."

"So if we cut it into four pieces, those are called quarters."

"Can I have two quarters because Lucy doesn't want any? And can I have your piece as well mummy?"

"How many is that?"

"Three quarters."

Phew. Done it. Gove might have a few problems with childhood obesity by the time he's finished, but cakes are clearly the way to go.

Now, what's next on the agenda? Computer programming. Frankly, the thought of this terrifies me. In my day, it was all about learning to programme a tennis ball to bounce off the edges of the screen. But things have moved on since then. The world of computing has become a little scary.

Of course, our children might devise ingenious new NHS computer systems which actually work, develop the next Grand Theft Auto, or discover the secret of why Microsoft Windows is so slow.

However, with my daughter's deviousness, determination and sheer bloody-mindedness, I fear she will become a super-hacker by the time she's six.

She'll start by reprogramming the CBeebies website to make the "What's The Big Idea" game a bit easier, but I'm sure she will soon progress.

I can just hear the knock on the door in the middle of the night.

"Hello Mrs Cornish. It's about your daughter."

"Oh God, what has she done?"

"I'm afraid she's hacked into the Pentagon."

"Oh no, not again..."

Of course, it's unlikely she'll learn anything of the sort, as teachers frantically scrabble to keep up with the latest wholesale changes to the education system. These things change every five minutes. They change so quickly that sometimes the same things come in and out of fashion before children have even finished infant school. I expect by the time our daughter's little sister goes to school, it will be all change again.

Computers and maths will be "bad" – so creatively stifling, darling – and it'll be all about teaching them practical skills like sewing, digging wells and chimney-sweeping.

And quite right too. The Victorians had the right ideas, didn't they? It's all about discipline and hard work. Let's put the little blighters to work doing something useful for a change. Burn the computers, and let's get back to basics.

More on Parentdish: The trouble with maths

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