Maths - Pi another day

6th April 2012 at 01:00
Be prepared for anything with a gadget-laden 'maths suit'

When I started out as a maths teacher, my dress sense might have best been described as charity shop chic. I had amassed an array of 1950s jackets and innocently thought that my new proteges would be impressed by my stylish retro cool. But my pupils fell silent as I walked in, then shared a communal "Ouch!" "Oxfam was it, Sir?" one asked. This was a tough school.

Finally a pupil called Mavis, aged 15, took me aside in a motherly way. "Give yourself a treat, Sir," she said, sotto voce. "Go to a proper shop and buy yourself something really nice."

"What should I wear?" is a question that (almost) every maths teacher has to grapple with at some point. Impeccably smart? Mufti? Ties? Heels? Sometimes I fantasise about the perfect clothing in a James Bond-style daydream that goes like this ...

Q, the greying head of MI6's research and development branch, introduces Jonny (me) to Dr Leonard Hoffstein, who has created an ingenious "maths suit", with a full range of accessories, for my next assignment. Jonny, slim and tanned after a week lecturing in California, smiles broadly. "Delighted to meet you, Dr Hoffstein. The name's Gee. Jonny Gee. Licensed to teach mathematics."

A few minutes later, Jonny looks at himself in the mirror. The fit of the jet black suit is perfect. It's embellished with carefully tailored pockets: a semi-circular one containing a protractor, a right-angled pair for set squares, and a neat 12-inch by 1-inch that could secrete a metal ruler. Jonny sighs with satisfaction and checks his TI-84 carefully before slipping it smoothly into the under-arm calculator holster.

Q and Dr Hoffstein purr over their sartorial creation before explaining "a few little extras". The soft leather patches on the elbows are detachable mini-frisbees, excellent for giving someone in the back row a gentle wake-up call.

Dr Hoffstein then reaches into a small reinforced pocket by Jonny's chest. "This may look like a pair of compasses, Mr Gee, but if you break someone's skin with its point, it will administer a dose of Ritalin sufficient to sedate a rowdy student of average build for an entire 90-minute lesson."

"Good luck," says Q. "You have a tough assignment. SPECTRE is committed to ridding the world of enjoyable mathematics."

We are all allowed to dream. But until Q and Dr Hoffstein knock on my door, I will stick to my current rules for teacher kit: nothing too flash or too staid and, above all, everything built to last. I even wear a tie - and that I can still buy in the charity shop.

Jonny Griffiths teaches maths at a sixth-form college


Check out a debate in the TES opinion forum about whether teaching really is the worst dressed profession.


Harbouring fantasies of being Gee, Mr Gee? A Dr Evil maths scheme from mrsNibbles will let you inhabit that dream for a little longer.

Turn clueless into Cluedo with claireh1039's secret agent number hunt.

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