THE strange thing about maths is how quickly the subject abandons numbers in favour of letters. Children used to dealing with 1,2,3 suddenly find themselves asked to investigate why x plus y equals z.
Now two maths teachers have shown just how at home they and their colleagues are in the world of words. To the dismay of their English-teaching colleagues, the pair have made the national finals of a puzzle competition.
Hugh Proctor, from Glyn school in Surrey, and Marion Keatings, from Viewform high school in Fife, came first and second in the regional heats of the National Wordsmith Challenge.The game is a brain-addling mix of Scabble and crosswords, tested against the clock.
According to Mr Proctor, it requires "quickness of mind, word and number ability and nerves of steel" - abilities which apparently come with maths-teaching territory.
However, to win the pound;500 prize, he will have to beat a 15-year-old girl. Bonni Crawford, from Gyfun Emlyn school, Carmarthernshire, Wales, has already knocked out 17 adult competitors, so it is not looking too good for Mr Proctor.
She admits to being "possibly a bit of a brainbox". And if number-cruncher Carol Vorderman's success is anything to go by, fame and fortune could beckon on the small screen.