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It's true:maths can become your friend

Everyone knows maths is dull and dry and,often frightening.Yet once you've got to grips with the basics it can actually be quite fun.

John Rees

Ask some children what their least favourite subject is at school, and there's a fair chance that most of them will say maths. If you persist and ask why you'll probably be told that it's boring. But maths can be a lot of fun, as you and your child will discover in the exercises below.
All too often, children only see it as dull because they find it difficult; it's hard to enjoy something that you don't understand or excel at. So grasping basic maths concepts and skills is essential, not only for an appreciation of the subject, but because it underpins so many other areas, especially the sciences. Maths also involves skills that are called upon in many different ways in daily life - as technology pervades more of our world from one year to the next, being confidently numerate has never been so important.
Not surprising, then, that the teaching of maths has undergone some significant changes over the past 20 or so years. There is less focus on just coming up with the right answer; and an increasing emphasis reasoning and proof - being able to explain what you are doing and why you are doing it.
That said, your child still needs to develop a good range of basic skills,says Margeret Brown,professor of maths education at King's College London. "The numeracy strategy with its daily hour focusing on maths skills, has had a great impact on the way maths is taught at primary level," she says. "The focus has largely been on the mental maths skills that primary-age children need to develop in order to negotiate successfully the more applied maths at secondary level."
Maths really is a building-block subject and it deserves its place at the centre of the curriculum. So many other subjects rely on the maths skills that your children should learn at various stages. Also, it is worth remembering that, as the curriculum progresses, the maths always relates back to the maths that was done previously. Therefore, it is essential that your child's basic maths skills are as strong as possible they will not be able to progress as far or as fast as you would like.
The Introduction of the National Curriculum, in the late Eighties, changed the emphasis on maths in primary schools. "When the National Curriculum came in, it did carry on the earlier emphasis on doing investigation and practical problem-solving, but that rather got pushed out by the key-stage assessments, which tended to focus on written and mental arithmetic," explains Professor Brown. "However, there is some suggestion now of bringing in more work involving investigation and practical problem-solving at the end of the primary phase, giving children the skills they will need at secondary level." The new GCSE, for instance, features both a statistical and an algebraic investigation.
So, what does your child need to know? At Key Stage One, from the ages of five to seven, children need to concentrate on getting to grips with the meaning of numbers, developing counting skills, and learning how to add and subtract. They are also introduced to simple concepts in the use of numbers and in handling data, such as looking at how many things they've got, then counting and recording them, which can in turn lead to drawing up simple bar charts. They also do some basic geometry work on shapes, playing with those shapes to see what happens for example when they turn them round or over; and seeing how they fit together.
At Key-Stage Two, from the ages of seven to 11, the curriculum is divided into four core elements - using and applying mathematics, numbers, handling data, and shape, space and measures. Your child will cover the basics of fractions, decimals, proportion and ratio, as well as starting to use multiplication and division. In handling data, for instance, they learn how to use averaging measures such as means, medians and ranges, work that is carried on right through to GCSE.
Although many parents feel that using a calculator is somehow cheating, children do need to know how to use them properly and efficiently. For example, a fairly simple maths problem like drawing up a pie chart may involve division or multiplication sums that are too difficult or long-winded to do by hand. On occasions like these, it is better to use a calculator to crunch the numbers, leaving the child free to concentrate on the other aspects of the maths.
At Key Stage Three, from ages 11 to 14 the curriculum expands and diversifies to include the topics that your child will tackle in more depth at GCSE. Among these are place value and powers of 10, using coordinates, probability theory,negative numbers, linear equations,algebra,graphs and piecharts,and geometry.
Across all the different areas there is an increasing emphasis on proof and reasoning. At GCSE level,failure to show adequately how you got to an answer results in lost marks.

Who's afraid of all those big bad numbers?

Numbers and sums are much less intimidating and bewildering when you see them at work in the real world.And you don't have to look very far to find them.

1 Calculator games
Find a calculator with big buttons and a large display, and challenge your children to replicate different numbers they find around the house. Help them find examples on things like your car number plate, your house number; LCD displays, serial numbers, even your age.
The aim is for them to reproduce on the calculator display exactly the number they are looking at. This sounds very simple, but it is an excellent way to get younger children used to handling larger numbers, and help them to understand what we mean by place value.

You will need to explain how the positions on the calculator reflect how many units, l0s, 1005 and 1,000s the number involves, and your child will discover that, in order to get the right number on the display they have to put the largest digit first.You will probably find that younger children may need to start with simple, single-digit numbers, then progress up to those of two or three digits.

2 Weighing and measuring activities
Children often hear things described as bigger or smaller than something else, and it's easy to assume that they know what that means. It's a good idea to think how you can use measurement words in context, enabling your child to understand exactly what they refer to.
An easy starting point is to measure the height of each family member by standing them against a wall. For younger children, you could simply make a mark and talk about one person being taller or shorter than another; while for older ones you can actually take a reading with a tape measure.
Other simple examples include comparing things such as a local river or stream and introducing the idea of width, or comparing different distances, say between one local town and another. Cooking provides an excellent opportunity to get kids thinking about weight and volume; again, with younger children you should keep it simple by just asking for the heaviest potato or the smallest saucepan, while older or more advanced kids can be entrusted with actually weighing up or pouring the right amount of an ingredient.

3 Learning about shapes
Young kids love doing "I Spy"-type games, and shapes are an easy thing for them to recognise. Starting with the simple shapes like circles, squares, triangles and rectangles, take your child around the house naming each shape as you come across a good example of it. Then ask them to do the same.
As they progress, you can move on to less common shapes like hexagons or rhombi, although you may find it more difficult to come across examples - you may find it easier to keep a few old magazines and get your child to cut out various shapes of different sizes while you talk about the fact that the same type of shape can be very different in terms of size.
Another way of helping your child with these concepts is to make your own shapes from coloured card and use them to build up pictures. For a five-year old, this might involve making pictures of say, a house or a boat, while a seven-year-old could stick shapes together and see what the result reminds them of.
You can also test out what happens when you move shapes around; are they the same when you turn them over or twist them about? It may sound obvious, but these are the sorts of concepts that children need to grasp at this early age.

4 Addition and subtraction games
Darts provides an excellent way to get children using addition and subtraction skills, although conventional dart boards use rather too difficult numbers for Key Stage One.
Instead, you could use stickers and put simpler numbers around the dart board, or dip into your pocket and buy a safer and simpler version like Early Learning Centre's Sling Shot (£6), which is less likely to lead to body piercing and involves a more limited range of numbers. Simply play the game, taking it in turns to throw three darts, and add the rest to see who gets the highest score.
Moving on to subtraction, you can set a score such as 20, and take it in turns to throw one dart at a time to see who can reduce their score down to zero the fastest. As your child gets more proficient, increase the total to say 50 or even 100 to make it slightly harder. You can also throw two or three darts at each turn,then subtract their total from your score, thereby showing your child how closely addition and subtraction are linked.

Adventures for budding young number crunchers

One of the best ways to assist your children in understanding arithmetic is to involve them in practical tasks that show how useful maths can be in everyday life. So here are some tricks to have them making a cake out of ratios and fractions, or angling for treasure in the garden

1 Which would you prefer?
At Key Stage Two, when children have mastered addition and subtraction, they move on to the more complicated functions of multiplication and division. But they don't just need to be able to get the right answer - they need a thorough understanding of what they are actually doing when they multiply or divide a number or set of things.
One interesting way of getting this across is to set them some intriguing problems.Try asking what they would prefer: their height in one pound coins or their weight in one pound coins?
To solve a conundrum like this they will first need to work out how high they are and how much they weigh, along with the height and weight of a one pound coin thus getting a chance to flex their measuring skills. Bear in mind that coins are rather thin and light to measure accurately so your child may find it easier to stack l0 on top of one another or put l0 on the scales, then divide the answer by 10.

They will almost certainly need a calculator to move on to the next stage - dividing their height by the height of the coin, then doing the same for their weight and the weight of a pound coin. In so doing, your child will begin to see that division and multiplication are not just abstract concepts, but extremely useful tools that can be applied to everyday problems. Meanwhile, you can have a bit of fun making up similar problems for them to solve.

2 Baking a ratio cake
Ratios and fractions can be very difficult concepts for children to get their heads around. Baking a cake together is an ideal way to help them, because it puts the ideas into a real-life context. Choose a recipe that you both like, but agree that you will make it larger than suggested in the recipe book.
Obviously the easiest way to do this is by doubling everything up, but if you're both feeling ambitious you can make it, say half as big again. This will involve using multiplication, division and ratios to work out the amounts you need of each ingredient. Hopefully your child will soon figure out that, whether you're doubling up, trebling up or whatever you have to increase the amount of ingredients by the same factor. Don't worry too much if you've only got old imperial weights and measures, the real point here is how the numbers in the recipe compare with those you are using.

3 Treasure hunt
At Key Stage Two, it is important for children to start to get to grips with the idea of position and movement and, as they get older they will start to use angles and distances in metres to describe where things are in relation to each other. A nice way to introduce these concepts is to set up a treasure hunt.
Choose a starting point in your garden, or indeed in any open space. From there, plot out a path that will eventually lead to a small prize. An example of this could be: "Take four steps forward, make a quarter turn to the left and take 10 steps forward, make a quarter turn to the right and take a further 20 steps forward."
The route you choose can be as simple or as complex as you like, and can incorporate natural features such as trees and ponds that they have to avoid. Make sure you agree on a step size though, as yours will probably be much large. For more able kids, you can do the measurements in degrees and metres using a protractor and tape measure. When you're all tired of this you can reverse the game, with you doing the hunting.

4 Times table square
Learning times tables is one of the worst chores in the subject, but there is no avoiding it if you want your child to be confidently and fluidly numerate. This "beat the clock" exercise injects a good measure of fun and a little self-competition, which can turn learning the one to 10 times tables into an enjoyable challenge.
Take a piece of A4 paper and draw a square 11cm by 11cm. Now divide this into a grid of 11 by 11 squares. In the top left hand corner put a multiplication sign. You now have a template that you can photo copy. On each of the copies, put the numbers one to 10 randomly in the column and row next to the multiplication sign, making sure the order of the numbers is different each time. Your child's challenge is to fill in the square as quickly as possible, solving the multiplication problems that each combination of row and column squares gives - without using a calculator.
Although the first few times may take quite a while, your child will quickly find that they can fill in all 100 answers in a shorter and shorter time. Once you've got a measure of roughly how long it takes them, you can set a time of, say, five minutes for them to beat, perhaps offering a small reward if they succeed. Once they become really proficient you could challenge them to a race - the winner getting the prize.
Don't forget to check the answers, or mistakes may become ingrained. For younger kids, you can vary the exercise by replacing the multiplication sign with an addition sign or if they are comfortable using negative numbers, a minus sign.

So mum,how much are cake and chips?

Everyday tasks based around the home can increase maths confidence dramatically,as well as providing many hours of entertainment

1 Probability dice games
Start by rolling two dice with your child, and writing down what happens if on each dice. They'll quickly see that only the numbers from two to 12 are possible. Next, each player writes those numbers down on a piece of paper; and you can start the game, with each player rolling the dice in turn. They then add the numbers on the dice together and cross out the number on their piece of paper. The winner is the one who crosses all their numbers out first.
This not only a fun game to play with kids of any age, but also a chance to start them thinking about probability as it should become apparent that some numbers, such as two and 12, are much harder to achieve than numbers such as seven or six - the game inevitably becomes a rush to get the rarer numbers and cross them out. You can then start your child thinking about why some numbers are harder to get than others, and explain that there are different ways to make the numbers such as five, six and seven, whereas there is only one combination that will make two or 12 and that these numbers will be much less likely to come up. Words such as "possible, impossible, likely and unlikely" are important ones when introducing probability, so ask your child to describe what is happening in the game using these words, for example, "one is impossible, two is possible but unlikely and seven is likely" You can make the whole game a bit harder by repeating the same exercise, but instead multiplying the two numbers rather than adding them.

2 Planning a meal
The main incentive here is to allow your child to choose a meal that they really like. Next go over the relevant recipes involved, and find out exactly what you're going to need. In terms of ingredients and portion sizes for each person. At this point, you should set a budget that your child will have to work within, either as a total for the finally or for each person they can then find out how much the relevant items cost next time they visit the shops. Once your child has got all the information they need, they can set about preparing the meal, making adjustments to ingredients or portion sizes to keep themselves within budget before they buy what they need. As well as encouraging basic life skills, this exercise is full of math's, requiring them to use addition, multiplication, estimation and money use, as well as other skills such as converting imperial to metric if you use an old recipe.

3 How big is my home?
At Key Stage Three, children should already have a good understanding of'many aspects of shapes and geometry. They should know how to find the areas of triangles, rectangles, squares and other shapes such as parallelograms. At this stage, they can also start thinking about three-dimensional shapes, such as cubes and prisms.
One way to practise these is to see if they can work out the volume of everyday objects. You could start with a litre carton of juice, measuring each side and working out its area by multiplying the length by the breadth, then taking this figure and multiplying it by the depth to get the volume - the answer should be about 1,000 cubic centimetres. You can now move on to other objects round the house and, if you're feeling really ambitious, the house itself. If you live in a flat, you're laughing; those using a house shape will need to workout the volume of the "square bits", then add on the volume of the roof space. To find this you will need to work out the area of the gable end using the formula 1/2  base x height" then multiply that by the length of the roof. You will need to use metres rather than centimetres or your result will. Involve very large numbers.
Try getting your child to guess the answer before you work it out -you may both be surprised by the answers. Bear in mind that you will need a long builders' tape measure before you start, and even then you may need to estimate some of the measurements or round them up to make the whole exercise a little easier.

4 Place value challenge
Our number system is in base 10 and each figure has a place value, bolt units, l0s, 1005, 1,000s, and go on. Your child needs to understand that the place value changes by a factor of 10 as you move from one column to the next. Challenge your child to find numbers around the house or in books, newspapers or magazines, that represent each place value. For example, they will need to on to two digits, then three and so on.
You can then challenge them to write down each of their numbers in words - something many children find difficult. You can make the whole exercise a lot harder by introducing the decimal point and asking them to find a number with one digit to the right of the point, then two, then three. By getting them to write out these numbers in words as well, you will be familiarising them with the different way we say numbers involving a decimal point, eg, "three point two five" as opposed to "three point twenty-five".

Schools will test for genetic "number blindness"

THOUSANDS OF schoolchildren are to be tested for dyscalculia, a "number blindness" condition which is increasingly being cited as the reason many youngsters are failing at maths.
Scientists believe that up to six per cent of the population, the equivalent of nearly two children in every classroom, suffers from the little-known genetic disorder, which is related to dyslexia. Educationists fear that dyscalculic children are falling behind in mathematics because teachers are not aware that the condition exists.
In an attempt to identify possible sufferers, the tests are to be introduced in schools across the country in September as part of research into dyscalculia backed by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES). The tests have been devised by Brian Butterworth, the professor of cognitive neuropsychology at University College London, with the British Dyslexia Association.
Dyscalculia sufferers are often unable to understand mathematical concepts as simple as 2+2=4. It is thought that they are born lacking the ability to understand different numbers and the relationships between them.
The condition is far less widely recognised than dyslexia, Prof Butterworth said. Although many people had both conditions, it was possible to have good language and literacy skills but still be "number blind".
Dyscalculia was first discovered in 1919 by Salomon Henschen, a Swedish neurologist He found that it was possible for a person to have impaired mathematical abilities that did not affect intelligence in general. The DfES tests involve a series of simple maths questions, including counting dots on a computer screen, or comparing two sets of images and indicating which is the larger.
Children will be graded according to the time they take to answer the questions, with different response times expected for various groups. The tests this year, which will involve children at all school ages, are being seen as the first step towards a national screening programme.
"Dyscalculia is a big problem that is only just being recognised," said Prof Butterworth. "My own guess is that it is rather like colour blindness; there will be ways of working round it, but there won't be a cure as such.
"We found that some children with very severe dyscalculia can still achieve A-level mathematics. They can understand abstract mathematics but struggle with the simpler number stuff."
He added that the Government's national numeracy strategy had been bad for dyscalculic children. "It requires them to participate in whole-class teaching when they can never answer the question."
The tests will be available to local education authorities (LEAs) this September from nferNelson , which supplies a range of educational assessments to schools throughout Britain. Although the decision on testing will be left to LEAs, the DfES is monitoring the scheme.
A DfES spokesman said: "We provide special educational-needs training for our teachers, and that includes guidelines on dyscalculia, The national numeracy strategy is designed to raise standards in maths for all children and' since September last year, we have been sending out specific information on dyscalculia."
Pauline Clayton, the principal tutor in maths at the Dyslexia Institute, feared however that the tests would simply add to the burden of assessment on schoolchildren "Good teachers get a gut feeling about their children, they know those who are underachieving, she said "Greater awareness of dyscalculia is needed but I don't think we should go down the route of testing."

A child for whom the clock is a mystery

Joseph Barnard,whose parents are convinced that dyscalculia is reponsible for his struggle with basic maths and telling the time

SHARON BARNARD became convinced that her nine-year old son Joseph was dyscalculic after years of watching him struggle with his maths homework.
Describing his problems, she said that he had difficulty remembering the answers to simple addition problems involving single-digit numbers. Mrs Barnard, of Worthing,Sussex, said: "He still hasn't grasped adding on. He cannot subtract in his head.
"Joseph may grasp a concept one day, but then he fails to understand it when he comes across it again later. Maths has its own language which is sometimes difficult for him to understand. He sometimes confuses 'take away' with 'multiply'."
Mrs Barnard said that Joseph's maths problems also brought confusion when attempting to tell the time. She said: "Joseph can work out the hour from a clock face but has difficulty with minutes and assessing whether those minutes are past or to the hour. He has difficulty judging spans of time. For example, if he is told at 10am that an event will start at 3pm, he has no idea how long he will have to wait.
'We have to break it down into mental pictures, for example saying: "It will happen alter lunch and after you have played for a bit".
Joseph, who attends Broadwater Church of England School in Worthing, became increasingly frustrated when doing homework and worried about school. Mrs Barnard said: "Just recently he told me that he spent most of a numeracy session with 'my head on the desk' because 'I couldn't understand my maths'."
Despite his problems, Mrs Barnard has been unable to convince the education authorities that Joseph needed special teaching.
"We noticed early on in his education that while he learnt to read very quickly, maths didn't come quite so easily. But, at that stage, we were not unduly worried," she said.
She became worried when Joseph began attend middle school yet still struggled with simple sums. Last year, the school applied for special-needs funding for Joseph but the request was turned down by West Sussex Education Authority on the grounds that his difficulties were "not severe". Joseph recently took Prof Butterworth's test in London and his parents are awaiting the results.
Mrs Barnard said: "His school appears to be doing all it can but we believe Joseph's needs are severe enough to warrant specialist help, ideally away from the Numeracy Hour, with its emphasis on whole-class interaction.
"The education authority believes that the school can meet Joseph's needs, but we do not think that the school's" resources can meet them."
Macer Hall [Sunday Telegraph April 14 2002]

How I learnt to love...MATHS

by Johnny Ball

The television presenter and self styled "maths enthuser",responsible for the show "Think of a Number",explains how he developed his passion for the subject.

I WENT to primary school in Bristol and was more or less top or second in the class. We had a great maths teacher The fact that when we were seven or eight we used to beg him for homework, even though we weren't allowed it until we were 10, shows that he was obviously getting something right. From that moment on, I was always confident in maths.
It was at primary school that I really appreciated the joy of doing maths. Although people say that they hate the subject and that they're hopeless at it, they will happily have a go at different types of puzzles. We Like the challenge of thinking and working something out, and choosing a style and difficulty of puzzle to suit us. We have a natural desire to puzzle things out, and maths is simply puzzling things out. Therefore, in theory, it's something we should want to do.
Sadly, children can easily be put off maths. The shock of being slapped in the face with inadequacy as a young child can leave you with a phobia about maths for the rest of your life. I was fortunate that that never happened to me.
When I was 11, I went to grammar school in Bolton. Although I was good at maths, I gradually failed everything else over five years and was bottom of the class. In maths I was never less than second in the class, although I never made any notes I left school at 16 with two 0-levels, one of which was maths. But that wasn't enough to get into the sixth form, so I had to start work. I believed that I had little I prospect of getting a job,but a friend of mine advised me to aim high, so I applied for jobs that I wasn't qualified for. I was offered a job in accounting, provided that I worked for more qualifications.
I took maths up as a hobby and then read a book by Martin Gardner, who wrote about the joy of maths. Just one of his books got me hooked and inspired me to write the television series Think of a Number
The programme was designed to show the audience that you could think of a number and that it could then take you anywhere.

We'd start with something quite simple and finish up with the most complex technology. We need to make people, and especially children, aware that maths permeates everything.

Everything that is designed, from a ball point pen to a jumbo jet, is maths in pictures, and seen like that, there's nothing daunting about it. If you are good at art and can draw a person in proportion, then you have a mathematical brain, even though you may be hopeless at addition and subtraction.
Maths fits into every section of life - in music, for example, every piece is based on maths. We need to ensure that children realise that maths is so much more than just numbers. That is why I like the Greek mathematicians, especially Archimedes, who actually did things with maths. My advice to parents would be to try to help your children and not to let their questions go unanswered. Most children like some aspect of maths. The educationalist Maria Montessori said "You can only teach a child when their mind is open to learning". It is parents who can open their child's mind. If a child mentions that they're interested in something then feed that interest by using toys puzzles and books. It is important however, not to force your child to do something. Leave an item lying around but don't be upset if they don't take to it immediately. They will probably pick it up later. And remember that examination and test results don't indicate intelligence in a child. There are so many successful people who struggled at school. Inner confidence is the key.

60 Second Interview

by James Ellis

There's nothing Johnny Ball can't explain. The brains behind children's TV shows such as Play School and Johnny Ball Reveals All, his ability to make science seem simple made him a hero to thousands of today's thirtysomethings. Father of Zoe, father-in-law to Norman Cook and granddad to Woody, he now solves problems on Five's Terry And Gaby Show.

Johnny Ball

  • Do we really learn something new every day?
    Yes. I'm surrounded by young people but I have experience. You really don't know what experience is until you've got it. At school I only got two O Levels - I was a failure; I was in 5E only because there was no 5F. But I had read every Arthur Conan Doyle book I always wanted to learn. When I started work, I found I had the energy to carry on learning.
  • How much of learning is academic qualifications?
    It's the last thing about learning. The school curriculum is nonsense - it's been thinned and thinned so that with reasonable teaching, all kids attain to a certain level. Which is fine, but teaching beyond the curriculum is non-existent. It's the extension of education that inspires careers. Education starts when you've done the curriculum and start asking questions.
  • Explain some conundrums.
    Why can a fly get into a room through a crack in a window then not find an open door to get out? It comes in by accident and can't see the glass to get out. It can't learn whether glass is there or not, and gets panicky. When we panic, we can't do anything - it's the same for the fly: Bees are better at it as they sense the air currents through an open window.
  • If Tiger Woods is the greatest golfer, why does he need a coach?
    You don't need to be very good at something to be able to teach people. I'm a better teacher of golf than a golfer. I taught my wife how to play. She'd been through five or six teachers and thought I was the best. My career as a comic helped. As a comic, your ideas have to be clear and you have to paint very vivid pictures quickly. Then you turn them on their head and that's comedy.
  • Why can't you fold a piece of paper in half more than six times?
    If it's a big sheet, you can do seven folds. It just becomes too thick and unwieldy. If you fold top to bottom, top to bottom it's easier than left to right and then top to bottom, as the corrugations aren't quite as thick.
  • How smart will Woody be with you as granddad?
    He's very intelligent - but all kids are. Very early on, Zoe could memorise the songs on both sides of a dozen EPs, long before she could read. It could only have been the grouping of the words that she recognised as Going To The Zoo or Old Macdonald. Watch for it and all kids do wonderful things. When we see Woody, my wife and I throw our arms up and go 'Hello'. And when we leave we say: 'Going now, byeeee.' The other day he said: 'No, no goodbye.' Then he threw his arms up and went: 'Hello.' That's his brain working.
  • You compered for the Stones. Did you glean any rock 'n' roll tips to give Zoe and Norman?
    I was also a drummer. I was voted No.3 in Liverpool in the early 1960s and Ringo Starr was voted no2 so I know a bit about it but I never talk to Zoe about that. And we won't work together on TV either - we're different generations and have a different attitude to career.When we have done things together, we compromise for each other it's After you, Claud.' 'No, after you Cecil.'
  • Do you worry that you're now more known for being Zoe's dad?
    Yes and no. It's wonderful being her dad and she did phenomenally well early on. You see the mistakes your kids make and know you've made them. I don't think she should have left Radio 1 so quickly or the BBC Saturday morning show so early. If she'd continued, I think it would have been better for her, but you can't tell your kids that. My only sadness about my career is that I wish I could have gravitated to adult TV.
  • Do we look back on TV in the 1970s with too much nostalgia?
    No - they gave kids TV time in the 1970s. The programmes we did then were 25 minutes a week, ran for six weeks and then we got a rest. Everything - down to every line - was handcrafted. Today that doesn't happen, it's like instant coffee. I fail to see how quality can be maintained. The fact we don't even make programmes for kids above 13 is sad, if not dangerous.
    To find out how Johnny retains his enthusiasm, visit

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