Monthly Archives: July 2014

The Philosophy Foundation Series Book Launch

On June 27th a crowd of teachers, philosophers, academics, friends and family gathered at Blackwell’s Bookshop at the Institute of Education to welcome The Numberverse and Provocations into the world.

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Party go-ers at The Philosophy Foundation Series Launch Party.

These books are part of The Philosophy Foundation Book Series, a set of books published by Crown House, that challenge, engage and stimulate the imagination as well as being a practical resource for teachers/educators and parents to use. 

Andrew Day’s The Numberverse which was released on June 30th is a maths book designed to help teachers teach maths through enquiry, putting students at the heart of lessons and letting their curiosity drive it. 

What is in-between numbers?

What is in-between numbers?

At the launch Andy ran a session from his book where he puts a number line on the floor, and then asks, ‘Is there anything in-between the numbers?’. ‘Yes’, says one attendee, ‘Show us’ replies Andy. On pieces of paper in different colour they step forward and write 0.5, 1.5, 2.5, 3.5 and so on, placing them eqi distance between the whole (or as I would find out later that evening ‘natural’ numbers) numbers. ‘Is there anything else between the numbers?’ Andy asks, ‘Yes’, replies another and steps forward to show us. Through a series of comments, discussions and questions we soon find ourselves talking about infinity, ‘real’ numbers, and whether there are more numbers in-between the natural numbers than the natural numbers themselves. Andy does this session with Year 3 classes (aged 7/8) and above, and it is one of many activities on fractions, or the ‘in-betweeny-bits’, designed to make fractions more understandable.

Andy says in his introduction that “I’m putting The Numberverse out there now for two kinds of people: teachers looking for ways to get their more reluctant pupils into maths, and people who liked school generally but not maths (probably the latter group are the pupils from the first group but grown up).

“The evidence I have [that the book works] is anecdotal. Feedback from head teachers is very often positive. They want to instil a risk-taking, creative, exploratory attitude in all their classrooms. They want all their children to have high self-esteem and to believe they can improve at maths. But it’s hard. It’s also difficult to reconcile with the barrage of targets, levels, directives and schemes through which a teacher has to pick her way.

“One assumption I have made is that the teacher can get the class’s attention and manage behaviour to positive levels. I am as aware as anyone that those conditions are not always in place. I do know, however, that the material and techniques in this book can help win over a class, as part of an overall strategy for both ruling and entertaining the young.”

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What order would you put these objects in?

Next up was David Birch, whose book Provocations: Philosophy for Secondary Schools has already received excellent reviews, including one from Michelle Sowey in Australia, having been released in February this year. David put the following objects on the floor: a banana, a mobile phone, Provocations and a chocolate bar, and then asked us to put them in order from the most to the least natural.

So, what order would you put them in? What do we mean by natural? Is something man-made natural? Are we natural? Is anything more natural than anything else? There was a fair amount of disagreement around these issues, and if you use David’s book his chapter on ‘Nature’ looks at the many varying ideas around nature, our relationship and responsibility (or not) towards it, including considering whether we should protect all natural things.

From Provocations:

“Smallpox has existed for at least 3,000 years and its rash can be seen on the faces of Egyptian mummies. In the 20th century alone an estimated 300 million people died from it. It is a disease caused by the variola virus; its most conspicuous symptom is blistering which develops all over the body, even in the mouth and throat, but mostly on the face and arms. It kills approximately a third of all those infected.

“Though there is no cure, smallpox was officially eradicated in 1979. The variola virus, however, still exists. It is preserved in two high-security facilities, one in Russia and the other in the US. The World Health Organisation (WHO), which was instrumental in its eradication, has been calling for its complete destruction for decades.

“The request by WHO has raised concern. It has been argued that if the virus were to be destroyed, it would be the first instance of humans intentionally acting with the explicit goal of eliminating another life form from the planet. It would constitute an unthinking disregard for nature. In arguing for the conservation of species, the biologist David Ehrenfeld has said, ‘they should be conserved because they exist and because this existence is itself but the present expression of a continuing historical process of immense antiquity and majesty.’

“The deliberate extinction of a species – the total annihilation of a life form – is perhaps an act worthy of moral scrutiny.”

Both of these books are available from all good booksellers and from The Philosophy Foundation Shop for £14.99. 

Win a copy of The Numberverse

Exterion Media (UK) have kindly provided The Philosophy Foundation with ad space on two bus routes in London and Wales and to mark the occasion we are giving away a copy of The Numberbervse. To find out which bus routes will be be carrying the ad, follow the hashtag #TPFBUS. To enter, simply take a photo and Tweet it to us @philosophyfound including the hashtag #TPFBUS and we will select a winner at random by the end of August.

If you would like a review copy of either of these books please email Rosalie Williams with the address you would like the book sent to, and details of where you will be publishing the review.


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UK’s First Primary Philosothon

On July 8th The Philosophy Foundation held the UK’s first primary Philosothon. It took place in Deptford Green Secondary School and involved five primary schools (seven classes, 200 students in total) all part of a collaborative of state schools in Deptford, they included Deptford Park, Sir Francis Drake, Grinling Gibbons, Lucas Vale and St Joseph’s.

Students from five primary schools in Deptford, at the start of the Philosothon

Students from five primary schools in Deptford, at the start of the Philosothon

For the past few years the schools have been conducting debating competitions for their Year 6 classes as part of the transition to secondary school – last year’s being run by The Philosophy Foundation, with a philosophical twist. At TPF we have an uncomfortable relationship with debates as they can become competitive rather than truth-seeking. The competitive edge of a debate, we observed, did not always – how shall we put this? – bring out the best in the students.

Earlier in the year Peter had been invited to act as a judge in the first Philosothon in this country at Kings College Taunton at which the originator of the Philosothon, Matthew Wills, was present having travelled from Australia. Peter was struck by the way in which the competitors were not only being marked on their intellectual contributions (their arguments and appropriate challenges etc.) but also on how well they facilitated each other towards a collaborative, group exploration of the issue.

We put it to the Deptford collaborative of schools that they might want to try a Philosothon instead of a traditional debate and the selling point was this idea of competitive collaboration. They decided to give it a go.

Students from Lucas Vale talk to Peter Worley about their philosophy classes.

Students from Lucas Vale talk to Peter Worley about their philosophy classes.

We invited seven Philosopher judges: Professor Simon Glendinning (LSE), Dr Catherine McCall (TPF Patron & Director of Epic International), Dr Marije Altorf (St Mary’s University), Dr Naomi Goulder (New College of Humanities), Dr Ellen Fridland (KCL), Dr Nathaniel Coleman (UCL) and Darren Chetty (IOE). We are grateful to all of them for giving their time, expertise and experience to help make this a memorable event for the young people involved.

The judges prepare for the event.

Some of the judges prepare for the event.

A Philosophical Enquiry from the competition, with the students discussing 'what is knowledge?'

A Philosophical Enquiry from the competition, with the students discussing ‘what is knowledge?’

All the classes underwent ten philosophy sessions around the two main topics of Knowledge and Freedom in the lead up to the competition. On the day, they were simply asked two direct questions: 1) How do you know that you know? (Knowledge) and 2) Are we in control of our lives? (Freedom) one for each of the two enquiries. Unlike other Philosothon’s where students are picked to represent their schools we had whole classes taking part. Each class were split into seven groups named after a philosopher and on the day the philosopher groups worked with each other all morning so that within each group there were 3-4 children from the same class.

Jenyd from Sir Francis Drake is awarded an 'Outstanding Contribution' prize.

Jenyd from Sir Francis Drake is awarded an ‘Outstanding Contribution’ prize.

Judges were given score sheets where they had to put a mark every time a student made a good philosophical contribution to the discussion – the students had different coloured badges on representing their class and the judge put a mark in the corresponding colour on their score sheet.

At the end the marks were all added up to find an overall class winner. Individual medals were also given to students for outstanding contributions, 14 were given out in total, and the winning class was ‘Opal’ from Deptford Park Primary School.

Opal Class from Deptford Park Primary School were the overall winners of the competition.

Opal Class from Deptford Park Primary School were the overall winners of the competition.

Everyone – judges and observers – thought that the level of co-operation and collaboration was outstanding. The synthesis of competition and collaboration that the Philosothon engendered is of particular importance because we think that philosophy (and the aim of gaining human knowledge in general) can be understood to be a synthesis between collaboration and opposition: people work together to solve a problem but in order to do so the process of gaining knowledge demands that they challenge each other in the right ways.

For more on Philosothon’s visit and for more on Philosothon’s in the UK visit


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