Johnson’s Bay – Oruawharo Bay – My Backyard

My good friend tells me to go fishing, the volunteer on site – who is creating a new hiking track – tells me to go fishing and something tells me that more than a few of the good people who read this blog want me to go fishing as well. The bad news is that I wasn’t fishing and have nothing to write about in this respect.

Today was a great day. One of the students whom I tutor in maths showed up being prepared and did well. It is a great feeling to see young ones understand maths and science, and I feel the opposite when they are frustrated because they “don’t get it”.

Lately, I wonder what our every-day-life would be like if half of the secondary school graduates didn’t know half of the alphabet. How would we converse and get through life? It might appear as a bizarre scenario;  how often do you hear a person saying that they are not good in English, writing or reading, because they never understood a big portion of the alphabet?

Now compare that to how often you hear people saying that they are hopeless in maths.

Here are a few examples of basic arithmetic and algebra that a lot of people I talk to find challenging to get right:

  • 2+2×2 =
  • -2^2 =
  • 5/0 =
  • 2^(-1) =
  • 2x^2=18

(‘x’ means multiply by, ‘^’ means to the power of)

I’ll never forget the lady I worked with for 7 years supervising a chemistry lab course at one of the many best New Zealand universities. She was the supervisor, I was an assistant. Every year when she gave a lecture about pH, it occurred to me that she wasn’t able to explain what a logarithm is. At times she mentioned that pH is a unit (which it is not, and another sign that she didn’t understand the concept of a logarithm) and never really cared to look up what this abbreviation stands for. I learned (never checked it myself) many moons ago that it stands for pondus Hydrogenii.

A simple definition of pH for most day use is: the negative, decadic logarithm of the H+ concentration.

I challenged her repeatedly to find the solution for X for 2^X=7, in the hope of providing her with the right tools to explain what logarithms are (the basis of a pH). She never showed me how to solve for X in this equation, but showed up once with a smug smile, telling me: “Oh Ben, this is a trick question, there is no logarithm button on the calculator with the basis 2.”

More evidence that she didn’t understand the concept of a logarithm. I was shocked and frankly still am.

And this leads me to a conclusion that has nothing to do with the title of this post: the reason why basic arithmetic and algebra is far beyond the capacity of too many (who have finished school) is that their teachers most likely didn’t understand the concepts and the particulars of what they were teaching either.

In the following, photos from last week. You can check them and others out in higher resolution on my photography website (

johnsons_bay johnsons_bay2 medlands medlands2 memory_rock puriri_tree tryphena_harbour tryphena_harbour2 whalers_lookout

4 thoughts on “Johnson’s Bay – Oruawharo Bay – My Backyard”

  1. 2+2×2 = 6
    -2^2 = 4
    5/0 = infinity
    2^(-1) = -2
    2x^2=18 x=3

    I’d have got the first one wrong by answering 8, Amy corrected me by saying multiplication/division is done before addition/subtraction. And I got the forth one wrong until I got the calculator.

    So yep I reckon most non-scientific people would find those difficult.


    Paul xxxxx

    1. Heya Paul, went fishing last Wednesday. The plan was to take photos while the volunteer staying with me catches the fish. Went to the east coast. Low at 1600 ish, sunset around 1800. SW20-30 knts, looking worse for the upcoming days. Not much happening, no fish in the burley trail, volunteer wasn’t doing well, the wind managed to get to us sideways for long stretches. Around 1800, still nothing, hadn’t even seen a fish, Cole catches a kahawai (small), wind started picking up, side on and gusting. Got finally a 3-4 pound snapper just before getting dark.

      Rubbish day, didn’t even have time to take a photo…

      First is correct, 3 is one of the right answers for the last one (it has two solutions though). The rest is not correct. =6, =-4, =not defined, =+0.5, =3 and =-3. Thought about giving you half a point for infinity, but can’t. Infinity times 0 is not 5.

      Might go fishing coming week in an area starting with H and ending with arataonga. That’ll be of your interest, I’m sure. Hope you had a good holiday, thanks, Ben

  2. Hey Benny.

    Well that explains why I’m not a scientist – I can’t even use a calculator properly or see more than one solution. I might argue for my half a point though – anything x infinity should be everything, including 5. I suppose it depends on what you (or indeed science) define 0 to be…..

    What I can do my friend is catch Kingfish. Or not at the moment given I am hemispherically challenged. I know it’s spring and probably a little chilly to be keen. But get out there anyway and remind me what one looks like.

    Harataonga eh? Suicide point. White Man On The Top wishing he was on The Rocks territory. Not much to be had up there mate. Stick to the Channel…..

    Garden, new track etc?

    Paul xxxxx

    1. Sorry, clearly no half-point. Infinity times zero is not 5. Since we’re friends, I can tell you that none of this has to do with
      science. It is like saying that it has to do with literature if you know that C comes after B in the alphabet. Not much happening in the garden…. New tracks are coming along.

      And, put your seatbelt on, I went fishing. I told Sinclair I’m over fishing and am there for the photography. Turned out to be the best
      snapper fishing trip ever. What can I say, got some great shots, too… Cheers mate, Allan’s place is for sale. B

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