I don’t believe in the concept of ‘educational toys’, which is a huge industry. I strongly believe that kids learn from their environment, and the things they find there.  However, here I am, recommending this:


A friend of mine commented, “I am struggling with the idea of learning something that are not going to be used (like complex maths – unless you are going to be engineer/mathematicians/etc)” in response to my article about my battles to teach my strong-willed, opinionated daughter some really tough, rigorous basics. You can read the article here.

I am a strong believer in learning the basics well, even if we are never going to use these basics ever again in our chosen careers, because it is the lesson contained in the journey that is most important, rather than the content itself.

My partner, who is not well-versed in physics at all, but who had sat through some of my fiercest battles with my daughter over this, commented, “You have to know Newton to find Einstein, hey?”

Clumsy but beautifully put, darling, glad that you are learning some physics in your forties 😀 

So whilst my daughter wants to fly ahead with glamorous topics that will answer her burning questions about life (such as quantum field theory), I am making her learn classical mechanics.

To add insult to injury, it is classical dynamics of the spinning top that I am teaching her. You know, the sort of stuff small kids play with:


There is a lot to be learned from this humble toy’s motions because there are a lot of headaches associated with it. For example, there’s no torque acting on the T-handle, so its angular momentum ought to be fixed. How can this be reconciled with the fact that the axis of rotation is repeatedly flipping?  And if these headaches are not ironed out now, will come back and bite one in the ass at a later date.

So if you believe that I have raised valid points when it comes to post-16 teaching, do buy a slide rule for your child and let him/her figure out how it works. It’s the best educational toy for this age group. My daughter spent a chunk of her weekend with her father learning how to use the slide rule, which has become defunct since the calculators were invented. What a lovely way for father-and-teenager to bond ❤


The world-renowned MIT has put this excellent write-up about spinning tops: you can access it here.

My article on educating my youngest child is here.