Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Maths can be Murder - Five questions with Kjartan Poskitt

If your school ever does an event with Kjartan Poskitt, and you ever get a chance to volunteer to go up on stage with him - think very carefully. During two sessions at Our Lady's School today - involving children from four different primary schools in Abingdon - children eagerly rushed up on to the stage to discover they were going to be poisoned, shoved bodily through a greetings card, or asked to perform a variety of strange and bizarre activities.

Well obviously, not actually *poisoned*. The game called poisoned chocolate didn't actually contain real poison (or, sadly, chocolate).

Kjartan Poskitt is a natural and gifted performer, comedian and mathematician - and all the children who witnessed his puzzles, games and murderous mathematical mayhem simply loved it.

There was some priceless moments. One of the girls who volunteered had to pick someone to provide a number for one of the tricks. "Pick a boy you like" suggested Kjartan. "What, in here?" she fired back...

Kjartan started with a few tricks and maths games - some of which the kids were shown how to play on hapless friends and relatives (the 'twenty nine' trick is simply brilliant) and there are many things on his murderous maths website which you can download and use yourself (click on the 'tricks' section).

Kjartan was very clear that everything in his books is checked and correct ("otherwise you get complaining letters from men with beards telling you where you've gone wrong").

Naturally we took the opportunity to ask Kjartan a few questions about maths, and his wrting journey...


Five questions with . . . Kjartan Poskitt's writing life

1.    What are you working on at the moment?

I'm working on a maths 'maze' book for younger children. I can't say too much about it, but...it's going to be the Holy Grail of maths books for learning times tables (hopefully!)

2.    What is the best writing tip you’ve ever been given?

Always write SOMETHING. If you get something down, you can always come back, and work out a way to improve it.

3.    What’s the best thing and the worst thing about being a children’s writer?

I love doing the festivals, meeting the kids and families. I never thought, being an author, writing on your own, that you'd get such an opportunity to get feedback directly from the children themselves. The worst? That's a tough question, I guess it'd be finding a sequel once you've had a book do well. There's real pressure to make it better, the worst thing you can hear is 'it wasn't as good as his last book'.

4.    Do you have a writer’s survival kit, eg a place, thing or snack essential before you can start work?

My shoelaces have to be tied at just the right tightness. If they aren't, I just tend to fiddle with them...

5.    What was your biggest breakthrough?

Murderous maths, definitely. I was a pub piano player, and murderous maths gave me the opportunity to be an author. The books are in 30 languages, it gives me the opportunity to visit schools like these, and it's been brilliant.

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