Okay, this will seem like an odd choice for summer reading, but I’m going to tell you about it anyway. I recently catalogued and shelved a complete set of Apprenticeship Support Materials for our library. These study materials cover every competency in the “Entrance Level Competencies for Apprenticeship Programs”. There are manuals or guides for reading comprehension, math and science – 11 guides in all covering exam levels 1 through 5.

Partly my interest was piqued because if there is one thing we know in Alberta, it is that there is a driving need for skilled trades people. Industry scours the world looking for them. So I was interested in what is involved in becoming an apprentice in one of the trades. I opened the Math Module 1 – Foundations.

Right away I was impressed with how clearly the guide was written. Everything is explained, words are defined and there are tips and helpful pieces of advice all along the way.

These guides are designed for independent study. There are 5 levels from foundational concepts of numbers and operations in Module 1 to the complexities of equations & patterns, vectors, and statistics & probability in Module 5.

Parameters are clearly defined: it stresses that what will be assessed at each level is “what you know” rather than “how you learned it”, and that only what you need to know for entrance into a trade will be assessed.

In a side bar is the tip: “Don’t waste time. Only learn what you need to know.”

I flipped through the guide to the section on “Bases, Exponents and Square Roots” and started to read. Neurons that hadn’t fired in decades lit up and the next thing you know I was working on a problem:

“Calculate the cube of 3 ¾. Express the mixed number as an improper fraction and multiply.”

Okay, so that’s 3 times 4 = 12 plus 3 is 15 over 4. Then 15 cubed is 3375 over 4 cubed is 64. Then divide 64 into 3375 and I get 52.73. Uncover the answer – yes I’m right. Eee-haw.

Okay, I know this is pretty basic math but it was actually fun. Getting a problem “right” is a good feeling. I mean everything else in life is in shades of grey, but in math you’re either right or you’re wrong.

Right?

(And now I’ll wait for the math whizzes to tell me of the complexity of the mathematical language, its nuances and shades all that it contains. Gulp.)

For more information, go to these websites:

http://www.tradesecrets.gov.ab.ca/trades/pdf/trade_textbooks/ent_textbooks.pdf