A x B = C   A = 4 and B = (SL + LE + FT)

Find the value of C

I could have thrown up when that week’s maths homework was presented to me.

Of course, this wasn’t my maths homework, it was my daughter’s. It wasn’t too many years ago and I still feel queasy thinking about it now.

She asked the question all parents dread: ‘When will I ever need this?’

You want to say…

Well that would probably be… never sweetheart. But you need to learn how to do it so you can:

Pass maths …

Get into sixth form …

Study another load of tosh …

Apply to Uni …

Spend four years panicking that you’ll never be good enough …

Join the real world

Now back to the algebra: The value of C equals… your student debt!

… But you don’t say all that. Instead, you make up some rambled excuse about it being important to know how to do ‘the thinking’.

And that’s the problem.  We don’t actually teach thinking.  Real thinking.  Questioning.  The ability to hold two diametrically opposing thoughts in your head at the same time and not explode.

We don’t spend nearly enough time teaching our young people how to listen – to care for themselves and others.

God forbid if we should teach them meditation, self-acceptance and any other stress- reducing techniques!

Nope – the difference between a noun and a pronoun will out trump that stuff.

So, what is worth learning?

That question could be a great lesson.

Regrettably, so long as our educators have targets to meet and a syllabus to teach, much of their time will be taken up by ticking boxes. We still educate children for our past rather than their future.

I’d love to know what you think is worth learning.  Please post your ideas below.

Be Brilliant!


PS The first person to work out what ‘SL + LE + FT’ stand for, wins a copy of my book How to Be Brilliant. Leave your idea in the comments below. It’s easy!!


Update 5.3.2019  The Answer:  SL = Student Loan   LE = Living Expenses  FT = Fun Times


  1. February 21st 2019 by Manda Kent Burns

    Money – how to use/save/invest/budget it

  2. February 21st 2019 by Vivien J DOWNS

    SL= Self learning
    LE = Life experience
    FT = Free thinking

  3. February 21st 2019 by Eddie Armstrong

    Less can mean more:Less time on Devices and more verbal communication.Learning when you find your passion your self worth to the whole is exponentially increased.Everyone has a skill/Ability/Talent,It is drawing that out and showing them they do have a purpose and meaning for their community around them.

  4. February 21st 2019 by Ashley O'Brien

    Self love + life education + forward thinking. Stands for an awesome foundation in life!

  5. February 21st 2019 by shane rigby

    Student Loan
    Living Expenses
    Fees Tuition
    C= 4 times the sum of the above

  6. February 21st 2019 by Eddie Hewitt

    Is the value of C: 10628?

    That’s by assigning the number where the letters fall in the alaphabet (eg. S is the 19th letter).

    Therefore, SL = 1912, LE = 125, FT = 620.

    Not sure I’ve been lateral enough there though!

  7. February 21st 2019 by Karen

    Student Loan + Living Expenses + Free/Fun Time = Student Debt

  8. February 21st 2019 by Chrissie Stockings

    Work ethics should be a lesson taught on schools

    1. February 21st 2019 by Michael Heppell

      Totally agree. And can I say we love your name Chrissie!

  9. February 21st 2019 by Barry

    Some great comments already and a very good point raised Michael. I remember days and days of the likes of quadratic equations…..why? Because it would be in the exam! Wish there were more classes on life skills etc. I am sure you will have seen them, but if not, check out Sir Ken Robinson on TED. All the best

    1. February 21st 2019 by Michael Heppell

      Love Ken’s TED talk.

  10. February 21st 2019 by Rose Manuel

    Dear Michael,

    I loved the question you asked about what is worth learning. I have been teaching for 20 years. It’s a question I have asked for years. I am not sure if the answer I am providing below would provide any answer or a thought, but I felt so encouraged to write back to you. I read a book and this 3 questions were asked and I somehow felt it aligned to my own belief in what’s worth learning after all? So here goes…

    I was asked to ponder on 3 questions.
    Who am I?
    What is my Dharma
    What is my purpose?

    Who am I?
    A simple, woman, a Mother, a Wife , a Daughter, a Sister, a Sister in law, an aunt, an employer, a teacher, a friend but Most Importantly A living Breathing Human Being.

    What is my Dharma?
    A rather spiritual, intense and highly philosophical word but one that simply means doing what the heart feels and breathes as right, meaningful and uplifts another being.

    Ones Dharma cannot and should not be filled with thoughts of hatred. It should be filled with thoughts of kindness, love and peace only then will it Deflect the opposite of Dharma- Karma.

    What is my purpose?

    To live a life , a purposeful one. One where each person I meet will walk away feeling a sense of peace, a sense of joy. I want to be a good Mother to my children , a Dutiful and Supportive Wife, a faithful and loyal friend, a filial Daughter, a kind sister, a caring and compassionate teacher, a dependable and honest employer but Above all a Good Human Being.

    So what do this questions probe me to do and think? They Answer a simple Question don’t you think?

    Be a Human Being not a Human Doing. Never loose sight of why God or whatever You spiritual belief is. Even if you are an atheist it’s does not matter You exist in this vast Universe, You do so have a Purpose- Don’t you think?

    We are created to be Good, Kind, Compassionate, Empathetic, Caring, Loving, Generous. Each of us do possess this remarkable wholesome Image , an Endearing Imagine, an Image of Peace, Joy and Purity. We really do… it’s deep down inside our soul, we really do. Dig Deep, You will Find it.

    That’s the Answer to the 3 Questions I was asked. What is Your Answer?
    No need to ponder, just believe that learning is worth when You Know You Have been a Human Being not a Human Doing.

    That’s my answer, Micheal. I not a writer, just a simple old teacher who believes it’s so marvellous that we each have been gifted to Learn.

    Sincerely yours ,

    Rose Manuel


    1. February 21st 2019 by Michael Heppell

      I LOVE THIS. Thank you for your thoughtful words Rose.

  11. February 21st 2019 by Jim Hetherton

    Communication is the most important skill in life. You spend years learning how to read and write, and years learning how to speak. But what about listening? What training have you had that enables you to listen so you really, deeply understand another human being? Probably none, right? So the kids Today need this skill more than ever!

    “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply, they are either speaking or preparing to speak.”

    1. February 21st 2019 by Michael Heppell

      Excellent point as always Jim. Thank you.

  12. February 21st 2019 by Diane

    The education system is there to serve the 45 year plan that no longer exists. Although I voiced my concern to any education leader, MP who’d cared to listen – if changes came it would be too late for my daughters – so I took responsibility to teach them about goals, affirmations, reading Personal Development books, real life finance etc. Taught them to cook, do first aid, swim, save and invest money and much more. Most of all to take Responsibility for their lives, Respect Themselves and Respect others.

    1. February 21st 2019 by Michael Heppell

      Diane for Education Secretary!

  13. February 21st 2019 by April

    A (4) x B (SL – Sugar Lumps + LE – Lukewarm Estuary + FT – Fruit Tea) = C (Constipation)

    Life’s too short! Drink tea, eat cake, dance, laugh and forget the silly maths test 🙂

    Worth learning – life skills, how to manage your own finances (unbelievable amount of young people getting into huge amount of debt), how to cook, wash, clean, show compassion, be gracious, be humble and enjoy what we have (too many chase their dreams without enjoying where they are). Learn how to spell though too….so sick of text abbreviations in emails and letters….

    1. February 21st 2019 by Michael Heppell

      Fab post!!

  14. February 21st 2019 by Alison

    I teach Philosophy for Children and mindfulness and meditation. (As well as all that ‘real curriculum’ stuff!) The 8 year olds in my class love having 2 different opinions in their head at the same time!
    If you ever want to pop in to class to join us and see the revolution for yourself, you’re always welcome 🙂

    1. February 21st 2019 by Michael Heppell

      Does it break your heart when they go off to Secondary School?

  15. February 21st 2019 by Barry

    How to be happy and fulfilled, recognising the value of of your thoughts over material possessions.

    1. February 21st 2019 by Michael Heppell

      Amen to that Barry.

  16. February 21st 2019 by Gillian Greening

    Learn to read a map so you’ll never be lost, be able to work out your bank account. Smile more often and listen. And find what makes your heart smile.

    1. February 21st 2019 by Michael Heppell

      Great points Gillian. Especially the last one.

  17. February 21st 2019 by Auntie

    All the above people are brilliant already! Be real, whatever thy hand findeth to do, do with thy might. SDL learning is the way forward for the students, it is up to the schools to choose this. All the best.

  18. February 22nd 2019 by Chris Smewing

    Student Loan + Living Expenses + Field Trips

  19. February 22nd 2019 by Kevin kane

    When my daughter (a few years ago) said she was taking religious and moral educations as one of her class subjects I was horrified. At school, when I was you, this was the cop-out subject. Anyway, she took it and did very well with it. This, as it turned out, is one of the only subjects were you have to “think”, especially the moral part. It’s your opinion, justified with reason. I advise every kid who asks to take this subject- learn to think is exactly what I tell them.

    Note- daughter is bout to graduate Edinburgh university with a law degree. Not same this subject was the push- but it helped.

  20. February 25th 2019 by Dominic

    Being head of a primary school, I am very proud to say that we do daily meditation in the whole school, we also have the following daily affirmations that the children say to encourage the self-acceptance that you mention Michael and to help them develop in mind, body, spirit and community:
    I am a reader, I love reading, I am strong, I am fit, I am flexible, I am healthy,I am present, I am loving, I am grateful, I am happy, I love me, I care, I share, I help others, I love you, I am enough.
    I do believe there is a growing movement towards a more rounded education and the more educators that come on board the greater the momentum will be!

    1. February 25th 2019 by Michael Heppell

      Hi Dominic

      That lifts my soul reading what you do.

      As I said to your other primary colleague on here, it must break your heart when the go on to secondary.

      Be Brilliant!

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