Sunday 4 September 2011

Storytelling Sunday "Marzipan Education": a drama in one scene

A drama in one scene featuring:

Miss Smith, in normal text.
Year 9s, various, in italics
Stage directions for future productions of this fine work of literature, [in brackets]


[October, 2010]

Right gentlemen, put your pens down and look this way. It's time for a little trip to the land of ratio, so everyone hop on board the maths train and we will be calling at proportion on the way....pens down now please.

Good, thankyou. So, let's see what we can remember. Someone give me a context, a topic, anything. Anyone?

Sweets, miss

We always do sweets.

But we like sweets

Alright. But next week, we're going to do starfish or yoghurt or kettles or something. Here's my problem....Sweets are sold in a packet and in the packet, you get reds, yellows, and greens in the ratio 2:3:5. So if I have12 red sweets, how many greens do I have?


Hands up!...Yes?


Exactly. But how did you know, and don't say because he already said it.

Can I show it on the board?

[I pass him the pen and he does it in giant wobbly numerals across three quarters of the whiteboard.]

Perfect. Even the people at the back of the classroom can read that. The back of the classroom in the far reaches of another continent. Where I am supposed to write now?

[He hands back the pen grinning sheepishly]

Lovely maths though. Fantastic. Anyone got a question? Well remembered gents. What about a different method? Let's take this ratio red, yellow, green in 2:3:5 and find how many reds there are, but with a different way of solving the problem.

[I pick a volunteer and he completes the problem in the remaining small section of the whiteboard. We all look meaningfully at the original volunteer. Still grinning.]

There are also oranges and purples in the bag. What kind of sweets are they?


And what can we taste?

The rainbow

Brilliant, so that's fantastic progress in this topic, and it looks like we're all on board. Let's have a look at a slightly more tricky problem...what's your favourite kind of cake?

Fruit cake

You have the whole world of cake related options to pick from and you choose fruitcake? What about chocolate cake, brownies, carrot cake, lemon drizzle, jam roly poly-

That's a pudding, not a cake.

It counts, I'm in charge here. What about triple decker chocolate fudge cake with chocolate icing, sparkly sprinkles and banana cream?

[They wisely refrain from comment]

Fruit cake it is then. OK, so, write this down, have a think about it, and then we'll talk it through.

[I write "A 350g fruitcake requires 250g of marzipan to cover it and make it extra delicious. How much marzipan is needed for a 400g cake?". A hand goes up]

Yes, you can use a calculator.

I wasn't going to ask that.

Sorry. What's the problem?

What's marzipan?

You don't know what marzipan is?

[Other heads pop up from being bent over exercise books]

Me either, miss.


What is it?

It's delicious.

Thanks for that, miss.

[I make a face at him]

Everyone put your pens down. Now raise your hand if you know what marzipan is.....No one? No one at all? In 28 of you? Good grief, you're all missing out. And sadly educated, but that's another issue. Marzipan is... well, it's a bit like play-doh in texture and you can make it into shapes and cover cakes with it, and it's usually either yellow or white, and you can eat it and it tastes sweet and like almonds. Because it's made of almonds.


No, it's delicious.

Play-doh is not delicious.

Yes, but you aren't supposed to eat play-doh. It doesn't taste good. But marzipan is great!

[Unconvinced faces]

I will PROVE it to you. Like an equation. I will bring you all some marzipan and you can try it and then you will love it. And fruit cake will never be the same again.

[They perk up]

When can we have it?

Um..., maybe Christmas. Or the summer holidays. Now, on with your work, that's quite enough of all this....


By picking an unspecified future date that is a long way in the future is a guaranteed way to ensure that students will forget. But this class was special. They were bright, sure, but they had character, and charisma, and other things beginning with cha, and more than that, they remembered things.

About once a week, marzipan would crop up as an in-joke, as a context for an example, as a theory. And at Christmas, they were adamant that I had promised. They needed the proof. I resisted. I am not encouraged to feed the students.

And they kept on remembering and reminding each other and me. Every time we broke up, they requested marzipan. It became a Big Deal.

So I brought them marzipan at the end of the summer term. Hidden away in my bottom desk draw (and accidently discovered by another teacher borrowing the classroom during a cover lesson while looking for a pen). I decided to bake little chocolate buns as at least then if they didn't like the marzipan, they could console themselves with cake.

Obviously, I deadpanned through our last lesson. No, I didn't bring any. Did they have any idea how expensive marzipan was? I'd forgotten anyway. etc. They didn't believe it, but they played along. And so at the end of the lesson, I passed out the little cakes. May contain nuts. In fact, here is a list of ingredients in case you're allergic, and have we all got our epipens? Right-ho.

They quite liked it. Well, they ate it all, some cautiously nibbling the marzipan from the top, weighing their opinion, others swallowing whole, figuring that anything with chocolate can't be all that bad. A slight anti-climax after a whole year, but a contented one. Everyone a little bit fuller and a little bit more educated.

I will miss this class, and hope that there are new and equally entertaining lads in my lessons this year.

Kisses xxx

P.S. Don't worry, I didn't get caught feeding the students as I paid off those who knew about it in cake.

P.P.S. Now you should definitely hop over to Sian's to read her story and find some others :D


  1. You have me laughing out loud! Coming from a family of teachers (I'm the one who got away), I can can just picture your face ..and the marzipan. I think I need to get Uncle Dave on here to swap stories - he might tell you about the turnip lanterns for his Irsih Lit Halloween Party.

    Kirsty - I love it! Brilliant story. And how much do I wish I'd had a maths teacher like you?

  2. Miss Smith, I'm moving to the school you teach at!!!
    I can imagine you are an absolutely awesome teacher, you'd work wonders in our school. We are supposed to be a maths specialist, but as far as I'm concerned there is only 1 good teacher. Thankfully I am lucky enough to have him, but for the others who don't, our school is terrible for maths and they would love for a teacher like you who makes the lessons fun.
    I have thought many times of becoming teacher, and if I do it will probably be maths. I have seen how much difference a great teacher can make!!
    Sure your students do wonders :)
    Brilliant story, that'll have to be scrapped :)

  3. What a great story - of course they didn't forget!

  4. Oh if only I had had a maths teacher who taught in cake ...
    I'm a school secretary and have been known to move work from the head of Food Tech to the top of my in-tray if a lemon curd muffin is enclosed with it. Did someone mention bribery????!

  5. Love the idea of educating them on marzipan - and the teasing for the year :)

  6. Oh my a fantastic story Miss Smith!! Wish you were teaching my 3 maths.....the middle one is mathematically challenged (just like his mum) lol!! I'll be sure to remind them what marzipan is though.....just in case!!

  7. What a great story! Thanks for sharing.

  8. What a wonderful story, beautifully presented. I can only imagine how much your students enjoy your class. It sounds like they get an education and fun all at the same time.

  9. Great story Kirsty...the world needs more teachers like you!
    Alison xx

  10. Great story. I had the same experience with my class and root beer. I had a root beer scented stamp pad and then they all wanted a taste of it.
    I totally make cupcakes too to bribe my sixth form to come to revision classes.
    It's fine!

  11. Absolutely excellent! I did have to giggle at the epipen comment though - nothing is done these days without the epipen warnings!

  12. love how you wrote this story out :) i enjoyed it very much!

  13. Very clever way to tell the story. I can't believe none of them knew what marzipan was! Well done for educating them about essential cake coverings as well as mathematics! x

  14. Lovely story Kirsty! One thing you should know by now is children are like elephants; they never forget! xXx

  15. What a wonderful story,I like the way you told it. I wish I had had a teacher like you! and those little cakes look absolutely gorgeous.

  16. this has got me laughing like a hyena, such a funny story and so well told. i wish i had a fly on the wall looking at the lads in the class. personally i dont like marzipan so i am delighted ur lads gave it a go,
    jo xxx

  17. Well told, that story has "character, and charisma, and other things beginning with cha!" Loved it.

  18. Great post Kirsty....and so beautifully told. The cakes look very yummy, how could they not like marzipan! :)