I HATED maths so much at school that even now I can’t look at a sheet of graph paper without feeling queasy.

The very mention of an algebra equation or Pythagoras’s theorem has me in despair. “I don’t have that kind of brain” I say, if ever (rarely) I have to try and work out percentages. Truth is, I’m rubbish at maths.

But the way it was taught at school didn’t help. I don’t remember anything interesting or even slightly enjoyable about maths in all my years at school. All I recall are achingly dull lessons led by teachers who barely seemed to have any interest in the subject themselves.

Unsurprisingly, I ended up in the bottom set for maths. While half the class were, like me, trying to get their head around something that baffled them, the other half were noisy, disruptive and unwilling to learn - and subsequently claimed most of the teacher’s time.

Science lessons weren’t much better. One particularly expressionless teacher, unnecessarily wearing a white coat, stood at the front of the science lab dictating endless notes which we robotically copied into our exercise books. I barely remember any experiments - the practical, hands-on activities that bring science to life. Most experiments were simply dictated, parrot-fashion, for us to write down and revise. We were told there was no time for anything else, as it all had to be crammed in before the exams. As someone who had little interest in chemistry or physics, this dry-as-a-bone teaching method didn’t exactly inspire me.

Looking back, I think some of the schooling I experienced hadn’t really moved on since the post-war period. We sat at old wooden desks scratched with initials of past pupils from the early 1900s. Some of our older teachers would have served in the war, and had a jaded, distant weariness about them. They came from a teaching generation which didn’t really know how to engage with children, or make learning fun. At my primary school they were still caning kids for whispering in the dinner queue.

Of course not all my teachers were dull and weary; I have fond memories of some, especially my English and history teachers, but subjects I struggled with - maths and sciences - were taught in a dry, formal way that did nothing for me.

I’d like to think this has now changed, and today’s schoolchildren learn such subjects in a fun, vibrant environment. But concerns raised about Ofsted’s Bold Beginnings report would suggest otherwise. An open letter signed by more than 1,850 people - including doctor, academic and TV presenter Professor Robert Winston and shadow early years minister and Batley and Spen MP Tracy Brabin - claims the controversial report overlooks the value of play in Reception year and focuses instead on more formal education.

While I appreciate that reception classes must include literacy and maths, surely young children make good progress in such subjects through play, led by skilled early years teachers. But as this letter, co-ordinated by the Keeping Early Years Unique group, points out, the Bold Beginnings recommendations don’t even mention the word 'play'.

Reception is a crucial time in a child’s formative development. If teaching at this stage is too formal, doesn't it run the risk of stifling children before their school life has barely begun?

If I'd been allowed to learn through play, instead of the formal, rigid teaching that I felt excluded me, maybe I wouldn't have been left with a lifelong fear of maths.

* AS a prolific list-maker, I was intrigued to hear that just five minutes with a pen and paper before bedtime can help bring on a good night's sleep.

Those never-ending to-do lists have a pesky habit of whirring around our heads at night but according to a new study, the physical act of writing a list before bed - no more than six items on it though - helps to stop us lying awake and worrying.

I couldn't get through life without my lists. Hopefully making a bedtime list will mean I can finally tick off one item: "Get a good night's sleep".

* I THINK what I'm enjoying most about BBC1’s Sunday night drama McMafia is that I have to use my brain to follow it.

The tense eight-part series, following various strands of a global criminal network, is stylish and intelligent, with so many twists and subtitles if you take your eyes of the screen for a second, even to lift a cup of tea, you miss a vital piece of plot. I'm just about keeping up with it, despite the violence and overall menace which has me watching some scenes through my fingers.

My only gripe is that there's no strong or interesting female character. The women are mostly wives, daughters, prostitutes or the rather bland girlfriend of main man Alex, played by 007-in-waiting James Norton. But with four more episodes to go, anything can happen...