Friday, March 30, 2007

For homework do Numbers 1-269, odd problems only

When the kids were younger...third or fourth grade for example...I was never afraid when they cried out for math homework help. I could handle it. Addition. Subtraction. Some fractions and decimals. I could do the problems and teach them how to do the problems. In short, I dominated the math world.

No longer. Before I even get over to the table, they are spouting words I don't understand. Chunking. Inverse. Derivative. Congruence. Polynomials. And these are not just hard words. This is the language of math. But not my math.

I took four years of math in high school. I had an "A" on every report card. But I was one of those kids who could look at the problem and know the answer...but could never show my work. The whole concept of showing the work seemed like some way for the teacher to torture me. If I knew the answer, why did anything else matter?

Now it matters. I have no idea how I get the answer. Thus, I have no clue how to help my kids. But I'm not dumb. I have two graduate degrees. So I know I can look in the book and figure it out, based on the examples.

But what do I find? I find that math textbooks are no better now than they were when I was in school. Here is the sample problem...

3x = 2 + 10

No sweat. I can nail that!

So let's go to the homework.

What the...???

The first problem...presumably the easiest problem...looks something like..

10x(4-2y) + 26 = 14 + n(63 - 4/25)

And yes, they often throw in some square roots and powers of 6 and stuff..but I don't even know how to type those! But you get the point. What happened to "3x=2+10"??? There was a huge leap from the example to the actual problem! So now I'm lost. Useless. No help at all.

And for the hundreds of mathematicians and statisticians and other number gurus out there who read my blog on a daily basis and who want to tell me...."oh, it is easy, just remember the order of operations and solving for x and..." Yeah, yeah...I remember. But I need to see it! Show me one example...and I can repeat it over and over. Add a fraction, it is a brave new world. Better show me another example.

I'm so glad it is Friday. That means my kids will procrastinate as long as possible before doing homework and I won't run the risk of being called on for help until sometime Sunday evening. And if I plan carefully, I'll be incredibly busy organizing my sock drawer or trimming my eyebrows and the kids will have to call on my wife for math help.

She just loves that.


whimsicalnbrainpan said...

10x(4-2y) + 26 = 14 + n(63 - 4/25)

Em, that is going to give me nightmares for weeks! I feel for you.

Kismet said...

hahaha, oh EM that cracked me up! I am the same way tho. I can figure it out, just don't ask me how....tho math was never my strong suit.


Chelle said...

Yeah who ever said that math never changes hasn't looked at the new math text books!! lol I have never been really good at math but if I see how a problem is worked out, then I have a good idea how to figure it out. HOWEVER, when they do show a sample, it is NOTHING like the first problem. I know what you mean!! also, with the "new" nowadays are taught a totally different way of working through problems than I learned how to when I was in school So...HOW are we supposed to help them?? It's supposed to be "easier" for the kids. It is MATH for goodness it's not supposed to BE easy! hehe Anyway....even though my husband is a math whiz...i was the one who helped the kids. Not Now, my 13 yr old is the math genius so I just look at his work and do a big old "whooo hoooooo" in my head!!! I'm done with being a math parent....oh yeah! hehe

BTW,,,,thank you for your sweet comment on my post :) You are a great guy!!

Kati said...

ROFLMBO!!!!!!! Oooh ho... I couldn't even begin to tell you the answer. At least you can look at the equation and know the answer, I don't know the answer, and I don't know how to find it, either. ROFL

I'm DREADING the day DD needs real help with algebra (or worse, Geometry!) homework. I did ok in Algebra in school, because I had a book that broke it ALL down to the bare ingredients. But, my addition, subtraction, multiplication & division skills suck. DH helps the kiddo with those.

I think the worst part of it is, while maybe the basic math hasn't really changed, they've changed all the wording. Sometime's it's over simlified (addition & subtraction is now plusses & take-aways). Other times it's terms I've never even heard, and don't remember to repeat. It makes it very confusing, as a parent.

On the other hand, history??? Writing??? BRING IT ON!

Jenster said...

Oy! That makes my head spin!! I try to help my 6th grader, but then I have my 9th grader look over our shoulders to make sure we're doing it right. LOL Lucky for DH we get it all done before he gets home.

Chicky Pea said...

Can we maybe work in a math problem where the answer is 69? Never mind, I give up!

MileHighDivaCyn said...

Thank goodness be to the gods of math that I only have furkids. I used to do my math through tears while my daddy sat next to me and that was way back WHENNNNNNNNN
I would be in deep doodoo now if I had kids to help.

Paul said...

When I was in High School, I was so good at Algebra 1 that they let me take it for four straight years. So as not to embarrass my parents, they even let me pass with a D.

Dirk_Star said...

The only time I was ever asked to solve an algebra question at school this is the answer I gave.

" I would take the problem out to my secretary and tell her to have the answer back to me by five-o-clock."

Swear to god...

The entire class rolled in laughter and so did the teacher.

Siding with the wizard, eh?

I'll remember this...

Yes, I will.

~d said...

(looks around a bit...unfamiliar with her surroundings. ~d takes a step forward and says:
Heya em! thank you for the b-day well wishes! You are a (bit) more tame than I...ummm. Well.
OK, so thing 1 is in 1st grade and asks me yesterday what "30 take away 12" is.
*and the husband TOLD the 1st grade teacher that I am mathematically challenged. Gee, Thanks!
(so is your place like too clean to leave dirrty pics at??)

Wendz said...

I cannot do maths. Oh I can add, subtract, multiply, divide and square root...but that's it.

At school I dropped maths from HIgher Grade to Lower grade and still got D's. I had extra maths lessons.

And here's the odd thing. My tutor would give me a long complicated logarithm or something else equally obscure to do, and I would figure the answer in seconds. Then he'd give me something simpler to do and I wouldn't be able to solve it for all the world.

He couldn't understand it and neither did I.

My mind is not logical though. It doesn't bother me at all. I am who I am and I don't need all that crapola maths stuff - not at all. Most kids won't need it either, after they leave school.

I have strong thoughts on the way they are forced to do things like that...for what? It ticks me off.

Complicated maths should be left to the ones who want to actually follow a career that calls for it.

stacy said...

Math and I have never been friends, but my husband is one of the lucky ones who can solve problems in his sleep and our son also does them in his head without working the problem out on paper...a huge no-no in school. When he was in elementary school Hubby showed him how to do a problem. The next day the teacher marked it wrong. The answer was right but the process was wrong. Yeah, was ten times simpler.

MarmiteToasty said...

Ya see the thing is........ most jobs in the real world dont need most of the maths that are learnt in school :)....... ok ok certain jobs but not all....... 2 of me lads aint never used logs since leaving school and working..... yet all those hours upon hours doing logs and the other stuff....... :)

Probably best to teach them about bank accounts and robbing peter to pay paul and cheques etc LOL now THATS the real world :)....

Your post so made me smile - fanks


Beth said...

ahhhhhh!!!! that is scary! I hate math, so my kids never ask me for help, thank you lord.

but I'm going to write that down and ask my kid to figure it out!

Tracey said...

Oh, I hated math is school! My son, however, is a mathematical genius. He knows things like oatmeal telegrams...or was it theories? I don't really recall. But thankfully, he knows them, because his little sister isn't so good at math and there's no way I'm going to try to attempt it!

Melody said...

I am pretty hopeless when it comes to solving maths problems like that. You honestly stumped me with even the example. Gees....

Jocelyn said...

When I was in high school and taking College Algebra, my parents ended up hiring a local college student to tutor me once a week ($8/hr). It made a huge difference, and my parents stopped running away from me when they saw me coming.

Chickie said...

I feel your pain. Math has never been my strong point and I gave up helping with the homework when the boys hit the 4th grade. The husband helps with the math and I do everything else.

creative-type dad said...

I was never, ever good at algebra or whatever.
It might as well been taught in another language.

If my daughter comes asking me for help, I'll be sure to play sick or hard of hearing

Star said...

Even when they were lilttle, I would help them and they would cry out in anguish "that's not the way the teacher does it!" Obviously I knew the old math and this was the new math, although the answers rein the same.

CSL said...

My kids flat out do not believe me when I say I don't know how to do one of their homework problems. It does seem insane - I made it through three stats classes in grad school. But I think it is one of those things that just disappear the moment you aren't required to remember it. I'll have to try that sock drawer excuse next time.

thethinker said...

I hate math. Though, I'd kill for a problem like 10x(4-2y) + 26 = 14 + n(63 - 4/25) at this point, because I'm not looking forward to taking Calculus next year.

Carmi said...

I know this day is coming: our eldest is in the 7th grade, and his math is starting to creep up on the evolutionary complexity scale.

BTW, your caption won this week's Caption This over on Written Inc.! Take a gander - and a bow. It made me think!

Hope you're having a wonderful - math-free - weekend.

Rainbow dreams said...

My time is approaching fast! Though I did Maths A level, it would seem things have moved on since then.... hope you are having a peacful Sunday, and thanks for your commnets on my blog...

Thomas said...

Disclaimer: The misses is a math teacher.

Math texts can and do suck. My district (state) is readopting math books this year. None of them will be worth a flip and then when combined with a math teacher, will cause pain and suffering.

It is all in the teacher my friends.
A good math teacher can work wonders above and beyond a book.
Hell, a good math teacher doesn't need a book.

The issue that I tend to have is simple, the books and math teachers sucks.

I am not a teacher basher (I am a teacher after all) but other than the misses, most math teachers seem to be soulless math zombies and I have never figured out why.

If they had half a personality and taught with it, some of this new voodoo math would be easier for the kids.

damn, that was a rant.

Kevin said...

I am sooo with you on that math issue. Although I remember there being at least 1 or 2 problems like the example before having some formulaic nightmare. I was always able to do the 1 or 2, then I was completely lost. My freshman year in high school, I was constantly with the algebra teacher getting clarification and going over what I didn't understand. But it never helped. I got a 70 in each of my 3 years of algebra. However, the year of geometry was cake. I completely understood that, except for the quarter where we did algebraic applications to geometric figures. I got a 61 that quarter.

During my one year of college, I took an algebra class. My highest test score was a 34.

I just don't get it. Now, my son is a math whiz. At 5 years old he was doing multiplication tables and division. But, like you, he is incapable of showing his work. He'll look at a problem and say, "The answer is 6." Then gets genuinely confused and frustrated when you ask him to show or explain how he came up with that answer.