Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Homework - Help!

I was always a good student, in all subjects. For math, I took all of the college prep classes and passed the necessary math in college. Granted, there was not much of a math requirement for a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, but I took what I had to. So I feel like I have a pretty good handle on it. I can balance a checkbook, figure square footage of a room, measure for curtains or for sewing dress hems.

(Reader: imagine a sufficiently ominous/scary music bit for effect here).
Then my daughter came to me with her 7th grade homework. (AAaaagh! Not that!)

I don’t remember there being so many different kinds of numbers: composite, prime, whole, rational, real, reciprocal, and integers. When did they come up with all of those? What do you need so many kinds of numbers for? A number is a number! Dividing fractions, common denominators, cube roots – remember how to do those? I don’t! Negative times a negative is a positive, positive times a positive is a positive, negative times a positive is a negative – it’s enough to make your head spin!

Okay, so I sit down and try to drag some recollection from my classes (so long ago!) and begin to try to help her understand the assignment. I think I get it and start to explain it to her.

This is when it really gets good (insert more ominous music here) – she tells me they don’t do it like that anymore!

What? Can they really change HOW you do math? Aren’t there formulas and equations and an order of operations? How do they expect us to help our kids to succeed with their schoolwork if they go and change it all on us? It’s hard enough to remember how we were taught, but to have to learn new ways of computing word problems? No thanks! And I don’t know about you, but how much of that stuff do you actually still use in your day to day life? None! I can honestly say I haven’t had to graph a parabola, or figure out how many apples and oranges Susie and Billy are sharing, or anything about trains leaving stations traveling in opposite directions. Of course this line of reasoning doesn’t go over real big with your kid’s teacher.

I said earlier that I was a good student, I’m a fairly intelligent person. So I do what anyone would do in my situation – I yell to my oldest daughter to come help. She’s in 10th grade, they can’t have changed things in the 3 years since she learned it. Oh, but they can!

I don’t get it (and honestly, I don’t want to), but I have confidence my daughter will - it will just take time. In the meantime, she can call Uncle John who teaches math in high school.

And I’ll tell my daughters that I’m a whiz at English – unless they decide to change it on me.

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