Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Unfound Variable In Math Is My Brain

Yesterday when the boys came over after school... that sounds funny to me. Before the split between their mother and I, it was "the boys came home", but they live with her, so that's home now. So I wonder is my place still home to them as well, or just their dad's place (even though its the same place they called home for 7 years)?

Anyways, after they came here they whipped out their homework to do. It was a math day. For Corwyn, being in the first grade, things are pretty simple. Low numbers, adding and subtracting, counting money and the whole less than (<) greater than (>) and equal to (=) business. Yesterday, what he had to do was counting up money, and figuring out which coins shown on the page were needed to buy the illustrated picture with a price tag on it. Simple stuff, like I said. However, after going over one he was having issues. Two problems shown themselves to me, the first one I didn't fully understand, and that was his wanting to keep confusing quarters as nickels...but only some of the quarters. I'm not sure if we have solidified in his little brain that the bigger "nickel" is actually a quarter and worth 25 cents every single time, while the little nickel is in fact a nickel and worth a measly 5 cents. The other problem I fully understood. Right as the boys were getting started on their homework, another little boy came by wanting to play. Which of course means to little kids, most especially hyperactive little boys such as mine, that the brain has now been reprogrammed to think almost entirely about going outside to play. Math, even that involving money, is not only not that interesting, but hard to comprehend even in the simplest of circumstances. But with a little help focusing on the homework from good ol Dad, he managed to get through his worksheet for the day, and as soon as it was done he was out the door. He didn't bother to put it in his book bag to take home with him so he'd have it to turn into his teacher the next day, it literally floated slowly down onto the end table next to the couch, landing sometime shortly after he was already a good 25 feet outside with his little buddy. I would say I've been there, but I was the type of kid who ran out of school so fast at the end of the day, that not only did any unfinished schoolwork not get taken home, but I had actually arrived home 3 to 4 minutes prior to the bell ringing that signified the end of the school day. I defy any physics teacher or those guys running CERN to figure out the possibility of how I performed this amazing feat.

And then it was on to reviewing one of the older boy's (JOSH) math test. Now Josh is in the 6th grade, and compared to 1st grade, the difficulty level has exponentially increased. No easy A's counting money. No we're talking about long division, fractions, algebraic equations and all that other fun horseshit...most of which will never again be used beyond the halls of Academia. I did a LOT of math growing up, and I passed those classes, and true to form never used them again. Until yesterday, when I looked over Josh's test. He had gotten a 78% on the test, which I was expected to sign and have him return it to the teacher. SO naturally I looked it over, and we went over the mistakes he had made, and figured out what he had done wrong, which basically boils down to he doesn't really care, so he doesn't focus too hard on it, and I believe he already understands that he isn't going to be using this stuff later in life. Part of me is confused, because he is so good at his science class, which is basically word problem math put into action. But whatever, I guess he's going to have to figure that out on his own sooner or later.

So then we go to the extra credit portion of the test, which has 5 or 6 questions of its own. The first section asked questions in relation to a Venn Diagram. He got some questions right, and a couple wrong...of which I couldn't see how he got any of them wrong, until I noticed that what I thought was a right answer was indeed wrong, due to the Venn diagram being in a box, with an extra figure in the corner. Apparently Dad needs to focus as well. So we got that figured out. Then we had to figure out probability of a coin landing in a circle on a square mat, figuring out the area of each. Much to my dismay, they represented PI as a fraction (22/7) instead of the commonly used, and much easier to use number (3.14) we all learned growing up. So we had to figure out this probability with the fractions. It took a bit of figuring out, but we got the right answer. Or rather I figured it out after showing him how to make serious mistakes first. Because I'm a math idiot.

And then finally it was onto finding variables to solve equations. He answered one, and left the other blank. The one he answered, I saw absolutely no work done on it, but somehow he decided "7" was a good answer. I asked about scratch paper, or calculators, none of which they had been allowed to use. For a boy whose mind is constantly moving from one thing to the next, he believed he had the ability, and that I had the wool pulled over my eyes far enough to believe, that he could solve the problem entirely in his head. Turns out, while Dad did not know how to figure out the problem correctly, he could figure out that 7 was a bad answer with a simple glance, and that there was no way in hell Josh did all that algebra in his head. Math is not Josh's strong suit, which is fine as long as he tries, but staring aimlessly about and deciding the answer to a complicated formula would come to him out of thin air was not going to cut the mustard. So we looked over the one he left blank, and in an attempt to show him that I had retained my school math knowledge (which once we got into the higher math consisted of someone else doing my daily work in exchange for me doing their chemistry lab projects- which the only math I involved there was calculating how much I owed the school for destroying their equipment regularly), I have begun to understand that because I no longer participate in math classes, I have forgotten what little bit I learned.

SO I was subtracting from one side of the equation, adding to the other side, and trying to get the variable figured out, so we could solve the problem...then erasing what I did, adding on one side, adding on the other, ERASE ERASE ERASE, subtracting on one side, subtracting on the other, and AHA, I have found the number. "You see, Josh?" I asked, "If you do it like that, it will work out neatly." Then I plugged the number in, and my equations didn't line up. This elicited a small chuckle at my very apparent algebraic incompetence. I wanted to say something about how its much funnier that he's actually being told how to do the stuff and he doesn't get it, than his dad not knowing how to do something right that he hasn't even contemplated in 15 years or so. But, I left the thought in my head, mostly because if I was going to put him and his laughing at me in their rightful place, I'd probably better have half an idea what the hell I am talking about first. As it turns out, I didn't even begin to have half a clue. So on the notebook paper we were using I left a note to the teacher that she's going to have to send example work home on how to do equations, because Josh's Dad is a moron who can't even help out with much of the 6th grade math without much difficulty. We'll see if she follows through with that, or leave me wondering if her and the other math teachers get together in the teacher lounge laughing hysterically at the fact that an almost 32 year old man can't do 6th grade level math.

Here's the best way to find your friggin variable!!!:


Becky said...

It's hard to remember some of that shit...but hey sounds like you put forth a lot of effort. I am interested to see if I could solve that problem though.

Math nerd? Why would you say so?

Mookie said...


I say this with the love of an older brother, but you aren't merely a math nerd, you're an across the board complete nerd.

You read and studied, and studied and read constantly while growing up, staying indoors mostly as though you were allergic to sunlight and actual physical activity.

I on the other hand, did not study, read what I felt like reading (also known as not the school assigned stuff), and spent my time regularly outside. My grades weren't far below yours.

The only differencce between the end results is I didn't get a chance to marry your NASA engineer husband before you did! LMAO...shame too, I think I prefer the Florida climate over this stuff up here in Iowa... its cold and snowing...AGAIN!

Becky said...

I AM allergic to sunshine and physical activity ;)

And while I was more motivated in school than you, I married a sugar daddy and live in a warm climate.

I win.