Thursday, February 26, 2009


Why are our kids cursed with so much homework these days? And why is it so labor intensive? My God! These kids have so much homework that they're lugging around these 50+ pound backpacks that's making chiropractic possibly the fastest growing profession. They are so bent over that kissing them good bye each morning consist of me getting on my hands and knees to find their little faces under all that baggage on their backs. I know their down there somewhere. Some of it is so mentally challenging that I have to remind myself that they are in elementary school and not college.

Somehow, in preparing for these standardized tests from hell, teachers forgot that kids should have a life after school. But my kids are caught between wanting to play versus the guilt over the difficulty level and amount of homework they have had towed in for the afternoon; particularly math. I have finally concluded that giving birth to four children, all a la natural with blood vessels popping out of my eyeballs and feet facing the heavens, which then results in sitting on a diaper-filled ice pack for a whole week, is a walk in the park compared to navigating the twins through their 5th grade math!

My oldest daughter fears and loathes math homework more than she does going to the dentist, the doctor, and having all her arms and legs removed - at the same. She's in the mind-splitting midst of both fractions and geometry. She's the kind that mopes and whines through the entire process; can't find a positive solution to anything, and I'm gleefully anticipating having my head shaved than this. This child actually growls at me while I'm coaching her through some of this stuff. Her repetitive "I don't get it", plays over and over till it is burrowing a hole in my cerebral cortex. 5th grade math is ruining my relationship with my daughter. What has taken us 11 years to nurture and mold together, this math class has undone in six months flat! I don't even mention having her use the after-school tutoring program anymore; she thinks it's for complete morons and is afraid her social standing with her peers will become null and void. Yep folks, step right up and watch! It's the beginning of those most memorable tween years; I'm so looking forward to having what's left of my brains extracted through my nostrils during this time.

Oh, it doesn't help either when her teacher admitted that the entire timed he's taught math, he never found a use for a majority of it that he teaches. Oh THAT's a great motivator for my daughter; THANKS! You know how many times I've heard her whine that to me? All while I'm in the process of pulling my hair out over the internet surfing for "how to teach your kids math in three easy lessons"? By the way, no such site exists. But her teacher, in a sense,is right. If we are suppose to use the math that we spent so much of our childhoods agonizing and evoking our own gobs of self-doubt over, then why can't anyone correctly calculate measurements for a sheet that actually FITS my king size mattress? I, to this day, have never bought a fitted sheet that goes on my mattress without acquiring injuries that nearly caused a fractured lumbar vertebrae putting the damn thing on, while straining in various positions of almost perverse peculiarity!

5th grade math turns Nadia from a somewhat reasonably acting 11 year old, into that character from the movie "The Ring". You know, the slumped over, dark-eyed girl in the white t-shirt with a chalky white face and hair that looks like it was washed in motor oil and grass clippings when it crawls out of that well. That's Nadia to a tee when it comes to this stuff. While "tutoring" my daughter through this numeric minefield, I've almost grounded my teeth to the point that my molars might be comparable to a geometric flat plane (see, I must be learning something too)! My husband leans over to remind me quietly, "Just wait till she gets PMS. That time is just around the corner". This just HAS to be the moment where the Karmic Universe allows me to smack him silly, cause I do not need this added stress right now! As I am NOW waiting for the phone to ring to signify that I have seven days to live!

But let's have a brief recap of the history of math from a different perspective, shall we? We have the Egyptians on one side giving us what we now know as fractions, and the Greeks on the other, inventing geometry. Hmmmm..... let me see what they were thinking while conceiving clever little equations that would eventually break down the family unit upon the arrival of 5th grade math. Did they know what affect they would have on our kids when they broadened the "rules" of our current math system? I THINK NOT! But..... maybe they did and that was the whole point. To PERMANENTLY SCREW UP the minds of future generations and then sit back from the afterlife and laugh themselves silly, while watching our children sort it out over mindless consumption of pizza (they were in cahoots with the Italians too). It wasn't a harmonious balance of numbers and reason; this was designed to create a wide divide between those deemed as "genius" and the rest of us who totally do not know what the hell is going in math; which by the way, is about 85% of the world's population! This stuff makes one crazy; this is why people like Einstein (think: really eccentric hairdo!), understood it, but the collective majority does not! And those who eventually "get it", wind up crazy themselves.

Can someone tell WHY we adopted a mathematical system from a group of people that we haven't even figured out HOW they built the pyramids USING this system yet? I agree with my daughter, fractions is a big fat mix up of the most confusing ways to fry one's brain in a very short period of time. Let's look at it logically; why is 1/16 smaller than 1/8 when 16 is a larger number than 8, Hmmm? Logically, 16 is a higher number than 8, therefore 1/8 should be smaller than 1/16. But Nooooooo! The Egyptians said, "we're gonna make the bigger numbers actually smaller, then watch all of society go completely mad, burning shit down trying to figure out WHY". And WHY when dividing fractions, did they decide to REALLY screw us up and say "no, you really gotta flip em then multiply them". Isn't that just MULTIPLYING them. Why can't they say "just don't divide fractions at all, just flip and multiply them"; make something simple out of the process. But then to add to the confusion, why do we flip and multiply in the first place; why don't we just divide the damn things like they said to? Divide means to divide and multiply means to multiple; you can't mix this stuff up or people will kill each other over it. This is why the economy is so screwed up; because of fractions, and fractions being turned into decimals, and flipped, smashed, run over by a freight train to the point that NOBODY understands math... PERIOD! Least of all my daughter right now!

Now we come to the Greeks and the freaking names they gave shapes and triangles. Think about this: we adopted a highly regarded system of math from a culture who thought wrestling naked was a good idea - wink, wink. Not only do we have to learn the shapes and what they mean, we have to learn a whole new language along with it. And if we have to learn this language, then why didn't they start teaching Latin in the 1st grade instead of in high school because that's all messed up there! There's this whole vocabulary of hexa's and octa's, poly this, and rhombus that. Let's add a few more terms like congruent and quadrilateral, and parallelogram and we're not learning math; it sounds like we're preparing for a "Dancing With The Stars" episode! And do I really need to know how many ways you can twist a square around and name it a new name? No - a square is still a square with four equal sides, so you don't need to always add regular polygon next to it. After dealing with this stuff, I'm beginning to resemble a little like Medusa myself. Nadia has now evolved into the Cracken.

So I sit with my daughter and sludge through this stuff knowing her and I are going to be reaching for a Motrin afterwards (I may add a glass of Pinot Noir with mine). I am plagued with motherly guilt on whether 5th grade math will permanently affect her self-esteem for years to come; only time will tell. I know for sure that the current educational system has complete negated individual learning styles and opted for the same menu I serve at dinnertime: "take it or leave it". So offering her an educational solution based on her strengths and weakness will never present itself unless Zeus intervenes and throws one of his famous lightning bolts at the Department of Education and they change the system; or I win a million dollars in a lottery and can afford the right private school with those God-awful uniforms that look like they were designed by the munchkins from the "Wizard of Oz". But until that happens, I can offer my loving support and the only advice a mother can give: "Math doesn't define you as a person Nadia; what you do with your life does. You are already born with gifts you haven't even realized yet. Focus on those. But just remember this, if you don't pass it now, you have to repeat it all again... in 5th grade."

Then my husband waltzes in towards the end of this disaster and suddenly becomes the boisterous voice of reason. He sits us down to explain that the the Egyptians created a system of measurements that are effective and useful, like when I cook. He did have to bring this to a level we could both reasonably understand. And the Greeks created a way by which we could have structures to withstand hurricanes and earthquakes. Hurricane season is coming; I get that part; blah, blah, blah. Then he completely loses sight of simplistic explanations and starts mentioning that junk about how you can't fit a round peg into a square hole, and stuff. Didn't know where he was going with that frame of thought as my head begins to spin. And then he had to mentioned Einstein somewhere in the whole bloody conversation which made me think he was going in the same path as one who is one wave short of a shipwreck! Yes, he agreed with me when I said that it all sounded confusing and ridiculous, but that "it works". He's lost us as usual, and Nadia's zoned-out, blank look on her face has signaled to me that she is officially comatose.

Well, what I've learned from this so far is that my presence gracing the show "Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?" are about as realistic as the national budget being balanced using this genius form of math we've adopted from cultures who neither like to wear clothing when exercising, or care to pass on the reasoning of how and why they built something the way they did. And I don't think we helped Nadia much because I think she has opted out of going to college in favor of joining a circus. Boy is she gonna be livid when she finds out that the Greeks and the Egyptians had a hand, and a protractor, in crafting those pretty tents!

1 comment:

James F. said...

This is funny because last night at approximately the same time you were posting this, John and I were having a discussion about his math class. They are doing imaginary numbers and the complex plane. He says it's worthless and makes no sense. I explained how in electrical engineering it is used extensively in alternating current circuits to make impedance calculations. I told him there were lots of example where I thought something was useless when we learned it but later found in Engineering that it was a key function. After that he kind of submitted to the whole process, but he's in tenth grade not fifth. Whe I was in fifth grade, I hated all forms of homework. I got many lashes due to the unsavory gruel that they serve up in the name of educating the masses.