May 3rd, 2010



Like Megsie, I often deliberately wait a day or so after writing a post, in order to let my hordes handful of readers read and comment...I don't want to leave anyone behind, after all. Ahem. Actually, and again like Megsie, who might as well have written this part of my post FOR ME only on HER blog, most of the time, when I sit down to write a post or at least have the intention of beginning a post, I end up blank, with nothing coming to mind, despite the dozens of excellent ideas and topics that zinged at me out of nowhere earlier in the day/week/month, only to apparently poing right off again, as if I had a titanium shell, back into the ether from whence they came.

Unlike pollen molecules, which unfortunately don't poing but rather glom on like glue straight on my tender eyeballs. *blink blink*

DON'T RUB. aaagh

Anyway, while talking with my mom today for HOURS (hurray!) and catching up, I happened to mention the Parent Meeting I was at last week for Karin's class and it cracked her up and I said, "Oh! I should blog about this, shouldn't I?" and she said, "Definitely" and right then Karin, with her usual impeccable sense of timing, came up to me with her math book in hand and wailed, "Heeeeelp me mamaaaaa!"

Last Tuesday, I went to Karin's classroom at 6:30 p.m., along with most of the other parents of the kids in her class, invited by her teacher to a parent meeting at which the agenda was 1) math methods the children are learning, 2) schoolroom subjects/plan for the rest of the term, 3) end-of-year party planning and 4) report from the class representatives who go to the county school meetings. Anders had Scouts, so he couldn't accompany me, but no worries, I've been to these meetings plenty of times and brought a pen and a tiny little notepad with me (I was once a Girl Scout, you know. Briefly. Still: be prepared!)

That first agenda item was a little worrisome, and I quickly learned I had been right to quail. The very first thing her teacher, Kerstin, said, was that the kids kept telling her that their parents often refused to help them with their math homework because not only did they not understand what the kids were DOING, they kept trying to do it a DIFFERENT way, thus confusing and upsetting the kids.

Now, as you may know, if you've been reading along for any amount of time, math and I are not the best of friends. This is not because I don't LIKE math. It's more because math would rather hang out with cooler, more logically-thinking pals and despairs of ever making me understand what she's REALLY about. My math block started early, spurred by long division and a rather mean teacher in 5th grade. I can manage kitchen math, balancing a checkbook (preferably without TOO much money or transactions) and that's about it. Luckily, there isn't much real call in my life for serious math. Plus I have an engineer for a husband. He's really good at that stuff. So is my son. So I just ask them, on the rare occasions I need an answer to something mathy. And when Karin comes with her math homework, I usually point her in the direction of her father: Go Ask Your Dad. And, hello: calculators.

Kerstin handed out a WORKSHEET. FULL OF MATH PROBLEMS. And then proceeded, in a lightning-paced manner, to demonstrate the current mathematical teaching methods to a room full of bewildered and groaning parents. I was far from the only one with my head on the desk after the first 5 minutes. This isn't New Math, which my mom tells me caused the same reaction in HER when we came with OUR homework in the's more like the New New Post-Modern Math. It makes a lot of sense if you stop to think about it, but it still freaked me out: suddenly being put on the spot with a worksheet that included Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision.

I don't even know the English terms for a lot of these concepts so it's really hard for me to explain this, but the problems the kids deal with nowadays are all set up SIDEWAYS.

Where I would add these numbers together like this:


and mentally add it like this: 5+5=10, carry the one, 2+2+1=5, 5+1=6, therefore: 650...

my kids set it up like this: 525 + 125 = 650
And they add by quickly setting the numbers mentally together in units: the ones, tens, hundreds and thousands. So in that equation above, they would say 500+100=600, 20+20=40, 5+5=10; therefore: 600+40+10=650

Do you see?

Fair enough. I can follow so far. But they were doing multiplication the same way and both short and long division and all over the room, I could feel brains cramping and sneaking a peek at other parent's papers, I could see scribbles on all of them (including mine) where people were setting up the problems the old way, the way they had learned, in order to arrive at an answer. Faced with the numbers set up in an unfamiliar sequence, most of us froze. I couldn't think at all; the wall went up.

Faced with a problem like 4562 x 4 = ______, I just went blank. I started sweating. I think at one point I might have been wringing my hands. The women on both sides of me were clutching their heads and even the men were laughing in that sort of panicked ha-ha-HA way. We could GET the answers, if we stopped and thought and went slowly, or if we cheated and set up the problems the way we had been taught to ourselves as children, but getting the answer wasn't the point: it was the METHOD that was the point. A new way of thinking about numbers. A new way of looking at a sequence and creating order from it in order to arrive at a solution.

So, 4562 x 4, then?


therefore: 16,000+2000+240+8 = 18,248

Cool, huh?

I still couldn't follow the damn division, though. I suspect I need someone to walk me through it MUCH MUCH more slowly, using 1-syllable words and preferably with a cookie reward at the end of each step.


Remember the pair of pants that Martin finally put in the wash yesterday? His MOBILE PHONE was in the pocket. This was discovered after approximately 20 minutes in the wash cycle. It was removed, disassembled and submerged in a bowl of rice. I am scared to put it back together again and see if the rice worked as advertised. Pessimistically, I'm betting on no. That is all I have to say about that.
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