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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.
mood: accomplished
music: Girlyman—Postcards From Mexico


I have heard from a family member that getting the battery out of the phone and completely dried is the main thing, but what do I know!? That must be the theory behind the rice, absorbing the moisture. Let us know if it worked.

Eek! Math.
Well, the way you have it laid out there makes it seem almost easier than our way, except not mentally. I would still need pencil, paper, and an eraser. And I cannot fathom division that way.

The rice worked!

And I agree with you about not being able to do the math mentally. I need paper & a pencil with an eraser too :)

I'm both looking forward to and dreading teaching the kids math. I'm an engineer too and have a fairly good grasp of math most of the time.

My immediate question is of course - although I understand the need to improve the ways of learning and teaching math to kids - if the parents are an integral part in the homework process (that I hear so often) why not try to use a method parents are at least fairly familiar with?
I mean math isnt the most approachable subject to begin with for most people. If you are supposed to help your child with homework it does help if you don't feel completely lost starting out with something as easy as multiplication and long division. Or maybe easy is the wrong word to use - basic is more suitable.

Good luck with the mobile.

Karin's teacher said the reason why they have changed teaching methods is because this one is so much more intuitive and so many more children grasp the principles better and faster than the old ways.

The rice worked :)

I taught this new fangled "realistic math" at one point and am actually a big fan of it. It offers much more insight into what you are actually doing. Let me know if I can help out.

I agree...I think that if someone like ME can understand this, it's definitely got something going for it!

From Megsie

Ha ha ha! I love it when our heads are in the same place, and I am finding that they usually are :)

Math: I had to teach that to third graders. So, theoretically it should be easy for me by now, but I still have to do a lot of thinking about it. It is totally the way the brain works, and it is fast and automatic which is the goal. But. My old brain was taught the old way with little automaticity. Math is way too cool for me as well.

I hope the phone works! Don't forget to tell us what happened and how long you put it in the rice, and if you just went and bought a new battery. I forsee this in my future!

Re: From Megsie

We put it in the rice overnight and part of a day, and it worked! I don't know if it was really the rice, but regardless, the phone is working!!


WOW! I think you actually got it! Your problem with math really started with multiplication -because of being sick so much that year. SO, how about bribing Martin to teach you how to do the division -so you CAN help Karin when Anders is away? Just think how you could feel by accomplishing that! I am really glad that I don't have to help with homework anymore!
Love, Lizardmom

Liz, You have such a smart Mom. Getting Martin to help out (or as your Mom so aptly puts it, bribing him) seems like a great idea.

He has been helping out, actually. With Anders gone so much, I've resorted to asking him for math homework help more than once :D


Oh God - I could never do math that way!


Of course you could! If I could, ANYONE could! :D

ah ah ah

how do they do division? Do my kids do it this way?

I need to see the division.

I've already blocked out the trauma. I'll have to hunt up the paper or write you another response when there is a kid in the vicinity.


Oh I wish I had learned math like that. It actually makes some sence to my math-impossible brain... A lot more than the method I was taught (same as yours).

As someone said - this way you see what you are actually doing...


I agree. Pretty cool!

That math just does not work for me. I refuse -- flat refuse, I say -- to partake. :/

I mean, I do it in my head that way, but I can't set it out on paper like that. It's too disorderly, somehow.

Well, I do it in my head (with it on the paper in front of me), one actually writes all that out, except for proofing. It's just so you can see the method. But it DOES work :)

Ugh! Thankfully, Ingrid is learning math the way I did, which is the way you did, a.k.a. the right way. ;p

Though I have heard stories from my mother about the dreaded New Math back in the 70's, I think I escaped or just asked a sister and didn't think too much about it.

This isn't the New Math, and I wonder if the way I learned, aka the way YOU learned WAS, since it was taught mostly in the 60s and 70s and my mom remembers struggling with it, with us maybe OUR math was actually the way they have discarded! URGH!


Interesting about the math. I didn't know they were teaching it that way now. I think I actually do it that way when adding numbers in my head, but had never really thought about it before. But I definitely don't do multiplication that way, and I doubt I do division that way either.

As for the eyes, you need "Opcon-A" eye drops by Bausch & Lomb. It contains an antihistamine that immediately stops that feeling that you want to claw your eyeballs out. Print out the page below and show the list of active ingredients to a pharmacist there, and see if they have something similar:


Awesome! Thanks!!

Oof, my head hurts now. Math and I have never gotten along, and I used to teach it as part of an SAT prep course! Maybe if I had learned it like this, I would *get* it, but my only real capability was following the steps; I never, ever understood math. My husband, on the other hand, cannot fathom my issues with math; for him, even calculus is obvious. This, of course, is why he is the engineer in the family... and will be the parent to help our girls with their math homework.

You used to TEACH it? Honey, that IS getting along! :D

And be careful...I said the same thing: Anders is the engineer and can do lightning fast (to me anyway) math in his head and he's the go-to guy for homework, but he travels A LOT. So then I instead of saying "go ask your dad" I have to say "go CALL your dad" :D

From Willow

Wow, once you explain it it makes sense to do math that way, but holy-moly, I can picture the scene! I wonder if this method is more intuitive for kids than the way we were all taught, if more kids get it?

Re: From Willow

Apparently so, but I did ask if this was a Swedish thing, or a European phenomenon or worldwide, and the teacher didn't know...but at least one American mom who commented said her kids are learning the same way she (and I) did.

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