Monday, April 16, 2012

Which Takes Longer: Paying Bills or 2nd Grade Math Worksheet?

You're about to sit down to pay this month's bills when your second grader announces he needs help with his math homework. Smile. It's both your chance to show your child that you do, in fact, have two brain cells that still function and to procrastinate the drudgery of paying bills a while longer.

Granted, math is not exactly your forte. To this day you remain puzzled about the time you got the section on Imaginary Numbers wrong on your high school mid-term. You'd tried to argue that you had, in fact, imagined all the correct answers. Fortunately, you've yet to have a real life experience where it was imperative to figure out the derivatives of an x or a y, nor any of their mystery letter friends.

Your first task is to find your child's homework.  He knows he had it a minute ago when he came to ask for help, but he can no longer locate it. Retrace his steps, searching the usual places like the kitchen floor, the bathroom, the video game controller drawer and the dog's mouth with no luck. Ask to see your child's backpack.  Maybe he put the math sheet away by mistake. Although you don't seriously believe that's possible, you need someplace else to look.

Begin by unfolding paper after paper. Recoil at the quantity of unidentifiable objects you uncover. Tell your child this is why he can never find anything.  More digging reveals three $4-per-pen dry-erase markers with no caps. Among the goldfish cracker crumbs, find the envelope with the field trip permission slip and your accompanying check that was due last week. Email the child's teacher to apologize and inquire whether your child can still be included. Refrain from adding sarcastic comments about the excessive amount of homework given.

Eureka. Your child finds his math homework mixed in with the newspaper on the table. Ask him to read the directions aloud.  Two-thirds into it, he drops his pencil on the floor.  While he retrieves it, take the paper and read the directions yourself because the language used in this math series is extremely vague. It forbids the simple "carrying" or "borrowing" methods you use. Instead, he must illustrate some kind of step-by-step partial sums and differences algorithm under each problem. You're unsure why this is necessary since it takes five times as long. Your only guess is for sport.

Mere seconds after you begin showing your child what to do, he has to go to the bathroom.  When he returns, draw a problem on scrap paper so he can observe how you solve it.  He drops his pencil on the floor again. Watch him launch into gymnastic contortions you didn't know he was capable of performing to retrieve it. He balances on one knee and arches sideways to try to reach it. He flops his stomach down onto the seat of the chair while flailing his arms, blindly groping at the floor underneath.  Tell him to stop fooling around.  He has no sooner put the pencil down than it rolls back off the table.  He crawls under the chair to get it, peering out from between the rungs as if they're windows on a fort. Offer to superglue the pencil to the table.

Prattle on and on with your how-to explanation of partial sums and differences algorithms. Ask him if he understands.

"What?" He stares blankly.

He'd been doodling an elaborate spaceship battle scene on his eraser. He asks if he can play Wii when he's done. Point out how he could've been done 15 minutes ago had he buckled down and gotten started. He says he would have, if you'd stopped talking so he could concentrate.

Your child solves approximately three math problems before he launches into a This-Is-So-Stupid, Why-Do-I-Have-to-Do-This? tirade. Do not, at any point, let on that you agree with him on any level. Do not admit that you, too, think it's ridiculous that after solving the math problems, he must cut out examples of dollar amounts from newspaper ads and glue them to a separate piece of paper. Instead, tell him how important math is! Stress how vitally useful it is in daily life! Why, you yourself will be using it later tonight to pay bills!

After midnight, when you finally do pay the bills, simply plug each amount owed into the bank's website. Let the magical genie who lives inside your computer do all the math for you. 

Actual Time Spent on 2nd Grade Math Worksheet:  52 minutes
Real Feel: 4 hours
Time Spent Paying Month's Worth of Bills:  13 minutes 
Number of Times Kid's Pencil Fell on Floor:  7 
Odds child will remember to hand in both the homework AND and the trip permission slip tomorrow:  1 in 4

What do you think of the new math curriculum that's so different from the way we learned it? On an average daily basis, how much time does your child's homework take?


  1. This article had me laughing aloud! It's something every parent of school-aged children can relate to.

    1. Thank you so much! Sometimes I get so stressed out at homework time, and I find if I step back and try (the keyword being, TRY) to view it with a sense of humor, it helps.

  2. Oh, yes! And my poor kids are homeschooled, so multiply this by 4! I was grousing at my kid's math book just yesterday for the same reasons you just mentioned: why do we have to teach them a new way to do something when they already know the old way, can get to the correct answer, and it takes forty times longer! Argh! And it's terrible when I have to stare blankly at their book and mutter, uh, mommy needs a minute alone to figure this out...

    1. Yes, the extra time to do something that could be so quick & simple is RIDICULOUS! You're a real trooper to be doing all this while homeschooling, Melyssa.

      And you know what's even more interesting in my district? When the kids get to middle school, they go back to the regular old-school math with carrying and borrowing and all that!

      It's like, then why are we bothering with all these extra steps in elementary? Apparently, it's supposed to help foster better understanding (read: parental frustration).

  3. I've ranted many, many times about Everyday Math on my blog. A couple weeks ago I was like "Convex polygon? Uh, go get mommy a glass of wine, please." I'm on 4th grade Everyday Math right now which means technically I think I've earned a degree in civil engineering from some college somewhere!

    1. Oh Katy, I know the EXACT lesson you're talking about with the polygons in Everyday Math! Been there. Even stupid things like deciphering/drawing polygons that are "regular"...I had to google what the freak that even meant.

      And I really love how there's no textbook where we could see an example lesson or try to make heads or tails (or polygons) of it. Grrr...
      I'll have to check out your posts!

  4. I HATE HATE HATE the new math, it makes absolutely no sense, my kids screw it up every time. I eventually show them the right way. I am not saying this to be horrible but the people of Singapore are freaking genius, we need a step at a time and a friendly reminder at the top of our math problem via a little carry over number...

    1. Good point! And I also love how they take a problem where you're adding only two numbers like 123+456 and they turn it into having to add THREE sets of numbers (100+400, 20+50 and 3+6)...It's just seems so inefficient to create extra complicated steps to do something so simple.

  5. I teach in the middle school and I am amazed that the math that worked for us is no longer usable! They speak this foreign language when they start talking math. I teach French and I assure you, it's far easier to learn than the current math lingo. An algorithm????? In 2nd grade??

    1. I totally agree, Sparkling. When my older son has a math test, I can't even help him study because I don't comprehend the algorithm language. Now if he'd only taken French instead, I actually could've assisted since that was what I took. French even helps me semi-understand his Spanish classwork enough to quiz him there.....whereas with the math I'm just a lost cause!


One thing I'll always make time for:

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