Friday, March 14, 2008

mathematics


I read the above pictured news story this morning about U.S. students' math deficiencies. Some of us like math; some don't. I personally have a soft spot for math.

Today's article rings true for me since I have a son in elementary school. His teacher last year had a master's degree in math, so I backed off when I noticed that The Child didn't seem to know his multiplication tables. He brushed it off, claiming that his teacher had taught him some sort of scheme which I didn't understand for "coming up with" math facts.

Well, now I wish I had stood my ground. This year, he seems to have forgotten that scheme which replaced multiplication tables. I now fear for his future.

Is it possible that there really is some validity to NOT teaching basic math facts? The longer I live, the more I realize that indeed, anything's possible. But I also have learned to speak for myself.

I have fond memories related to math from my school years. I was good at it and I loved it. What little self-esteem I had as a child probably resulted largely from math.

In New York State where I grew up, public education was top notch. Each course was offered in levels, and I was in advanced math, with challenges aplenty. As early as 6th grade, I was being offered college-level algebra problems.

My parents didn't have a clue how to solve such problems, but my big sister's husband, who was actually a math major in college at the time, did. He didn't give me the answers directly but he taught me how to come up with them myself. It was a thrill to solve a difficult math problem- even more so when I was the only one in my class who got the right answer.

After my sister and her husband split up, I missed his help, but he had taught me to fish, as it were. One time in 8th grade our school's math department gave all of the classes an extraordinarily difficult problem. I spent a long time on it, and when a friend called me on the phone for help, I broke down and gave her my answer.
Later that night when checking over my work, I decided upon a different answer. I didn't tell my friend though, figuring I had helped her enough since I had even given her the steps involved.
The next day, the school was turned upside down when my friend, known to be somewhat slow (especially in algebra) proved to be the only student with the right answer. The math teachers had never expected anyone to solve it, least of all this particular student! We never told anybody what happened, and our math teachers scratched their heads over that one for a long time afterwards. It was especially baffling to them because no other student had the right answer!
My job requires no mathematical ability, but I enjoy working with numbers whenever life calls for it. I spend a ridiculous amount of time on my budget, and I am an eager bookkeeper at The Child's school bookstore. I just finished doing my tax returns. I do own a calculator, and I use it to check myself. I derive pleasure from working with numbers, and still experience that old sense of accomplishment after I finish.
The Child doesn't know what he's missing.


19 comments:

Daisy said...

I never liked math. I do however know the very basics of which you speak and question whether the kids coming through school now days really have those basics. I ask myself... and why not? I balance my checkbook and then make sure I am right by checking myself with the calculator.

I liked the story about your friend having the correct answer to the difficult problem.

Big Dave T said...

I've always been terrible at math. Ya know, there are three types of people: those who know how to do math, and those who don't. I don't. Ironically, my job involves working with figures however since I work closely with accountants. Thank god for computers.

Betty said...

Dear Daisy,

I'm with you- the calculator is nothing but a tool for checking the work you've already done. What are these kids going to do when they find themselves high and dry without a calculator someday? Or more likely, one with dead batteries?

Hugs,
Betty

Betty said...

Dear Big Dave,

Welcome back! I hope you're refreshed and soon to experience springlike weather.


Somehow I knew that most bloggers would say they were bad at math. Most bloggers probably focused more on writing, I'm guessing.

Hugs,
Betty

Kacey said...

Oh, how I wish I were as good as you at math. I'm just okay, but my way of figuring is a rather sideways approach to any problem. I can come up with the answers, but I'm not certain why I did it.

I just caught up on your last post and want you to know that the child's creepy father stands no chance of getting him. He has never contributed to him and the child doesn't want to live with him! What judge would disturb a kid's life with those things against the dude? Let us know where we can find him and we'll break both his legs!

Betty said...

Dear Kacey,

I'm tempted to give you his address, except I just remembered that I don't know his address! He moved in with his latest girlfriend.

Good news, though- I just received word from my lawyer that the Guardian ad Litem (lawyer deciding the best interests of the child) has denmanded that the father submit to psychological evaluation! That can't be good (for the father, I mean). You seem to be right!

Hugs,
Betty

Moanna said...

I loved algebra but am visually oriented so geometry was my favorite.

Your story of not getting credit for solving the problem reminds me of my "favorite" experience. My teacher gave an extra-credit geometry problem to us and later told the class that no one had solved it. He asked me to stay after class and told me privately that I actually had solved it but said he didn't want to damage the self-esteem of the boys in class by telling them a girl had solved it. This was in, what, 1967, and he was at retirement age then. I hope times have changed.

I'm thinking your love of math will come across to your son and he'll make up for lost time eventually.

Lynilu said...

I loved math in school and was quite good at it until junior high when I was in algebra. I head butted with a certain concept that I just couldn't get; when I went to the teacher for help, he just blew me off. A friend helped me with it, but by that time I was so far behind that I played "catch up" for the rest of the year and by year's end I absolutely hated it. I took geometry as it was required, but avoided math after that. Interestingly, I went ahead to make my living for 12-15 years with math in bookkeeping! Life can be funny, can't it?

Betty said...

Dear Moanna,

Unbelievable! I think we can safely say that times have changed. I hope that even at your tender age you realized how wrong that teacvher was!

Hugs,
Betty

Patti said...

Girl I hate to say it but I HATE math and numbers (and i'm in banking - go figure!). I solidly respect anyone with a talent and love for mathematics. My Dad is like you in that respect. I know I used to frustrate the hell out of him when I was in school.
My talent lies in English/Social Studies etc.

Kacey said...

I forgot to say something funny about me and math. I didn't have great grades in Geometry, but am an avid quilter today. Quilting involves bunches of math and Geometry. Who knew? Also, I missed an important week of Chemistry in high school and played catch-up like Lynilu did with Geometry. With Algegra, Geometry and Chemistry being my short suites in school, I became a nurse at forty, which requires all those subjects. Perhaps, my teachers in high school lacked the ability to teach their subjects properly. I should not have struggled with them, since my I.Q. was really too high to have a hard time with regular school work. When I finally took my state boards in hursing, I had an almost perfect score. Must have been the teachers!

Betty said...

Dear Patti,

LOL- A banker who hates numbers! I love it!!! I guess you're overcoming your feelings about math and numbers.....

Hugs,
Betty

Betty said...

Dear Lynilu,

Teachers can make all the difference, for sure. At least you didn't let a bad one stop you from having a career in bookkeeping!

Hugs,
Betty

Betty said...

Dear Kacey,

Yep, teachers are darned important, but neither you nor Lynilu allowed bad teaching to stop you.

I never knew that quilting required math and geometry! How cool! Sounds to me as if quilters need to have many talents!

Hugs,
Betty

Loving Annie said...

I have to use a calculator or add sums on paper - never been good in math...

Happy upcoming Easter to you and your son, Betty :)

Betty said...

Dear Annie,

Wow- it's great to see you again! Welcome back!


Hugs,
Betty

Desiree said...

Oh Betty that was a funny story about you and your friend! I've always been good at math myself but I don't particularly like it. Funny because I'm in finance. LOL

Betty said...

Dear Desiree,

This must be reunion time! I hope this means you have time for blogging now, but if not, it's always great to hear from you! You've been missed!

Hugs,
Betty

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