About Me

My photo
A concerned member of the human race

Friday, November 21, 2014

Will MATH x 4 Equal a Happy, Healthy Kid in Our House?

The Only Math "Sine" Allowed In My Daughter's Room!
My oldest daughter was asked to join an after-school fourth-grade Math Olympiad team this year.  I was a little surprised, remembering that her love of reading is equaled only by her mistrust of math.  

She didn't want to go.  Once again, the eternal tug of war between parent and child.  It won't be a high-pressured test with an overwhelming number of problems to be completed in an insufficient amount of time.  They'll be questions that require creativity and original thought.  Imagine puzzles in a world with no outside pressure!  Try it--at least once.  We agreed.

The morning of the Math Olympiad meeting, my daughter woke up claiming that it was the second night in a row she had suffered through a testing-based math nightmare.  It did not bode well.  So, when I arrived home in the late afternoon, I was eager to hear how things went.  The house was quiet, save for two dogs.  The family had been shuffled off to an after-school activity.  I mounted the steps.  I couldn't have missed the note.  It was there waiting for me, on the banister where one might naturally grasp to prevent a fall.  It wasn't pretty.  Dare I say, it was downright ugly?

It read as follows--

"I HATE math olimpiad.  my room is now a math free zone.  no more: 

  • Talk of math
  • math probloms
  • math sines
  • not even the word math
Do You Need To See It To Believe It?
Amid the general air of confusion, I guessed she meant math signs (for multiplication, division and such), not sines.  After all, she's only a fourth grader...

Had I done something wrong?  Was it all the stress and tension built into prepping for high-stakes, Common-Core aligned standardized tests--even though we had opted her out?  Somewhere along the line, something went mathematically wrong for this kid.  Who is to say if the Common-Core math prep had increased the probabilities?  Whereas the reading took off and she steadily devours book after book after book, doubling the size of my childhood library, the math fizzled.  Oddly enough, her youngest sister loves math.  And for that reason alone, nothing more, she has been banished twice from her older sister's room for spouting something mathematical. I know not what.

When my oldest arrived home, I confessed that I had found her note and read her most private thoughts.  She admitted, "No, Mom, I put it there so you would find it."  She showed me her page of math problems.  We even discussed the last problem.*  They are clearly meant to boggle the mind of a fourth grader.  They came with suggested time limits per problem--which the school generously overlooked, allowing students to work on the page of problems in any order for the hour while gently helping to guide them.  It looked like fun to me, but then I hadn't entered the room with mathophobia.  

I agreed to let her bow out gracefully with the caveat that I will continue to beg for a few minutes every Sunday to show her some cool mathematical concept (like the perimeters of tall vs. long rectangles with equal areas the other week).   I will not force her to take on extra math given her sentiments.  There would be no surer way to ruin the possibility that she and math might one day be reunited on more amicable terms.  I want her to like math.  She will find it in so many ways in her future: music, computers, economics, science, etc.   Let me end by saying, despite the disinterest now, I'm pretty sure there'll come a time when she discovers that she is better at math than she thinks.  And she may even see some beauty in it.

*For any interested, here is the last problem on her math page:

MATH x 4=HTAM (hint, if you don't have a math teacher or a mother to call: try to solve M first.  When it came to A and T, trial and error worked for me, but--just for reassurance--I also called Mom).

No comments:

Post a Comment