I teach literature classes.
Ask me about the meaning of a poem and I can eloquently analyze each verse.
Ask me the square root of 12 and I will run away from you. Fast.
It seems the more I learn about creative writing, grammar, and Shakespeare, the more my math-related brain cells die! When I was a kid, I didn’t understand math, and I didn’t want to. Now that I am an adult, math is an intriguing mystery to me, like a shaded pathway through a forest I never traveled upon. (See the Frost influence?)
Now that I’m a homeschool parent, it’s my responsibility to not only revisit but embrace arithmetic. Fortunately, it’s been a lot of fun so far. My kids are studying 5th and 2nd grade math. They haven’t passed me yet! (But if I don’t watch out they’ll surpass my limited math ability– very soon.)
Even more fortunately, my wife is a superb math-a-magician. She uses lots of real world examples when she works with the kids. She incorporates lots of manipulable tools, such as geometric shapes, rulers, globes, marbles, you name it. Since both my kids are really interested in money (they are budding young capitalists apparently) my wife creates stories problems that are about young people making lots of cold, hard cash.
But eventually, after all the talking and discussing, we do have them sit down and complete a worksheet. (We average about four worksheets per week– nothing very tedious but enough to solidify the concepts). This is when I come into play. During the last several months, when they sit down to work on their math, I hang out in the same room, and I calculate some of the same math problems. The kids know that it isn’t my strongest subject, but when they see me working hard at it — even enjoying it — it crates a sense of teamwork, and an understanding that learning is a continual process that one never outgrows.
Something very cool happened yesterday. Normally, their math assignments are very easy for me. I mean, I’m scared of math, but I know how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. I know the basics quite well. But yesterday’s exercise called for me to figure out the area of an obtuse triangle.
“How the heck can anyone possibly do that?!” I complained.
My nine year old walked over and explained it to me.
“Oh,” I said. “Thanks.” And then I got back to work.