April 07, 2013

Who Knew There Was So Much Drama in Math?

This is the first day since October where there isn't something bearing down on me like a frickin' freight train. I'm sitting here thinking, "Hunh. What does one do with no stress in their life?"

Seriously, how screwed up is that?

Don't get me wrong, something will come up, I'm sure. I live a life. Bones will have a big math project due, T will have some big deal come up, Ringo will drop a major ball.

But today it was quiet.

Last week, Bones had a 140 problem math project due... all on line. He got it in November and told me it was due April 15. I believed him, because sometimes I'm stupid that way. We started it off and on in November, but getting him to actually PASS math became more of an issue. So we left it until 1 April, knowing we had two weeks.

Except when I pulled it open on 1 April and really looked at the directions, it was due 5 April. And about 100 kids now realized they had to get it done and overloaded the servers, so it would take 15 minutes to do one problem.

Did I mention it was 140 WORD problems? Of which we'd only done 15%?

This is the problem with Bones: when you give him a word problem, he gets too caught up in the drama of the problem. He can't drill down to what they're asking.

Case in point.

"Bill is in Washington DC and walks 5 blocks east and 10 blocks north to get to the Washington monument. If he were to walk a straight line, how many blocks would he have walked?"

I think, "Pythagorean's theorem"

Bones thinks, "Why didn't he take the bus?"

Case in point #2.

The Wright brothers build their first airplane... blah blah blah... they used self locking nuts. A self locking nut is a... blah blah blah... and will not come loose during vibration. If one were to draw a triangle from the center to a corner of each side, the center of the nut is x degrees, calculate the measurement of angle B.

I think, "Ok, the hexagon has six sides. We can calculate the measurement of one of the angles of the nut using the n-gon formula, half it, then we have two angles and we can subtract from 180."

Bones thinks, "Hunh. Self locking nuts. I didn't know they had those... I wonder why they work that way."

The day before this was all due, I realized we were in big serious trouble with system overload and decided to pull him out of school at Noon so he and I could sit down and work through them before everyone else got out of school. Evidently I was the only Mom who 1) knew this was due and could help or 2) thought of this.

I had to sit with him. As I said, he gets caught up in the characters, the drama, the story. He gets distracted by the blue triangle and the red triangle, forgetting that we're looking for similar sides and proportions.

So I let him get carried away in the story line, and then yank him into the math, "What are they asking? Let's look at the last sentence and forget that Sally has blonde curly hair..." which was the description of the girl selling tickets to the football game.

I picked him up from school and this was our conversation. It's not uncommon for Bones to ask what I do and really want the details. Since what I work is not classified, I speak freely, hoping he'll see how what he's learning in school has real world application:

Bones: How was work?

Me: Stressful. Lots going on.

Bones: What are you working on?

Me: Coating limits and repairs... it's kind of nutty right now.

Bones: How are those self locking nuts?

Me: No troubles today with the torque, that was last week. Wait. How did you know that?

Bones: I didn't. But if the Wright Brothers had self locking nuts, then I figured you do too. Hey. I don't remember anything about the math, but I know about self locking nuts now!

So Bones has become knowledgeable about lots of little things, but still doesn't know anything about Math. That's not his gig.

I wish they'd do things the old fashioned way and just write straight out math problems. Bones cannot be the only kid who can't get past the stories.

Posted by Boudicca at April 7, 2013 02:20 PM

I am tempted to say that the only "self-locking nuts" are the Program Managers, but I won't.

Posted by: The Thomas at April 7, 2013 09:12 PM

LOL I instantly thought of the comic with Sally looking at her math paper and saying... Only in math problems can you buy 60 cantaloupes and no one asks you what the hell is wrong with you.

I had a hard time with word problems for different reasons. But I can see how a story would distract Bones.

Posted by: Teresa at April 7, 2013 11:11 PM

Well, perhaps he won't end up in the Tidal Basin or the River trying to get back from the Washington Monument on a slant. Me, I never knew locking nuts were 6 sided. I think mine were broken.

Posted by: Curtis at April 8, 2013 02:12 AM

$#%)** I forgot to get my youngest to finish his online stuff this weekend. It was due last week.

Posted by: vwbug at April 8, 2013 06:00 AM

Being totally math-impaired, I LOVE how Bones thinks. They make up those stories you hate for folks like me who sit there trying to figure out this gibberish and wondering what's the point, the real-world reason I need to learn this?
Teresa: The cantalope comment cracked me up. THANKS

Posted by: George P. at April 8, 2013 09:57 AM

Our strongest curses are also our greatest blessings, and vice versa.

Posted by: Web at April 8, 2013 11:03 AM

George - LOL - I crack up every time I see it. It goes around periodically.

Posted by: Teresa at April 8, 2013 01:46 PM

I was the same way, way back then. Hated word problems because of the story.

I've been trying to work with my grandson on getting some of his online work done. I've had bigger issues with his parents!! Aarrrggghhhh!!!

Posted by: Peggy K at April 8, 2013 09:41 PM

I know they are trying to make it more fun. I think mostly I'd appreciate it, but dang, when there are 140, I'm just "Dude, boil it down and let's push through. I'm done..."

Posted by: Bou at April 8, 2013 09:50 PM

I scored off the IQ charts in school, and frustrated the hell out of all my math teachers -- who swore that since I had a high IQ, it followed I had to find math a snap. In fact, math problems boing off my skull and ricochet around the room, never EVER actually landing in gray matter.

I wish that for kids who don't intend to work in an area that requires complex math that they'd teach real-life math for budgeting, basic investing, etc., and leave out the stuff that causes nothing but grief for student, teacher AND parents.

Posted by: Omnibus Driver at April 9, 2013 03:28 PM

OD: AGREED. I suspect a lot of higher math requirements are B.S. For instance, I waa originally a Wildlife Ecology major in college, but had to switch majors because I couldn't handle the math and chemistry. A few years ago, I met someone who DID get that degree and asked her how much she used all that math and chemistry at her job. "None, they just used those courses to weed people out." BAH!

Posted by: George P at April 9, 2013 06:54 PM

We have the opposite problem in our household. The oldest son does better with application problems than with straight out equations. As long as it's a physics problem, he can "visualize" it, and then the variables and parts of the equation make sense to him. If it's just numbers sitting there ... forget it! And talk about the whining ...! "When am I EVER going to need to solve a trig identity?" "When was the last time YOU had to use a half angle formula?" "How is this even useful? If I have to use a half angle formula or a double angle formula on anything other than a 30-60-90 or 45-45-90 triangle, I'm just going to use the calculator anyway, so why would I even bother with knowing that formula?" I swear it takes twice as long as it needs to to get through the homework on account of his complaining about the "uselessness" of it all!

Thankfully, it appears his calculus book is heavy on the word problems.

Posted by: PeggyU at April 10, 2013 03:58 AM

I never got the math stories. EVER. Even after several tutors.
Ended up in remedial math where they taught us how to balance a checkbook!

Bones focuses on the important stuff. ;)

Posted by: pam at April 10, 2013 06:15 AM