November 08, 2013

Settling Into Math

Bones, who should be a theatre major and not a vocal major, said through choked voice, flinging his math book on the table, 'And I can't do it! It's hard. I don't understand any of it!'

To which I quietly replied, "When have I ever not been able to get through? It may not stick, but with time, you always get it. Now open your book so I can see what is so miserably difficult that you're in near hysterics."

I'm picturing y=mx+b. Graphing equations and manipulating the equations gets the kids every time and I've been dreading it with him.

But he flips open his book and I *blink*.

Set theory.

They don't teach set theory and venn diagrams anymore in elementary school. He had never in his life seen them, yet I remember them from a workbook when I was FIVE YEARS OLD.

I remember we were stationed in Mayport, Florida and we lived in a trailer temporarily or something. And I had this workbook sent home with me and there were sets, braces, with kittens and puppies and then some with kittens and puppies and we had to show which was the union and what was the intersection.

I remember where I was sitting as I went through all the sets, circling the correct answers.

How sick is this that I remember where I was when I learned all my math from age 5 and up? From where I sat in classrooms, to who my teachers were, or where my Dad sat at the table, or what the book looked like or the page number or how it was explained?

From set theory to negative numbers to Dad showing me the beauty of factorials the minute I learned to multiply? From long division in fourth grade, plowing through reams of paper to where I sat when I learned synthetic division in Algebra 2, still being able to picture the chalk board to the point that when Ringo needed to learn it I said, "Oh... wait... let me think for a minute..." and I went over Mrs. Fischer explaining it, in my head, and my sitting down with my best friend Kristi the next year (she was a year younger) and explaining it to her one morning before school... and then I remembered it all and taught him.

And it is this way with my kids now. I remember teaching them every single damn lesson they've had since Kindergarten.

I look at Bones" book and said, "Dude. It's set theory..." and I got quiet and said, "For the love of God, they've never taught you any of this before... and you're in 9th grade..."

And he said through choked tears, 'NO! I'd remember this Mom! I would!"

And I said, "Baby, I would too. You've never seen this..." and I grinned and said, "And I promise you... this will be the most fun lesson you've ever had..."

And with that, I went into the pantry and pulled out fistfuls of candy from halloween and chocolate footballs from Easter (still not eaten, what is wrong with my family?) and I threw them on the table and said, "Sit. I'm going to teach you sets using candy."

Two minutes later he looked at me and said, "Are you KIDDING ME?! This is it? This is all this union, intersection, venn crap is? WHY DO THEY MAKE IT SO CONFUSING IN SCHOOL?!"

I shrugged and said, "I don't get it. It's the easiest stuff you'll ever do this year. It's all visual."

With that, he breezed through his homework in less than 5 minutes (I'm not joking) got it all correct and shook his head and said, "I think my teacher might suck..."

And then we ate ice cream.

All in all... a good night was had by all.

Posted by Boudicca at November 8, 2013 10:49 PM

I love it!!!!

Now ...

have you got a way to incorporate candy into a lesson on integration with trig substitutions? Because if I could change a certain someone's attitude about integration, I would be very happy!

Posted by: PeggyU at November 10, 2013 12:59 AM

Dang. It's the trig. I could do candy with integration. Finding, the volume of a Milky Way bar to figure out how much nuggat is required.

Actually, I couldn't. My problem with Calculus is that part where we were doing the integration with the shapes? I didn't study as hard in that part of the class. I can't remember what was distracting me. So I passed it all, but it never sunk in.

That said... I'll be learning that next year with T. I'm bound and determined to be an expert on that part... integration and shapes.

Posted by: Bou at November 10, 2013 03:58 PM

Where have you been my entire academic career? I sucked at math, apparently, for no good reason. You make it all seem so simple and fun.

Posted by: Erica at November 10, 2013 05:14 PM

Peggy and I view it the same way. It's about trying to figure out what someone needs to be able to 'see' it.

For Bones, it's pictures or a mnemonic. Bones issue though is it doesn't stick and he can't apply it. He can only do exactly what he had learned... he can't deep think it and apply it elsewhere. And his short term memory issues means that he has to do stuff over and over and over so that it becomes 2nd nature.

It took me three years to teach him long division. Every time we did homework... for three years, it was like he'd never seen it before. All brand new.

I'm talking to him seriously about looking into Operatic singing as a career, as competitive as it is. The problem is... he can't do music theory. Music theory is all math...

Posted by: Bou at November 10, 2013 05:23 PM

Bou - you would be in heaven with my girls and hubby on Tuesday evenings. They go to math circle to do math problems for fun. For fun! I went the first time and did not get a thing, but could feel the excitement the teacher and students had. It is run by a college professor, he brings the problems, the kids work them out, and then explain how they got to the solution. If someone messes up, no biggie. I have not gone again since it hurts my math deprived head and enjoy having an evening to myself.

Posted by: Amy at November 10, 2013 06:46 PM

I love this happy talk.

As best I remember, I got set theory in 7th grade when we started Algebra from scratch. (I may have gotten bits of it earlier when I did a special study for my 5th grade teacher regarding a "new math" book. Who knows.)

This is a point.

This line is made up of points. It doesn't matter how log the line is, it contains an infinite number of points.

This line is perpendicular to that line and you can demonstrate it using a compass, ...

Good times.

Music theory is not Math, it is arithmetic, just like counting out the lengths of months using your knuckles and the spaces between them. Its all patterns(rules) and counting. Learn the rules and even someone such as I can do it.

Posted by: The Thomas at November 10, 2013 09:38 PM

The sad part is, you have people who don't understand math trying to teach kids who don't have an aptitude for math from books written by people who don't understand kids.

I can do math if I concentrate. I'm not like you, remembering where and when I learned things. I do know I loved Calculus because I could actually draw a picture of what I was trying to find. My favorite class being Calc 2. Whether I could do it now or not, probably not. Too many years since I thought of it. I do remember graphing a donut and finding it very fun to calculate the volume.

Calc was so much easier for me than Algebra... there was nothing for me to grasp hold of and say "I want to find... that!". Of course maybe if you had been teaching it... LOL.

Posted by: Teresa at November 11, 2013 06:05 PM

Our son just finished the revolution of solids portion and problems involving work. He "got" those, because they are easier for him to visualize. No candy necessary, but then a little candy always helps, IMO. :)

Now he's into the section on methods of integration - the bag of tricks you can use. That's not as easy for him, although after a couple of evenings he is strangely "liking" (relatively speaking) partial fractions.

Posted by: PeggyU at November 13, 2013 01:17 PM