Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Math and all that jazz*

My daughter, Mabel, is a math education major. She is like me in almost every way, looks, personality, wit, humor. But she obviously inherited one tiny portion from her father - the ability to deal with numbers. I do not have that ability, never did. And I can regale you with stories of not being able to wear mascara to my geometry class in 10th grade because I cried so much that it ran (pre Tammy Fae). Eventually, I found waterproof mascara and stopped looking like Queen Elizabeth I. (redhead, strawberry blonde eyelashes... are you getting the picture?)

So she called last night while writing a paper summarizing a chapter she just read on math and education. She said, "Mom, do you know the equation for a line?" She might have said "formula." It doesn't matter. I didn't know. At 47 1/2, I can proudly say that the only thing I can remember from math is "If a=b and b=c, therefore, a=c." Not even sure what it means or what it applies to, but I remember that piece of absolutely useless knowledge. She didn't really laugh. She was trying to prove a theory. She said, "Ask Dad." So in my sexiest voice, I said, "Honey, your daughter wants to know if you know the equation for a line?" While pulling the laundry from the dryer (which means he was multi-tasking), he said, and I quote, "Blah, blah, yadda yadda yadda." Ok, so maybe it's not a direct quote. Somehow, he was able to pull the formula or equation for a line out of his ass... 30 or more years after taking high school geometry. It was at this moment I stood with the phone in my hand incredulous that he would remember something so terribly useless and mundane while there are times I wonder if he remembers my name.

Mabel then said, "This chapter I read said that only 16% of students will remember the formula for a line 3 months after taking geometry." I said, "I think that percentage is a little high." This is where the laughter started. I said, "Not only did I not know the equation for a line, but I didn't know a line had an equation." The noise that you could call laughter that came from the other end of the line was deafening. Mabel was falling over with laughter. I didn't think it was that funny. She said, "Do you know that there is an equation for finding the area of a circle?" "Well, of course there is," I agreed. "A circle has space." Now she was weak to her knees with laughter. I said, not meaning to be funny, "If you need to know the length of a line, use a ruler." Made perfect sense to me. Now Mabel was out of breath from laughter. I don't think she had ever experienced someone as dumb as her mother when it came to math.

I told her it wasn't nice to laugh at me. She said that she had to because apparently, according to her education classes, it's just not good to laugh at your students.

What a concept.

* Dedicated to my high school geometry teacher, Coach York, who never laughed at me and never noticed when my mascara ran down my face while I was crying. He did the best he could.


At 12:07 PM, Blogger Diann said...

I absolutely refuse to discuss mathematics with our children. Way too humiliating. I think they were in 3rd grade, maybe second, when I realized I didn't understand a thing they were studying. And you know what, I didn't know there was an equation for a line either - who needs it? Maybe an engineer or an architect but a Redhead Editor - I don't think so.

At 9:43 AM, Blogger Frecklehead said...

Hey lady. :) About my whole diatribe on politics...not directed at YOU or anyone personally...just something that's been bugging me (as the only even moderately conservative person at my entire university); and the Buy Blue website was just the straw that broke the camel's back for me. Didnt' want you to think it was an attack on your politics, because it wasn't. Thanks for even reading my blog!! :)


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