Sunday, March 13, 2011

Math: The Naked Truth

My son required assistance with his homework last week, and thus began our journey to the edge of numerical sanity.  Math…you would think I would have known better, given my propensity for math headaches.  It’s third grade, I erroneously thought.  Surely the edicts of addition and subtraction I learned eons ago are still applicable. After all, Archimedes, the Father of Mathematics, lived 300 years before Christ, and we still use his stuff. 

Upon reviewing the GEOMETRY worksheet, my intense hatred toward this absurd, seemingly pointless subject quickly reared its ugly head, not the mention the utter shock and outrage with the PREMATURE INTRODUCTION of this particular strain of arithmetical virus.  Geometry…in third grade…Holy Algorithm, Batman!

My animosity was apparent to Wesley during the tutorial, and I use that term loosely.  He became aggravated when I gave him my dubious and uncertain responses to his repeated homework query “Is this answer right?”  I wanted to say, “Who the hell cares if that is an obtuse or acute angle?  Is the answer going to bring about world peace?  End the massive consumption of energy and resources? Bring a conclusion to racism, sexism, hatred of homosexuals, anti-Semitism? Stop the global unequal distribution of financial resources? or Make liposuction affordable?...At my kitchen table?...Tonight? I think not.”

Yeah, I know on some level that it’s good that we have nerdy people who reap pleasure from mastering jagillion-page equations.  I mean that’s probably how we got to the moon in 1969 and why we now can breeze effortlessly through grocery store check out lines with our bar-coded condiments.  But, these inventive techies, most of whom lack any inkling of social proficiency, are well-scholared ADULTS.  Does my third grader really have to know the applications of the Pythagorean Theorem? What purpose does it serve for him to mechanically spew out the names of triangles?  (There are three, by the way, and they are NOT bandage, Bermuda, and love, as I originally thought.)   I am grateful that due to the mastery of algebra, jumbo jets don’t fall out of the sky, but let’s be realistic; I don’t want a nine-year-old designing an airliner that I board for any flight, domestic or international. 

Meanwhile, back at my kitchen table…a dull ache had begun at the base of my skull.  I knew we would have to clear this geometric hurdle to advance to the fourth grade, and I had to turn to the World Wide Web for the decisiveness my now frustrated child required.  Upon my announcement that I would consult the endless electronic pit of knowledge, my son cried out, “Ugggh!”  And thrust his head on the table’s surface.  Drama…I can’t imagine where he gets that inclination.  In Wesley’s defense, however, I tend to become attention deficient when I plug in.  One tidbit of information points, or links, to another, and I just follow the virtual bread crumbs to wherever they lead…it’s very Zen like.  Example:  I start searching for patient reviews and coupons for the new Sona MedSpa radio frequency treatment for cellulite, and two-hours later, I am reading some conspiracy theory document on the connections between Lucifer, the Masons, and the Statue of Liberty.  Anyway, Wesley is well familiar with my proclivity to wander in a super-stimulated haze both online and in Stein Mart, and wanted to get his assignment completed before .  I could appreciate his predicament, but my quest for the scalene triangle had become just too Google-licious to pass up.

Several hours later…Wesley went to bed and I had learned some cool facts about Archimedes.  Archimedes discovered a method for determining the volume of an object with an irregular shape while taking a bath.  He was trying to figure out if King Hiero II had been duped by a goldsmith who may have mixed silver in his gold crown.   For whatever reason, Archimedes took this crown with him to the tub.  Element density, blah, blah, blah.  Water is incompressible, blah, blah, blah.  Crown was tainted.  Blah, blah, blah.  He was so excited about his discovery that forgot to toga-up and took to the streets butt naked yelling "Eureka!"

Poor Wesley.  The next morning, we rushed through the assignment, and I wrote a note to his teacher explaining that we ran short of time because it was our turn to volunteer at the local soup kitchen.  Yes, I lied.  Sue me.  I am not the one pushing the world to in utero pre calculus tutelage.  Weigh that on your moral scale.

All this math hullabaloo did get me thinking, though.  If there is going to be such an elementary school math emphasis; hell, why start there?  Let’s have a “My Baby can do Trig” or “Hooked on Polynomials” program.  Dr. Seuss could get on the bandwagon, and create a math-focused book series for preschoolers.  “Hop on Plot,” “Green Eggs and Pi,” “Don’t Fidget with my Digit,” and “Norton Needs a Numerator” could skyrocket to record sales.  Of course the more meaningful books, “If I Ran the Financial Analysis Division” and “Oh, the Congruent Parts You’ll Bisect” would top the charts.

I am in the throws of a full-blown math headache, now.  And the guilt from my documented lie has just added to the intensity.  I don’t know whether to take to bed, or run out of the house naked.  I guess it’s simply a sine of the times…

A. Ballerina

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