Monday, March 30, 2015

I Don't Compute

I hate math. I always have and I promise you I always will.  When people start talking about math I stop listening.  Math and I just never clicked.  It started in third grade, I couldn't keep up and the times tables and math facts and all of it, ugh.  My father tried to help me. Teachers tried to help me. Friends tried to help me.  Nothing worked.
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I was hopeless. Waaaa.  I was in classes called "remedial math" in high school.  Classes with kids that looked like they were from a scene out of Fast Times At Ridgemont High or like they would hang out with Judd Nelson in The Breakfast Club.  Even though I hated the math, I loved those kids.  We were all really different, but we shared our utter lack of understanding of all things math.  

When I was 16, I somehow made it into a Pre-Algebra class and the teacher said to me, "I give up, there is nothing I can do to make you get it."  That teacher was the head of the math department at my high school.

Somehow I managed to graduate high school and college without really understanding or liking any part of math.  I write, I communicate, I analyze, but I don't compute or divide or give a rat's ass about what the value of x is.

As a parent of four kids however, I don't want them to hate math.  I hope they love it or at least find it easier than I did/do.

That's why when one of my kids wanted to participate in a math pentathlon, I said "of course! Let's do it!" This past Saturday I found myself in a gymnasium full of 600 second and third graders and pushy parents and strict volunteers and math, so much god damn math.

Five minutes after being in the room, I felt itchy and uncomfortable.  I smiled down at JT and said "this is so great, right?" and wished him luck.  But inside I was thinking "oh buddy, this is my idea of hell."  

My inner math-hating burnout was judging all the people and their oh-so-great math skills.  I felt like I was back in the 80s hanging with Judd Nelson's character in The Breakfast Club making fun of all the math nerds.  
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But really, just like back in the 80s I was feeling insecure and out of place and like everyone was better than me.

As I was daydreaming about dancing around in the library with Judd and the gang, JT came back from one of his games and he was upset.  He lost and he was about to cry.  I took him under the bleachers and we talked it out.  

"I'm so glad you care so much honey and that you want to do well," I told him.  "But this is a game and you are learning and it's okay to lose. Math is hard kid, and you are here doing it and I think it's incredible and amazing and it's something I never could have done as a kid.  You impress the heck out of me.  Don't give up, go back and try your best at the next game."

He nodded. We hugged. I gave him Pirate's Booty Popcorn and water and then sent him on his way to his next game. 

I'm so glad that he likes math and that he has the confidence to try things and go for it, even after he makes mistakes.  I may not understand how to do his math homework, and yeah he's only in the third grade, but I can help him with all the emotional/coping skills/what does it all mean, don't give up ever kind of things.

I hope JT loves math and is good at math.  I hope all my kids are.  However, if they show an utter disdain and complete inability to compute, I will accept them and show them love and support them and tell them they can still make it in this world.  

But I'm not sure I'm spending 18 gajillion hours at a math pentathlon ever again.*

Woah, it was a long day.

*Nothing against the pentathlon participants or organizers or parents that love it.  It's just me and my issues with math.

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