Monday, July 18, 2011

Math and a melodramatic post about how much I hate it.

Is it possible to start a post with a belly-ripping, headache-inducing scream? Because that’s what I want to do right now. I HATE math. And even more than hating math, I HATE TEACHING MATH.  (Excuse me while I breathe into a paper bag for a minute.)
Maybe it’s because I have a long and humiliating history with the subject. In the first grade, I was asked, in front of the whole class, to “count by ones.”  We had just gone over skip counting by 2s and 5s and 10s, so you’d think I’d have had this in the bag.  But, I was a shy, dreamy little kid, still trying to wrap my head around skip counting and had never heard of “counting by ones.”  Either you COUNTED “1,2,3,4…” or you SKIP COUNTED. I was not familiar with the term “counting by ones” and told the teacher I didn’t know how.  She gave me a “You are such a little sh@#.” look and then asked another student to “show Marissa how to count by ones…” The kid then proceeded to sneer at me, emphasizing how dumb she thought I was with each number, “One. (Moron!) Two. (Dork!) Three. (Stupid!) Four. (Dummy!) Five…” 
After that, I mentally checked out of math class and never returned.  My worst nightmares aren’t about losing a loved one or being chased by bogey men—it’s of having to go to a math class.
So how does this translate to homeschooling?  A lot of hyperventilating went into my lesson planning.  I finally turned math over to a computer program called ALEKS, which absolves me of most of the work involved in teaching.  But, sometimes my kids still struggle with a concept and don’t understand the explanations and examples the ALEKS program offers and I have to step in.  Did you know there is a huge difference between knowing how to do something and knowing how to teach it?
A typical teaching session goes something like this:
Me: (demonstrating a math problem) So that’s how you do it.
Kid: Why?
Me: Here, let me show you another example (demonstrating again).  See?
Kid: Um, no.  What?
Me: Okay, well, you carry the…wait, move this here..then carry the..oh, dammit.  Class dismissed.
Kid: Yay!
Have I mentioned I hate math?  I don’t want to hate it.  In fact, I kind of got a taste of the beauty of math when I stumbled across this scene from the crime drama Numb3rs:
“Math is nature’s language; its method of communicating directly with us. Everything is numbers…”
Wow.  That is SO cool!  I remind myself of this constantly, because I really don’t want to hate math.  I want to love it, and I want my kids to love it—for the very reasons brought up in the video clip.  Unfortunately, I have yet to work through my deep seated issues with math, so I’m turning over the teaching in this department to my husband (who was a math minor in college.)
More on my epic math phobias later.  It’s time to bust out some grammar!