Do the Math

It’s Tuesday night. Odie is in our room with Viva, taking a nap while she falls asleep. They just finished reading Richard Scarry stories, which delights me. I loved those stories as a child, and it’s gratifying to see my child enjoying them too. I’m not sure why. Nostalgia? Narcissism?

I can see them on the video baby monitor (sound turned off) and I know she’s giving him the usual bedtime struggle. She wants to change her pillow three different times. She wants this blanket, then she doesn’t want it. She wants that one. Then she wants the first one again. She asks to sleep in our bed. Asks again with an endearing “Pleeeeeeeeeease,” as if that were what was missing from her original inquiry. Odie is ignoring her. He is going to take a nap until 9:30 p.m. at which time I’ll wake him up and he will do schoolwork until midnight or one in the morning. He’ll get up at 5:30 in the morning and leave the house by 6:30 to be at work 40 minutes early and do some more work.

The life of a high school math teacher.

I’m completely serious.

I keep begging him to restructure his class so that they don’t have homework every night, two quizzes a week and a test every two weeks. Because it’s killing him and it isn’t helping them. He complains bitterly about how many students are failing the class already (it’s October!). I brushed our cat who sheds like a mofo and ended up with a big bag of hair. Odie looked at it ruefully and wondered if he should try teaching it Algebra 2.

Most people don’t get math. They don’t like it and they don’t care. Hating math is a national pastime, like baseball and outsourcing jobs to China. “Do the math” is an expression in our culture meaning “make the obvious conclusion.” Yet Americans either can’t or won’t do the math, which may be part of why obvious conclusions are reached so rarely. And with a 40-65% accuracy.

We need to stop teaching our children to hate math.

We TEACH them to hate math. We lead by example. Kids love numbers and counting. And they’re good at it.

Maybe if people had a better understanding of what numbers do, it wouldn’t have been so easy for Wallstreet to fuck so many of us over. We always want to leave the math to someone else, but it’s kind of like not knowing anything about your car. The mechanic has too much power.

(I know nothing about my car)

Mostly, I just hate to watch my loved ones suffer, and Odie suffers cruelly. In part, that’s his personality. He’s a sufferer. In addition to that, he is passionate and talented in an area most of us despise and fear.

At Macy’s on Saturday, I bought Pringles the cutest onesies. The woman working the register asked me if I wanted to open a Macy’s charge account, enticing me with “20% off of your purchase today.” I replied that the APR on the card was reported as 24.6%, so how was that saving me anything? Gotcha! I almost added, “You’re not fooling me!” but then I realized I should save that for when I’m in my seventies and it’s time for me to imagine I’m constantly being tricked.

I wish I’d known something about credit card interest when I was in college. Right next to the cafeteria, there were tables set up with attractive smiling people offering me free money in the form of credit cards. And I got a t-shirt! A t-shirt with their logo on it, so not only did I hand over a ridiculous monthly stupid tax, I advertised their company for free. (But there were BALLOONS!) It took me years to get out from under that debt. Years I could have been building a nest egg.

My girls are going to learn about math.

That trip to Europe I couldn’t afford so I put on my new credit card wasn’t fun anyway. Much.

About Mrs Odie

Friendly Pedant; Humble Genius
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7 Responses to Do the Math

  1. K says:

    Oh my gosh, stop with the checking all those papers. Kids can check everything but the tests. But don’t stop with the math lessons for your girls. I’m teaching high school math right now, but I wonder if this second income, which boosts us up into the next tax bracket, while also requiring the added expense of full-time daycare, is actually putting us in a better position to do anything other than lose my sanity. But without my income, we make just over the WIC cut-off. Poor, but not poor enough to get anything the poor people get. And more importantly, without my super-sweet teacher health insurance, we have to learn to play the complicated numbers game of “can we afford this trip to the ER”.

  2. Jessica says:

    I heard on the news last night that the Girl Scouts are adding a new badge to their repertoire- Financial Awareness badge. I nearly clapped! FINALLY! I wish in high school economics classes weren’t about free market vs. closed market vs. communist vs. capitalist societies, but about HOW to handle money, WHERE to store it to maximize its potential, HOW to invest it, the pitfalls of credit cards, the meaning of your credit score. It would be one million times more beneficial.

  3. Chelsea says:

    I wish every high schooler had to pass a class called “How to Make Change” before they could graduate. How hard is it to give back the proper change when the Starbucks mocha costs $3.72 and I give the cashier a $5? Really, you have to use the register to calculate that, Einstein?

    • Mrs Odie 2 says:

      NO ONE knows how to make change. It drives me crazy. My first job was a cashier at Conrad’s when I was 16. They had an ancient cash register that didn’t calculate change. I had to count it back. Kindly senior citizens talked me through it. I am going to teach my children to count back change, if only to make myself feel better.

  4. Rosie says:

    My directing teacher in teacher school hated homework and I took up the torch- but I guess it’s easier to get by with a no-homework policy if you teach language arts. The poor math teachers on my team were innundated, but I guess you know all about that!
    Frankly, I love math. If I were to go back and start teaching again, it probably would be math! (And I spent my entire 8th grade year in a remedial class.) I do think that you use math in your later life, at least in problem solving! Math teaches you how to solve problems – to step back and take each problem apart in order to solve it. (Did I say that right?)
    I didn’t always feel that way, though. I think that part of a brain that does math doesn’t fully mature in a lot of people until they’re much older. I got to love math when I had to take yet another remedial math class to pass the GRE, then I had to teach it when I moonlighted (every FLorida teacher has multiple jobs) as an adult-ed teacher. It actually got to be fun.
    I have two theories: math shouldn’t be attempted until you’ve reached a certain level of abstract thought processing (I just horked that one up from my Methods class). I have the same theory about grammar, BTW.
    I think middle school math and science classes should be separated by gender. There’s gobs of research that supports this idea – that girls get more out of science & math if there are no stinky BOYS around! I brought this idea up with my girl students one day and they started waxing dreamily about the joys of a boy-free classroom.
    What’s your opinion on teaching grammar? I have the same phobia for it as you have for math!

  5. Mrs Odie 2 says:

    It is terrible that our schools don’t teach economics. REAL home economics. And what compound interest means (aka the 8th wonder of the world). With time on one’s side, you can build a nest egg for retirement with very little money. You’re still so young, Amy. I’m 14 years older than you. If you haven’t already started a Roth IRA, open one immediately. Put a little money in it every month. By the time you’re my age, you will be so happy you did it.

  6. Auntie Mip says:

    I LOVE your blog. I found you in a a way that you really didn’t intend but girlfriend when you google “KH drives me effin nuts” there you are! Good news is I stayed because you are smart, witty and damn funny! Any who, this math thing pisses me off. Because you are right. Because I HATE math. Because in 6th grade (1978) I was struggling with a concept in advanced math )private school and really great teachers (save one)’ rigorous curriculum…you get the picture. So my parents tell me I need to take responsibility for my learning and poor test score and work with the teacher. I was a pretty smart kid and at this particular moment was stymied by early algabreic concepts. So I worked up the courage, stayed after school and asked for help. To be fair he did try. His first couple of attempts were genuine and full hearted. By his third effort he was done and told me I was “un-teachable”. I hate math!!! I always have. I was humiliated. And scared. It has haunted me for all these years. To this day it is the one subject I struggle with. Statistics nearly kept me out of graduate school. Thank God I love science as I make a great nurse. My 4 siblings are all masters prepared teachers. They work so hard. I wish my 6th grade teacher had half the commitment they show. The committment you and Mr. Odie show. Thanks for working hard so the next generation hates nothing about learning. I am still sad I was scared away!

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