Wednesday, February 08, 2012

How many more years of fractions?

Sitting at the table yesterday, working on Rebecca’s math, I had a startling realization: 6th grade Rebecca is very much like 6th grade Christy. She asks the same kinds of questions about math that I did. For instance, “Why does it work to invert and multiply when I’m supposed to be dividing fractions?  Who came up with this stuff? When will I ever need this? Ever?”

I’m sure when I asked those very same questions I thought I was terribly clever. Smart, even. In reality, I was just putting off the inevitable. When Rebecca asks them, she’s really looking for an answer. She really wants an explanation as to why we invert and multiply when we divide fractions. She really wants to understand why we don’t write all whole numbers over one when that’s what we have to do when dealing with fractions. And she really, really wants to understand when she’ll ever use this stuff. Ever.

Of course, y’all know I don’t have any good answers to those questions, but Tuesday at the grocery store I had a real-life situation that, yes, called for mathematics. I was doubling a recipe that called for two 15 ounce jars of spaghetti sauce. Rebecca was in the store with me, so I took the opportunity to show her that, one, Mom can do math and two, there are real-world problems that are solved by math. Not many, but a few, and this was one of them.

“So how much sauce do we need to buy?” asked I.

“Sixty ounces,” said she.

“See! You do need math in the real world!” said I.

“I already know how to do real world math, so can I be done?” asked she.

She had a point.

I resorted to the only reply I had at this stage of the questioning: “Look, it’s just something you have to persevere through. You never know what you’ll want to be when you grow up. You may need lots of math skills. Don’t limit yourself now!”

When people told 6th grade Christy that, she gagged. Rebecca was much more respectful. She simply shrugged her shoulders and moved on to the Pop Tarts.

Poor kid. I empathize with her plight. I really do. Goodness knows if I had to go back to school and do math my head would simply explode. I swear, can’t I just write about how the problem makes me feel and move on?

I really need to call my dad and thank him for not killing me when we did math together.