Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Devil's Arithmetic

6a - 3b
2(x + 4)
5x + 3 = -2

This is what my son is learning in Math class. He's only in sixth grade. At least I was in 8th grade when I had to learn Algebra. I barely passed. When I finally finished all the required math classes in school, which included absurdly enough, Algebra II, my guidance counselors wisely kept me from stepping foot inside another one.

Because I love to read and write, I did very well in English and Literature classes. But numbers and I are like oil and water, we do not get along.

My son is the opposite. English is his least favorite class but he loves math. I don't get it. I blame the husband.

Algebra is the Devil's Arithmetic. Numbers and letters mixing together. I think a, b, x, and y all need to mind their own business.

Sometimes during homework, he gets frustrated and declares, I don't understand what this means! You and me both, kid. But after a moment he 'gets it' and goes on solving the problems with ease while I'm sitting there referencing Google for help.

This all reminds me of when I was working for a company in NJ. Somehow the burden of monthly and quarterly tax filings fell on me. I told them I couldn't do it because quite plainly I sucked at math. I protested. I pleaded with them. I think I even held my breath until I turned blue.

In their defense, it wasn't that big a deal and the off-site bookkeeper taught me what to do and always looked over my work.

But still, what were they thinking? I couldn't even be trusted to make a decent cup of coffee.

I envy people who are math whizzes. Give them a numeric problem and they can do it in their heads and give you the answer. I'm the one counting on fingers and trying to remember to carry the 2.  And let's just forget the x's and y's, shall we?


  1. I agree that algebra is being introduced too soon. There are some minds that are not ready to accept that level abstraction. My daughter was a math whiz. But something happened in the transition from Grade 6 to Grade 7. It wasn't boys, trust me. So all she really learned from that class was that she hated math. It destroyed her confidence.

    In Grade 9 she wound up doing mostly the same algebra that she did in Grade 7. And now she realizes that she can do it, if she can get beyond her lack of self confidence.

    I found you through Snoskred's Inoreader aggregation.

    Good luck in NaBloPoMo!

    1. I hope your daughter continues to do well in math class. I do have serious respect for people with solid math skills.

      Glad you found me!

  2. I can't say that I was a math whiz, but I enjoyed it. Mostly. I had a horrible teacher in algebra II that took away the fun. I don't really remember why I kept at it. Perhaps because I was planning on going into the sciences. Somewhere in calculus I discovered that math was just puzzles with numbers and it became fun again. I remember how overwhelming early algebra was in the 7th grade and 5th does seem too young. Not really because a 5th grader can't learn it (we're really teaching basic algebra in 1st grade, we just don't label it that way) but because most teachers don't know how to teach it so that it's fun. Algebra is just a logical thinking process - puzzle solving - not life and death.

    I found you, too, through Snoskred's link list. I'm enjoying reading your posts.

    1. This makes sense. All my math teachers were horribly boring with monotonous voices. Thanks for reading!!