Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mommy: The Human Tissue

I've reached a personal low: I can't help my fourth-grade daughters with their math homework because I don't get the New Math strategy for rounding.  Which is now called Estimating.  The only way I know how to round numbers is just in my head.  Which apparently is now called Mental Math.  Cookie and the Pork Lo Maniac aren't allowed to do Mental Math, because they have to "show their strategy," which is the new term for "show your work."  Apparently.  I'm not really sure.

At some point, it's possible that I had enough brain cells left that I could have figured this all out.  However, my brain has been damaged by so many years of children using me as their own personal tissue.

The Pork Lo Maniac and her little brother, Little Dude, have been out sick from school for two days with ooey-gooey sinus infections.   And my middle daughter, the Peanut Butter Kid, has been home on homebound schooling for the whole year so far, so for two days I've been sending Cookie to school as our family's lone emissary to academia.  She's bringing home classwork for her twin sister and I'm afraid the Pork Lo Maniac is going to fall behind, because I am baffled by fourth grade math.  Not the math, exactly, but the crazy way it's being taught nowadays.  (Oy, I'm starting to sound like Andy Rooney again.)

To make things more complicated, it turns out that because teachers all across our country have to teach to their particular state's standardized test, math is now administrated on a state-by-state basis. I had no idea that math could be done differently depending on where you lived, but I guess that shows how math-illiterate I truly am.  I mean, I knew that other countries did things in metric, but I couldn't have imagined that rounding/estimating would be different from one state to another.

(Side note: they are also graphing the temperature in Celsius this week.  I remember doing the same thing in fourth grade and being told that any minute now we're all going to switch over to Celsius.  Bwahahahahaha.  That worked out well.)

Because she's a good sister and she likes math, Cookie tried to help out and teach me enough New Math strategy that I might be able to help her with her homework.  She sang me a song she learned in school about estimating, involving numbers opening doors and seeing their neighbors.  The song had little motions that went with it and everything. It was like some kind of bizarre New (Texas) Math square dance and my brain just shut off.

She explained that it's not like a square dance at all, and she knows, because Square Dancing is an integral part of our curriculum.  I suggested that it would be more awesome if it were a square dance, and demonstrated how it would look.  This was not as helpful to her as if I had actually known how to show my estimating strategy.  

For the Pork Lo Maniac, I told her to just skip the problems she didn't understand and ask her teacher to explain it when she's back at school.  I tried that with Cookie but her anxiety prevents her from leaving anything blank on her page.  We kind of went into a spiral at that point. As I was working her through the anxiety, Little Dude was working his way through a box of tissues because even the smallest amount of mucous in his nose triggers a screaming, hand-flapping sensory panic.  As he was walking to throw out some tissues, he slipped and fell backwards, hitting the back of his head on the kitchen floor.

Triage: possible concussion trumps anxiety attack.

Little Dude was fine, but the crying caused his sinuses to go into mucosal hyperdrive, which to him is of way more clinical significance than a concussion would be.  Between the sinus infections and the anxiety and the slip 'n' fall snot explosion, I spent the better part of my day playing one of my most important roles, The Human Tissue.

I tell you this because at the end of the day, the laundry wasn't done, dinner was some ridiculous wreck of fish sticks, and the house was an extra-special disaster. Because I was busy all day being a tissue.

And that is my New Math.


  1. I completely get you when it comes to the "new, new math". I topped out at 3rd grade math. Seriously... My oldest daughter is a 7th grader... her math is stuff that I didn't learn until my junior year of highschool. Did I mention we school at home? It's all fun and games at our house. LOL I also have a 1st grader and a 3rd grader. I'm really not sure how "making a tens frame" is going to help my daughter figure out that 17-5=12, but I'm doing my best to understand it, so I can help them understand it.

    As for the ooey-gooey sinus kids.... I hope they all feel better soon. And glad that Little Dude didn't hurt himself too badly.

  2. Ugh! That sounds like one crazy day! No offense, but I'm not sure I'd trust what they teach in Texas, considering that whole let's change history textbook issue they had there!

  3. Here's one for you ... I am forced to conclude that God made Texas on his day off, for pure
    entertainment, just to prove that all that diversity could be crammed into one
    section of earth by a really top hand
    - Author Mary Lasswell

    The best invention evah ... virtual school for Math. Every lesson is broken down, video tutorials and a wonderful teacher on the other end of the phone whenever you want her! (My Math buff would be sunk counting on me) EVERYTHING has changed since I was in school, plus I learned mental math, big no no, and metric and now they have given everything fancy names ... just drink Frodka and nod approvingly in their direction as they do Math - its very supportive :)
    Hope you get to 'dry' out today & be mucous free!

  4. Isn't new math the best??????

    My son came home with homework the other night that asked him to craete a fact family that had the sum of 17. Easy enough. The next question asked "why did you use these numbers?"

    REALLY?!?!?! duh.....because they work. So DH looks confused and asks me "because they were the easiest to add?"

    YES! Let's go with that!!! So not only do we have to calculate the 'actual' math, we also have to explain why and how we did it. Nice.

    Needless to say, I am spending a lot of time being a human tissue these days as well. Long days at school, endless hours of homework, and a 4-year-old who feels left out.

    (PS...glad LD didn't have a concussion....and hope the kiddos get over the sinus infection very soon!)

  5. Another reason I wish they'd go back to rote memorization and mental math or "IN MY HEAD" math. The good news is that Bug Boy is a math whiz.

    Also? Not only does it vary according to fed and state standards, but each DISTRICT in PA can have their own curriculum. Ours just spent a boatload on teh math curriculum. It's ok. They move fast and my kid keeps up but I keep wondering about the other ones. Also? The district next door uses this "Math In Context" program that is nearly IMPOSSIBLE for the kids to learn anything and it is all word problems. And I tutor math. And the kids know absolutely NO BASIC FACTS because they teach to those EMM EFFING tests.

    No, I'm not opinionated on this particular subject or anything.

  6. @Kristen -- OMG, I know! Those questions are the worst! Explain how you know that 33 is not the best estimate of 40.25 minus 19.4.

    Sometimes my kids write, "Because I'm smart."

  7. "Mucosal Overdrive" sounds like a really bad 80's cover band.

  8. If it makes you moms of school age kids feel better, I'm a MATH MAJOR who graduated TWO YEARS AGO with a BACHELORS in MATHEMATICS - specializing in MIDDLE SCHOOL MATH!!!!

    I still don't get how to "estimate" without ROUNDING.
    I always to MENTAL MATH.
    I HATE having to SHOW MY WORK!!!

    I actually got partial credit from a professor because when I couldn't solve the final equation on my Differential Equations exam, I CHANGED THE PROBLEM by one variable and solved the new problem.
    The fact that I had the guts to do so earned me partial credit and I took it with a smile on my face.

    Good luck to all of you! I'll be joining you in a few years (Ella is about to turn 2).

    As for mucosal overdrive - I have it and it is the worst! I've always had it. I want to scream and I don't have sensory issues. Feeling for you and all your little ones!!!!

  9. Awww...that's so sad! I hope all the kids feel better soon. And I would really like you to demonstrate a math square dance the next I see you.

  10. We're having the same issue with math. My daughter was in 4th last year. The math teacher actually sent the parents an email explaining that they were teaching division in a new way. She also stated that we were NOT to contradict their teaching & show them the way we were all taught. How can we help our kids when we don't even understand the processes they are teaching today? Just this week we have sent our daughter back to school twice with unanswered homework & the "tell you teacher that even your parents don't understand" line. Hopefully she is getting help from her teacher. I am not math dumb (I do accouting for a living), but even this stuff boggles my mind!

    FYI, first time posting (like ever), but not first time reader. Thank you for your awesomeness, and your willing to share it!

  11. Thank you! Glad I'm not alone. Nothing like having a post-grad degree and getting stumped by 4th grade math. In the words of Kate & Lydia, estimating can SUCK IT!

  12. Ah, I too have hit a personal low today, having had my 3 year old asked to leave his small private school because he is ASD and won't sit in his seat. Did I mention he's THREE. Seriously, when they told me that they just can't help a special needs child -- it took everything I had not to scream: HE'S NOT SPECIAL NEEDS, HE'S A JEDI, DAMMIT! Anyway, you're post the other day helped me feel a lot less alone today. Thanks.

  13. I meant "your" post . . . not "you're" post. Mamma is clearly NOT a jedi.

  14. Here's hoping Little Dude's sinuses clear up soon. Poor guy. Poor mom.

    My older kids are in 4th and 1st this year. I've got a BS in mathematics and did grad work at a fairly strong university. But do you think I can follow what these kids are being taught? Let's just say it's a learning experience!

    But it's nothing new. I remember my parents being mystified by the "new math" I was being taught in the '70s. Of course, today's "new math" bears no resemblance to the old "new math" so that's no help.

  15. We use a Virtual Charter.... and thankfully the lessons can be viewed over and over... and over again. My oldest just took her first chapter test of the year... Missed four, essay questions still have to be graded. The last chapter test she took for 6th grade was a killer... even the math teacher said "I think this was a particularly odd test.... parts of it were very lame". Um.... really??????????? She got a 68% on the test... one of the highest grades out of all the kids in her "class". That's freakin' sad.

  16. Ha, I win! I'm home schooling with a pretty flexible program, and they say very specifically that if I want to teach a subject in a different way, to go right ahead, just document that the kids are learning. This is helpful, because my son? Totally thinks about math the way his father does. Which, as far as I can tell, is some special not-exactly-autistic-or-ADD analog of "let's try to make it more complicated than it is, because if it's that easy, it must be a trick." And God help me if I *ever* ask him "why" he did anything. The explanations he gives are labyrinthine. To my mind, we all have different ways of thinking about the world. So long as he gets the answers right, he's golden.

    I like SRMM's kids' answer: Because I'm smart.

    If anyone had asked me "why" I decided something was the correct answer when I was in school, I'd have been puzzled to death and possibly had a nervous breakdown. I don't think that's a help unless you're trying to figure out exactly where in a kid's head they veered off into Candyland and snowflakes.

  17. After a gooey week with my allergy suffering toddler I have decided that they need to make shirts for mothers that have tear off fronts, 5 layers would be nice. Each layer could have a cool graphic on it making you feel better about being a human tissue. I'm seeing something involving a lot of velcro :) Thank you for your posts, they really get me through the day, especially the rough days. This morning we had a skinned knee which meant Band-Aids, and my little dude has a real thing about Band-Aids. You would think I attached them with a staple gun from the melt down the poor guy had. Allergies plus crying equals mucas-palooza! Thanks for making so many of us feel less alone.

  18. @Amybelle -- OMG, Little Dude has the SAME reaction to Band-Aids. Even the cool Star Wars ones. He'd rather walk around trailing blood everywhere than have something stuck to his skin.

  19. If it makes you feel any better - I'm a human napkin. Boy Child, crafty little guy, will come over to me with a big peanut butter & jelly smile and try to "hug" me by putting his face right at my hip level and wiping.

    He knows where the REAL napkins are, too. Apparently my shirt works better.

  20. *wiping tears from my eyes from laughing too much* I would PAY to see the Maths Square Dance, preferably with the Mucosal Overdrive Band playing!
    Thanks again fro your wonderful perspective on life.
    and no disrespect to you SRMM, it must be the kinda people you attract, but I get almost as many laughs from the comments some days as from the column! So thanks to those who leave a comment too, for lifting my day. :OD
    oh yeah, and I want one of those "mummy tissue" tshirts with the removable fronts too - Genius!

  21. @liltoastfairy -- I KNOW! The comments on my posts and the comments on my FB page slay me every day. The comment about "mucosal overdrive" sounding like a bad 80s cover band was from the author of And she's guest-posting for me next week! Squee!

  22. So glad to know that my little guy isn't the only Band-Aid phobe in the bunch! I need to start a focus group and get these tissue tee shirts in production. Maybe each layer should just be a color. Like the national terror threat alert system. So you start the day out with your mommy melt down threat level at green and if by the time your husband walks in the door the shirt is to the red level then he knows to just throw you the keys as you pass him on the way out the door.

  23. Sorry the kids are sick. Hope you can get back to escorting only one through the school day until she is well enough to go to school.

    I have a nitpicky little English grammar correction for you: in the caption to the first picture, it should use the construction "if...then" not "if...than." You might want to fix it if you can.

  24. Now I have a little panicky feeling for when my kids are in school. My girlie is learning to add. She's loving it for now. I'm an engineer & my hubs is a math professor. Our kids once they bring this crap home? Effed.

  25. My daughter is in 3rd grade... and at her new school they offer "Parent-Education" classes twice a month to teach the parents what they're teaching the kids so that we can have a clue... I absolutely have to do at least the math-classes...


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