Thursday, January 29, 2015

New Math vs. Old Math

I’ve never really cared for math. As a little girl, sitting at my desk in first grade, I remember my teacher patiently waiting while I rattled off my addition and subtraction problems not from memory, but by using my fingers. It wasn’t that I’d never get the hang of math, it was more of an issue of disinterest. Numbers didn’t do anything for me. Give me a word problem, and I’d read it aloud like no other. Ask me to solve the same word problem, and I’d give you a blank stare.

The funny thing about math is, throughout school, it gets progressively harder. Concepts build on previous concepts, and if you didn’t master those earlier concepts, you’re out of luck. That was me: out of luck. When entering third grade, I remember they started throwing multiplication and division at me. That’s where they truly lost me. I was done, I felt hopeless, I knew there was no way I’d ever "get" math.

Over the years, I had a few teachers who believed in me and gave it their best to help me understand math, but I was perfectly content with my barely-passing grades that provided me with enough math credits to squeeze on through.

Just when I thought I’d escaped all math (albeit what I can do on a calculator), I had a child who loves math. Not only does my son love it, he’s really good at it, at least by my standards. When he was in first grade, I had to look up the answers to a couple of problems on his homework and I remember thinking, "surely math wasn’t this hard when I was in first grade. This must be that ‘new math’ I hear about."

Unfortunately, as was the case when I was in school, math gets harder. The boy is now in third grade, the same grade where I decided I was done with math. Where I had given up, my son continues to succeed. He learned pretty early on to ask anyone but Mom if he has a question regarding math homework. Spelling or reading? I’m your girl. Math? Um, let me see if Google knows the answer.

Don’t even get me started on what some refer to as "common core math." That’s a whole ballgame I have zero interest participating in. I’ll just be on the sidelines, happily reading player biographies and looking for typos.

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