Friday 02 Dec 2016

X + Y = Math Aversion
Jennifer Flaten

It's once again time for homework.

Oy, at homework time, you hear nothing but crying, promises to do it later and begging to read one more page of the book. Sigh, it never works, the kids insist that I help them with their homework.

Right now, subject to change at any moment notice, the kids don't mind doing homework. Me, well, my feelings about homework haven't changed. I didn't like then and I don't like it now.

Oh, how I loathed carrying schoolbooks home. If I couldn't fold my homework to fit in my purse, I didn't take it home.

Unbelievably, the teachers did not give extra points for an essay shaped like an origami swan.

The few times I did haul my books home, my tendency to procrastinate was my undoing. Schoolbooks languished in a heap in my room, while I read the latest Stephen King tome.

Which explains why I often found myself hunched over my books trying to cram 100 years of American history into my head twenty minutes before the test?

I am happy to say I have conquered the worst of my procrastination habits-I started this project a full hour before it was due. Baby steps, I say.

Scary, but true, I am now the adult in charge of making sure my children do their homework (better them then me I say).

As chief of the homework police, I perform daily border checks. The minute the kids walk in the door I ask if they have any homework to declare.

Since the answer is always "I don't think so" I seize their backpacks and rifle through the various pockets, folders and yes, origami swans in search of that day's worksheets.

So far, the homework has consisted of things even I can handle: simple math and easy geography. Yet, lurking on the horizon is algebra and geometry. The mere words send shudders down my spine.

See I am a math-phobia; yes, this is a legitimate diagnosis. I can do simple math including balancing my checkbook, which I will do right after I finish this, but anything involving Xs and Ys, tangents and angles and I begin to hyperventilate.

In school, I was so awful at algebra. Not only did I have to repeat the course, two times, I somehow still ended up short a math credit. Maybe my addition wasn't all I thought it was, either.

Since, there was no way I was going to take any type of higher math class, it's called aversion therapy, I took, what my school called Math Skills for Life.

The goal of the class was to teach us how to make change, calculate tips and balance a checkbook-really I promise to do it, right after this and maybe a game of Bejeweled.

The class culminated with a trip to Denny's for breakfast so we could practice our skills. While I thought it was the best class ever, it did leave me with the ability to add my entire shopping cart up in my head and come damn close with tax, but I unable to solve for X even if my life depended on it.

So you can imagine the sense of dread I feel when I read the latest homework study guide and find out that soon, soon, we will encounter the dreaded X and all its little unknown friends.

I am getting queasy just thinking about it.

Jennifer Flaten lives where the local delicacy is fried cheese, Wisconsin. She writes about family life, its amusing or not so amusing moments. "At least it's not another article on global warming," she says. Jennifer bakes a mean banana bread and admits an unusual attraction to balloon animals and cup cakes. Busy preparing for the zombie apocalypse, she stills finds time to write "As I See It," her witty, too often true column. "My urge to write," says Jennifer, "is driven by my love of cupcakes, with sprinkles on top. Who wouldn't write for cupcakes, with sprinkles," she wonders.

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