I get needing to know the basics of math. I have multiplied or divided fractions when I doubled or halved a recipe. I used addition and subtraction (mostly subtraction) when dealing with finances. I have even measured things accurately. I get the basics and I do and have used them in real life. Anything beyond the basics have been useless except for two times since graduating high school.
The two situations in which I’ve been required to understand beyond basic (Algebra comes to mind) came when my children were taking math courses in school. Tony used to milk his sessions. It would take hours just to do one problem. He didn’t get that if he would just do it instead of trying to get me to re-learn and do his assignments, he could have been done so much quicker.
Actually I have had hang-ups with algebra my entire life. I think I would have been okay doing year round school. With three months of summer vacation and no homework, I never did retain what dad had explained to me the year before.
Dad was a math nerd, actually. He thrived on it. Oh, yuck!!! None of his kids had it in their genes to love math the way he did. We all use the basics – but I doubt that any of us have ever dealt with algebra except to assist with homework so that our children in turn can help their children and so forth.
When Jenna was too young to know any better, I had convinced her that math was/is fun and that she would love it – which she did. From 2nd- 4th grade she basically did her math homework without my assistance – which was great for me. By third grade I was at a loss just looking at her papers.
Multiplication has given her problems. And she absolutely hates division. Division, on the other hand, had always been my favorite (I mean if I absolutely have to pick a math favorite) and hated multiplication the most (which is ironic as you need to know how to multiply in order to divide) and so for the last two weeks I have been explaining the technique – which I’m sure that she gets but seems to experience ADD each time she does it – though it still doesn’t take near as long to do her entire paper as it did for Tony to do just one problem)
Unlike Tony, Jenna LOVES algebra. She thinks it’s fun to create and do problems. (I was hoping my father’s genes would skip a generation - perhaps they have)
Not long ago, Randy was taking a monster algebra class through the college. At least Jenna’s problems don’t require as much paper as his did. He must have gone through one notebook per class assignment. That’s gross.
In order to better understand what it was that he was doing, he felt the need to explain, making Jenna and me his pupils. She thrived on it. He didn’t think she totally got the concept, but said she was getting the right answers. I was, too. I just wasn’t enjoying it. But actually, neither was Randy.
There seems to be only a handful of people who not only get algebra and trigonometry and calculus, etc. but thrive on it like it is the most awesome thing ever. Great for those people. Kudos to them for having that desire. But leave me out of it. I don’t wish to rack my brain with symbols and results that are basically meaningless to me just so I can relearn it to teach my own children.
I have a friend who majored in math (who does that? What do you even do with a math degree?) and had all four of his boys memorize their times tables before they were six. All smart. All knowledgeable – not just about math but politics and current events and are basically brilliant people. Surprisingly they’re not boring – often times their topic of subject doesn’t interest me, but I have enjoyed hanging out with them on occasion.
Anyway, my own personal philosophy is that all most real people really need is the basics and the rest is there for those who truly want to learn it, but no one should be forced just to keep those math majors in the business of teaching math or whatever detailed jobs may be offered to the mathematical minded. I just don’t get it. I certainly don’t thrive on it. Even the game of Monopoly is not fun. Too much math involved. I’m grateful that Jenna believes it’s fun. She likes math. She also enjoys going to the dentist. I honestly can’t decide which I think is more painful.