Showing posts with label mathematics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mathematics. Show all posts

Friday, October 3, 2014

Why Learn Algebra?




            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.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Hidden Talents

We all have gifts and talents that are perhaps unique to other people, perhaps the same, perhaps what sets us apart. Some talents just seem to come naturally while others are mastered or simply given up on.  Unfortunately some talents go unrecognized or are lost due to lack of sharing.

          Jenna is really great with math.  I pushed her into believing that it is awesome so that she might understand it on her own.  She starts third grade next year and I’m thinking it may become too complex for my brain.

          Math is something I didn’t figure I would ever ask her brothers to assistance for. Math is just NOT their forte.  Actually I am more confident in my own math skills than I would ever be in Biff’s.  His talent lies within animal charmer and puzzle awareness.

          Lately Jenna’s math homework has consisted with fractions.  The example showed the shape being broken into other shapes (ex. A hexagon divided into 6 triangles) The first two problems showed two shapes – the first was two to six times bigger than the second shape – the fraction.  Jenna drew lines over the first shape to make shapes equal to the second (ex – 2 triangles in a square).  The first two problems had shapes that could be drawn into the first shape in equal amounts.  It was the two shapes on the third problem which threw both of us off.


          As I was trying to find the second shape (diamond/rhombus) inside of the first shape (a trapezoid) I just wasn’t getting it.  Biff came into the room and I handed him the paper and asked him to figure it – knowing full well that he would have it within seconds – which he did.  Oh, so obvious.  A diamond and triangle made up the trapezoid – or three triangles.  The second shape was 1/3 of the first shape.  Certainly we would have gotten it eventually – but not near as quickly as he did.  How awesome is that?

          We had discovered Biff’s “hidden” talent the day that Jenna brought home a puzzle ball – which she broke apart before I could even look at it.  Roland and I struggled with the six pieces trying to turn it back into a ball while Biff had put it together three times in less than one minute (while Jenna enthusiacally broke it apart each time and eagerly watching Biff put it back together again)

          Jenna has been able to draw and cut out perfect looking hearts since she was three. I still have a hard time with hearts – unless I am tracing a heart shaped box or template.  Drawing and cutting are not talents that I possess.  I have always admired those that draw well and those who continue to make it a talent.  I think all of my family members draw well.  My brother’s wife and children also have artistic talent.

          And then there’s the talent of making friends – having others drawn to you out of respect or pleasure.  This is a talent that seems to come naturally for my husband, my sister-in-law and youngest son.  Others struggle with trying to make new friends or socialize at all.  But it is a talent that can be developed.

             There’s the talent of being able to recognize and utilize the talents of others.  One of the best examples of someone who possessed the talent of being able to recognize and utilize the talents of others was Roger Bushell, who was a flight lieutenant with the 601 Squadron in the British military.



          Roger had many talents – academically, athletic, his passion for flying and a talent for defending the accused. When he was sent to an “escape proof” prison camp in November 1942.  His master mind is what inspired the movie, “The Great Escape” which included many details that were actually used among the prisoners under his direction.

          He was able to scout out and utilize the talents of every single prisoner – even those who claimed they wanted nothing to do with his plan.  Some (such as the character “Hilts”, a prisoner portrayed by Steve McQueen) were certain they could escape without the assistance or aide or the other 300 – 600 who planned to escape out the tunnel.  Bushell also used that to his advantage explaining that if the soldiers kept their focus on the “Hilts” of the camp, they may not notice the teamwork taking place into digging and building the tunnels among other things.

          It’s important for each of us to share our talents with others.  To give and take and learn from and appreciate one another. I hope one day to recognize and utilize others’ talents as did Bushell.  What a marvelous gift!