Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Victory for Mom

I have permission to share this story about my daughter:

My daughter's crying at the kitchen table because she doesn't understand her algebra homework. Her math genius dad is traveling, so I'm all alone with this terrible algebra problem.

I'm horrible at math. I'm missing math brain cells. Plus, I can't remember how to do the problem.

I feel myself freaking out (just like I did at her age, just like she's doing right now).

"We can do this," I calmly tell her.

"But I don't understand! I don't understand!"

"We have to learn it. We have to teach our brain this new thing that it doesn't know. We don't need to feel bad, ashamed, worried, or sad. We just need to start fresh." I realize we're both in reactive--not responsive--brain states, so we need to calm down and come back later. We need a snack. We need a game. We need rest. We need to get rid of all the negative emotions that thwart learning.

We also need prayer. I actually cry out to Jesus to help us understand. I'm desperate.  

Meanwhile, I call a Ph.D. student (a great teacher) and ask her to teach me the math.(Thank you, Devon.)

It's embarrassing. But then I think to myself that it's not embarrassing. Who cares? If I never admit when I don't know something, how can I learn? I'm finished with pretending. I'm finished with living out of shame for no reason at all.

By the time I'm off the phone, I secretly work through the math problems to teach myself. Yes, it's 5th grade math. Laugh if you want to.

Then, I find my daughter buried under her covers in despair.

"We can do this," I say.

We start again, and I realize I know how to teach her because I'm a student myself. I help her set up the first problem , and all of a sudden, she grabs the pencil, smiles, and says, "I totally get this now."

And she's off finishing all her math.

Sometimes it's hard to learn because we're ashamed of what we do not know. That's ridiculous. Living with flair means we love to learn and have no problem admitting what we don't know.

I love algebra after all!


Carla said...

I'm so excited to hear you helped your daughter conquer the math homework! While getting my B.S. in Mathematics, I worked as a tutor and TA. It feels like so much of the problem that we have with math in our society revolves around attitude. "I don't like math." "Math is just too hard." "I just can't understand/learn how to do it." It is even worse when that bad attitude is coming from teachers, "Well, unfortunately, now it is time to do math." So many elementary teachers do not understand and do not like math, and that attitude shines through very clearly to the students. Parents can contribute to this too, perhaps even more than teachers.

Reading is hard. Writing is hard. Art is hard. Music is hard. Science is hard. Math is hard. It's true. But that means we shouldn't let that stop us from trying and just treat it as a challenge. Ask questions. It's ok. Math takes practice. But math can be fun and exciting. Isn't it a great feeling when you finally figure it out? :)

Way to go, Mom!

Karyn said...

I am missing crucial math brain cells too....it's just not how my brain is naturally wired to think. But I do like it because I am a logical person. I remember when our oldest (now a sophomore) was in 6th grade, and he was faced with an evening's worth of algebra. I discovered him sitting there crying, afraid he wouldn't get it all done b/c "dad's gone (also traveling) and you are no good at it." Oops..I guess my "I hate math" statements had sunk in deeper that I ever thought. I assured him that I could sit down and read through his text book and help him and we would most certainly get through it. I am now guiding my 6th grade twin girls through an on-line school program and am having so much fun re-learning all sorts of language and grammar rules, geometry and discovering all sorts of things in our American History that I never knew.