They’re Just Numbers

Things I can do like a boss: add, subtract, multiply, and divide. Oh, but you throw a decimal in there, and all bets are off. The following is from 2009 but not much has changed. Since tomorrow I plan on writing about how math is happening in our house in 2017, I thought it’d be a good idea to give you a Herndon numbers primer/history lesson first.


Karen’s rabbit has 7 babies every year and every year she and her 7 babies have 7 babies. How many babies are possible to have been born the third year? I have news for you…my kids are never even gonna own rabbits because of the potential for them to be cooked alive by a jilted lover. So Karen and her mama on whatever farm they live can count their rabbit babies and clean those nasty cages without involving me or my calculating brain cells. I need those to figure out how much change I’m due on the liquor they just made me buy.

Word problems are my nemesis (well, one of them at least. There’s also fractions, decimals, all matter of algebra, and my brain bleeds internally at the mention of trigonometry). Exaggerating, you think? No. No, I’m not. Example: fourth grader has homework consisting of the above word problem. The numbers on the page all started dancing around to form a maniacal happy face. A happy face that laughed at me for even touching the paper. It whispered, “you know better.” I did know better. I retreated to the kitchen, proclaiming that dinner was burning. “Do you have something else you can start in the meantime?” And then I silently prayed that daddy would be back soon while I held back the tears and pretended to be very, very busy.

In our house, daddy does math. Mommy does reading/English. This is not to say that daddy can’t be his usual awesome self and pull a math/English combo. He can. The same cannot be said about mommy. Aside from the occasional synonym or spelling question for me, daddy has it if he’s alone and there’s English homework. If I’m alone, though, and there’s math…daddy’s worried. Initially, I never wanted the kids to know that there was a distinct separation of homework duties. I wanted them to believe that both of us could help with whatever they brought home. Until now, (the time fondly referred to as Fourth Grade Math Hell), I’ve stupidly let them believe I know what’s going on. {whispering frantically: I don’t know what’s going on!} Girls can do math just as well as boys, yes, I know. But this girl? This one here? Nope. Uh uh. I am literally excited at the prospect of diagramming sentences, writing a story, finding the main idea. But I am equally distraught and in need of Imodium when presented with fourth grade math. (Note I’m pretty certain I’ll be able to say the same for fifth grade on up). I’ve tried going online to brush up on what she’s being taught. In my old age, however, I have come to realize that I simply don’t have an affinity for math. I get flustered in situations where I have to come up with an amount off the top of my head. I use my iPhone to determine sales tax or discounts based on percentages.

It sounds as though I’ve simply given up. Not exactly. I’ve given in to the fact that I’d rather they know I am mathematically challenged but that that doesn’t have to be the same for them. Wait, how the hell will I do that? How will I be able to be that cheerleader for computation if I don’t know whether their answer is correct? Even daddy’s starting to look at me like WTF this page is basic. You don’t know how to do this? Ummmmmmmm…just a sec, dinner’s burning.

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