Meeting up with my old nemesis

Maths is not my strong point. I grew up in an era where teachers would scoff that we needed to LEARN how to do complex equations because we would not have calculators in our pockets in everyday life and to that I say HA! HA HA HA, Mrs {redacted in case she’s still alive}, what do you have to say NOW, because I literally have the ultimate maths-solving tool at my fingertips 24/7?

Which is why, when Miss 13 asked me to help her with her maths homework the other night, I confidently replied, “Of course! I’d be glad to!” thinking that if I couldn’t figure out the answers, I could just sneaky-peek at my phone calculator.

Except when I saw the first equation: T = 2n + 1 and then a little table of numbers and we had to work out what “T” and “n” were and I died a little bit inside as I realised that I was facing my old nemesis, algebra, after twentysomething years thinking I’d got away with never needing to know how to do maths without a calculator again.

“Maybe Dad can help with this too?” I squeaked, but something in my voice must have warned my husband off because he immediately demurred, “Oh, I was never very good at maths.” My possum-in-the-headlights expression apparently did not move him at all, as he continued with a shrug, “And I never really liked maths anyway.”

Possum-in-the-headlights turned to furious-possibly-rabid-possum-glaring. Because he had broken the cardinal rule: Never, ever say you don’t like a school subject because then your kids will think that not liking something is a perfectly acceptable excuse to not give it a go.

And the truth is, I don’t really like maths, either. It doesn’t thrill me. And that’s okay. But I don’t want to turn my kids off to maths just because it’s not my thing. I mean, I don’t like beetroot but my kids eat it happily and you know why? Because I didn’t sit around making “Yuck!” faces when they were trying it for the first time, the way my husband did when I was giving them pumpkin and now none of them will eat pumpkin because he doesn’t like it and therefore they don’t like it either. I took one for the team.

And now I am apparently doomed to take one for the team when it comes to helping with maths homework, too. An hour and many, many fake smiles and forced cheerful “You’re doing a great job!” pronouncements later, the dreaded algebra homework was done. Miss 13 wandered off and I collapsed on the sofa, considering that Miss 13 has four-and-a-half more years of high school, and then her younger siblings will each have five years of high school, so that’s 15 more years of high school maths I’ll need to get through and I’m not sure if my sanity will survive.

Except I’ve just done some maths to figure that out, haven’t I? Without a calculator, even. Hmph.

Katherine Granich

Editor, Tots to Teens

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