EppsNet Archive: Math

Things I Love to Do on a Hot Summer Evening


My son’s going into 11th grade next week. He’s got a couple of honors classes, a couple of AP classes, Spanish 3 and a music class. It looks like a very tough schedule to me — he’s also got college entrance exams this year — but that’s where his academic history has brought him and he says he wants to do it. One thing I didn’t know about AP classes is that they start giving kids assignments during summer vacation. He’s working on ’em right now! He asked me for a little help on the physics assignment so I get to do two things I love to do on a hot summer evening: sip premium tequila on ice with a lime, and solve problems like this: A kangaroo jumps to a vertical height of 2.7m. How long is it in the air before returning to Earth? Oh I’m in heaven! Read more →

Americans are Mathematically Illiterate


If anyone ever told you there’s no reason to learn math in school, they are absolutely right! Americans are so mathematically illiterate that you’re better off learning to speak Klingon if you want anyone to understand you. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve walked through a mathematical demonstration of some concept and gotten back a reply like “Well I don’t see any reason why . . .” or “Let’s have a meeting to discuss that.” God, it’s painful. If you’re still in school, don’t bother learning any more math than you absolutely have to. It’ll just come back to haunt you. Read more →

Homework Follies


My son just came downstairs for a visit . . . “‘What’s due tomorrow?’” he says in his Dopey Dad voice. Then back in his normal voice: “Math and Spanish. (Dopey Dad voice) ‘Are they done yet?’ (Normal voice) Spanish is done. I still have a little bit of math. (Dopey Dad voice) ‘Do you need me to check anything?’ (Normal voice) No.” Now he’s waiting for a reaction from me, which he’s not going to get. “I just did your job for you,” he says. “Thanks!” Read more →

Dinner Conversation


“The boy I started tutoring in algebra a couple weeks ago,” I say, “his mom told me he got a C on his last test.” “You’re fired,” my son says. My wife stares at me in disbelief for a few seconds. Finally she says, “That’s not your fault. You can only do so much in one hour a week.” “Actually,” I say, “she thought that was great. It all depends on your expectations.” Read more →

Mrs. Bryant Throws the Gyroball


My son’s having some trouble with 8th grade Algebra. When I work with him on it, I can see that he knows the material and he can do the calculations . . . his biggest problem is a fatalistic, let’s-get-it-over-with, I’m-no-good-at-math attitude, which leads to careless errors, and frustration if his first approach to a problem doesn’t work. I encourage him to take a more positive attitude, to go into the next test saying positive things to himself, like “I know this material” and “I can handle these questions.” “But I don’t know it,” he says. “Mrs. Bryant [his math teacher] throws the gyroball every pitch! And sometimes she hits me with it!” What we have here is a classic self-fulfilling prophecy . . . Read more →

The Geometry of Politics


On the heels of my kid’s discovery that his tour group will not be break dancing their way across our nation’s capital, comes another disappointment — his tyrannical math teacher has been added to the list of chaperones. “She’ll probably say, ‘Oh, Casey, I’m glad you’re here. Why don’t you calculate the volume of the White House?’” Read more →

Homework Follies


“This is racist,” my son says. I look over to see what he’s talking about. He’s sitting on the sofa doing math homework. “What’s racist?” I ask. “The math book?” “Yeah. They have answers in the back for problem 9 and problem 13, but not problem 11. Because I’m a Mexican.” “You’re a Mexican?!” “I’m a mixed kid,” he corrects me. His mom is Asian. “You think the white kids’ book has the answer to number 11?” “Yup. The Asian kids’ book has got all the answers.”   “Dude, check this out. Jackson collected s seashells. Petra and Tyrone collected 13 less than twice s. Now here’s the stupid part: I have to figure out how many seashells each person collected! COME ON! And the racist book doesn’t have the answers!” I say, “Jackson’s pretty lame if a girl collected more than he did.” “He’s pathetic!” Read more →

A Lesson in Procrastination


My son’s supposed to be finishing up his first 8th grade assignment — a math collage for his Algebra class — but instead he’s bouncing a basketball around the house. “Finsh the assignment!” my wife says. “No more procrastinating!” “I’m not PRO-CRAS-TI-NA-TING!” the boy yells, punctuating each syllable by slamming the ball on the floor. “You are procrastinating,” I say. “Stay out of it,” my wife says. “You see how long it took him just to say ‘procrastinating’? That’s procrastinating.” Read more →

Homework Follies


My son asks for help with a homework problem in math. The main point of contention with math homework is that when he asks for help, he’d like me to just do the problem for him, while I prefer to try and steer his thinking in the right direction, even though it takes a lot longer. “This is like the problem you helped me with last night,” he says. “Let’s try not to have a one-hour conversation about it this time.” Read more →

Homework Follies


“How did you multiply this times 2.5 and get this?” I ask. He looks at the problem for a while. “I multiplied it a different way,” he says.   ME: Shouldn’t this answer be 41 instead of 71? HIM: No, Alex. ME: Why are you calling me Alex? HIM: What is “no”?   He’s reading a word problem aloud: “Maggie was traveling with her family on the Oregon Trail. The first day, they traveled 11 miles, the second day they traveled 9 miles, and the third day they traveled 14 miles.” Pause. “Now that was a good story!” Read more →

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