Tuesday, March 06, 2007

A-Mathing We Will Go

I lost my marbles today. Well, not so much marbles as my ability
to do math. Which would have been OK, I suppose, if doing math
was just a hobby, like collecting marbles, and sometimes taking
them to your grandpa's basement and putting a coffee can of water
on the gas burner of that stove he kept down there to boil his work
clothes on, not to eat, silly, but to get them clean, because to the
best of my recollection, he worked in the lead mines, but so did my
other grandpa, although he didn't boil his clothes, but washed them
in an old ringer washer, not him, but my grandma, who was also
good at swinging a chicken and popping its head off, not in the
basement, but just outside, though she didn't have a stove in her
basement to cook marbles, which is what I did, boiled those
suckers for a few minutes, then poured cold water on them,
which caused them to make snap/crackle/pop noises, and whee
doggies, wasn't I lucky that I didn't burn the place down, or have
an eye put out by flying crackling marble glass while I performed
my totally unsupervised marble-cooking act at the tender age of
ten or so, which would surely lead to a DFS intervention these
days, but by cracky, back in the day, a child might as well be
cooking meth for all those agency people cared about them,
what with letting them ride untethered in the back windshield
ledges of automobiles, swing their legs willy-nilly off the tailgates
of pickup trucks traveling down the highway at 75 mph, passing
motorcycle-riders without helmets, on their way to buy cigarette
brands they'd seen advertised on TV.

But doing math is not exactly a hobby for Mrs. Hillbilly Mom,
who is not a real teacher of math, but plays one at school for
three hours each day. So this morning when she first sensed that
she had broken her math bone, it was with a bit of scorn that she
told the students, "Well, I've been showing you this for two years
now...don't you think you would have learned some of it by now?
What do YOU think we should do next." To which a little devil rose
to the challenge, walked to the white board, and said, "Put that there,
and that there, and it will work." And he was right, by cracky! For
Mrs. Hillbilly Mom had forgotten how to do a problem with unit
multipliers, precisely:

Convert 20 meters to feet, using 3 unit multipliers.

Oh, she could get the correct answer, all right. By using 2
unit multipliers, or 4 unit multipliers.It was just the doing it
in the proper manner that was her Achilles' heel. Or perhaps
that was her Achilles' big toe, because it was actually the
second of her math moments this morning in which she could
not perform. The first was in finding the volume and the total
surface area of a solid that had a base shaped like a house.
Mrs. Hillbilly Mom tried to divide that sucker and make two
right triangles out of the roof area, when she should have only
made one regular triangle and used the old standby 'Area =
1/2 Base x Height'. But no. She tried to make it too hard,
and was thankful when Mabel arrived to save the day. As
were the DoNots.

And then, in Lower Basementia, Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's math
impotence reared its ugly head yet again, when she was asked
to use the Pythagorean Theorem to find the missing measure
of a hypoteneuse. Which Mrs. Hillbilly Mom could have done,
in two steps for this evil book-torture problem, except that
Mrs. HM pronounced "One squared plus one squared equals
one, and the square root of one is...well...one." Au contrair!
Seems there has been a new development in the math world,
and Mrs. HM did not receive the memo. One plus one is now
TWO! Who knew? The regular Mathie, that's who, who
bailed out Mrs. HM in place of Mabel.

Which perhaps explains that $600 checkbook faux pas.


Stewed Hamm said...

One plus one is one... for very small values of one. (Hey, it was good enough for the Pentium 2!)

DeadpanAnn said...

You lost me at hypoteneuse.

Finding you've got an extra $600 is not a math faux pas-- realizing you have $600 LESS than you thought? THAT is when it's time to call a tutor!

I think I would like to teach lower math, like 7th or 8th grade math. I think it would be easier to explain than some of the more subjective things in English. Fortunately for the children, I will never be certified in that area.

Hillbilly Mom said...

I'll take your word for it. But this is the last time.

Miss Ann,
But I had you at 'preposition'.

I always thought that I would like to teach math myself. It's not too bad. I'm pretty good up to the second semester of 10th grade.

By cracky, this English stuff ain't all it's cracked up to be. By cracky. Yesterday I argued with 7th graders who declared my answer sheet was wrong, because in elementary school, they had been taught to ALWAYS capitalize Mother and Father. They were havin' none of my explanation. Only if it's used as a proper noun, like BOB or JANE. Not if you say 'my mother' or 'my father'.

Kids. Can't live with 'em...can't learn 'em.