Monday, September 23, 2013

Math class is even tougher

In 1991, I was a raging feminist, like all good juniors at the University of Texas at Austin. I mean, I shaved my legs, because I was a raging feminist who still wanted to get asked out on dates. And I still wore cute shoes and big earrings. Cause 1991 was The Year of The Very Big Earrings. But, still, I thought All The Thoughts and Read All the Books and Protested All The Oppressors.

I just did it cutely.
And hairlessly.
And accessorized.

That year Mattel released a Barbie doll - one of those Barbie dolls that I swore my daughters would never play with - one of those Barbie dolls that twenty years later my daughters don't actually play with because they are far more into Good Little Feminist toys like princess dressup and My Little Pony and pink Legos ice cream parlor sets -  and this particular Barbie caused all kinds of crazy controversy because when you pulled the string in her back she said, among other vapid things, "Math class is TOUGH."

And the world went ballistic, or, at least the world of the university campus. How dare Mattel perpetuate such outlandish gender stereotypes?? How dare they insinuate that little girls struggled in math?? What was this, the Dark Ages? No! This was 1991, a modern era, where women were free to become engineers! and mathematicians! and wear big earrings!

At college I listened to the debate raging in one of my many Women's Studies classes, I read the op-eds in the Daily Texan, I nodded disdainfully and disgustedly with an outraged brow. But I kept silent. Very silent.

Because inside, I was thinking to myself, but only to myself lest my Accessorized Feminist card be revoked, "But...math class IS TOUGH." 

I enrolled in the one basic math class that my English major/Psych minor required but then they started asking me all these questions about tossing some coin? over and over? and trying to figure out how many times it would land on heads? or tails? one hundred times they tossed it! and the pressure was just too much! too much for me! so I dropped it.

This is the part where, if you are married to me, you say, "You mean, probability? You couldn't grasp probability?" with a look on your face like you are seriously reconsidering whether I should be the X to your babies' Y. To which I simply squeak, "Math class is tough."

That class with the coins and stuff hung over my head for my entire college career like a cloud of infinite diameter and volume and other vague mathy terms. Finally my very last semester of school I called the testing center to see if I could re-take the test that I took as an entering freshman that would let you place out of that math class. The one that allowed all my smarter friends to skip it. But when they looked up my score from four years earlier, it was discovered that since that time, they had lowered! the required! score! to place out of! the class! which meant I didn't have to take it!

And in that moment, I knew, that if you tossed a coin a million times it would always reveal that Jesus loved me. He loved me with infinite diameter and volume and...stuff like that.

Therefore, by the grace of a big loving voluminous God, I have not sat in a math class since the 80s, and - shhh don't tell anyone - {I cheated on a whole lot of those high school tests} {to increase the probability of my graduating} {don't worry, Jesus has infinitely forgiven me for it}

Annnnnnd, I turned out okay. And now, via the power of the iPhone, I am more than okay, I am a bona fide mathematical genius.

Until my third grader has homework on a night when her dad is out of town and I have to call on the infinite love and wisdom of same Jesus to avoid squeaking only, "Math class is tough."

Evangeline has this worksheet she has to do every week called Sunshine Math, which is the biggest oxymoron ever created. Sunshine Math. Can't fool me with the happy clappy name, Sunshine Math people. Let's call it Torrential Downpour Math cause me? Drowning.

Last year, in second grade, I could handle her Sunshine Math. I might have to breathe deep and draw a few stick figures and talk it through but I could do it. But this year? Third grade?

Oh. Tough. Math class. It's tough. Math class is tough.

When I was in third grade it was the times tables and the word problems, which was not fun but manageable.


How many planes is a scissors worth? WHAT THE WHAT?? Bonus points: "What's the meaning of life?"  THIRD GRADE Y'ALL.

(Not to mention, did anyone else think 9/11 with the planes and scissors and such? PROVEN: math teachers are terrorists.)

Nor this:

Here's the answer, Tina: ANN IS EVIL. FIND A NEW FRIEND. 

I want to stick this Sunshine Math where the sun don't shine. 

But these answers do not suffice for my contorting, frustrated nine year old, who happens to be an amazingly gifted writer who can accessorize like a beast. So instead of asking me to join her while I sit and rock in a corner repeating mathclassistough I draw my little pictures and search my extensive English major vocabulary to try and help her figure out the answer.

And then we pick out some earrings and write some stories and wonder if she's old enough for an iPhone.


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