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.


  1. It only gets worse from here...James is at a 5th grade math level. The other night, my 12th grader and I poured over James's homework before James gave up on us and vowed to work it out himself.

    1. The 12th grader doesn't even bother asking. And the really sad part is that I took AP Calculus in high school. And now I can't remember which line is the x and which is the y. (Thanks to Google, I now remember that that Y reaches for the sky.) So many brain cells lost in 25 years...all math brain cells, I'm guessing.

  2. As a college junior on the brink of an all-nighter, I'm finding a little peace in that math class is just tough. :) Thanks for making me laugh & know that your blog is well-loved by my roommate and I, years away from naptimes.

  3. Hey I'm a grad student on the brink of an all-nighter too! Along with math being tough, anatomy is no fun. Love that you're blogging :)

  4. Ahh, sister. You make me laugh. I was blessed to be born a left-brained girl. Always wanted to be a math teacher until those students had parents. My own 2 kids never wanted my help until ... High School. Suddenly it was great having a mom who could help with math. This year it's Geometry and Honors Pre-Calc. Don't ask me about those graphing calculators though.

  5. I'm going back to college after ten years and four kids. I don't have any brain cells left. And I am praying that Jesus loves me and will give me a loophole to exploit so I don't have to take a math class.

  6. I didn't get good at math until college. Now I'm decent at math, but not real high level stuff. However, I have a lot of gaps- I can show you a proof (though it might not make sense to you) about triangles having more than 180 degrees while on a sphere, as opposed to a plane, but I often have to count on my fingers for basic subtraction.

    When I was in school, I was a writer- now I have no talent for that at all. Just never know where life will lead you.

  7. I have an engineer husband. Who doesn't have to travel for work. I thank Jesus for him often.

    And I remember that Barbie uproar. To this day I still reply..."I'm with Barbie on this one!"

  8. I still can't figure out the answer to the planes one. *beats head on desk*

  9. Math seriously gave me anxiety from about 4th grade on. I went to college and graduated with an English/Resource Management degree. I remember looking through the class catalog as an incoming freshman and circling the degrees that required the least amount of math classes. English for the win!

  10. Us English majors will have our day to shine, Missy. Wait until she has to analyze a poem and she turns in 10 pages when a paragraph was required. It will be glorious.

    1. We English majors not us English majors....biology major here.

  11. I had as us Education folk say, "Old School Math." When I was in college (for SPED) we had to take a elementary math padagogy class to learn how typical kids learn their math skills. I was pretty darn good at math growing up, especially in elementary school. I cried nearly every class period, as it was "New Math." My teacher ended up giving me my own set of cuisenaire rods so I was able to do my homework. It was AWFUL!!!

    1. I had, as we education folk say, "Old School Math". (biology major here)

  12. an!!! AN elementary math pedagogy class!!!! That's gonna drive me nuts now...

  13. you are freaking hilarity itself.

  14. I have a major in Management and a minor in Communications. I can't get my kids to do anything. Maybe a major in Math would have better equipped me for motherhood???

  15. Oh dear LORD! Yes, I also am a words girl. Always have been, always will. But this week my 3rd grader's spelling words include: quarrelsome, squandering, and squelching. Because, you know, those words are super common for 3rd graders.

  16. still working on the plane/scissor problem.

    and i'm an accountant. and scared of when my kids get to 3rd grade!

  17. Is it 6?????? Please tell me it's 6!

  18. OK, laughing so hard here in my English professor office. I totally see what you're saying. In fact, when the worksheets come up on my screen, I just scroll right past them, eyes glazed over. Ugh. I stopped helping my kids with math right around 3rd grade, so I officially let you off the hook.

  19. 1 phone = 6 airplanes.
    Ann's number is 5.
    I love math. ;-)

  20. Now...I've always been good at math (don't shoot...just listen)...what I hate...


    Who decided it was ok to combine math and English?? And seriously...I see things like...

    If a 67 pound child was pushing a 40 pound elevator across the surface of the moon, how far away would the moon be from the earth?

    What the what?

  21. Dear Missy,
    It is totally wrong of you to get me hooked on your oh-so-funny blog and then stop blogging. I know that I can see you on Facebook. But it's just not the same. I too have just recently adopted my 5th child, and I have also stopped blogging much. Because life is insanely crazy. But that's ok because no one really reads my blog much. You, on the other hand, are letting down your adoring public. So maybe you could ignore your kids for a bit and get us caught up on your craziness.
    Just sayin'
    A fan who is having withdrawal issues.

  22. Hilarious! This hits home for one who tries and FAILS daily at helping with 5th grade math!! I called my husband on his business trip to help me with my daughter's word problem the other day. Google gets mad when you type in a whole paragraph...Hahaha! I'm still geeking out about the scissors/plane problem.



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