The other night I was sitting between my two boys, helping them with their math homework.
Monkey, my third grader is doing fractions. I vaguely remember fractions as going something like this.
If Evangeline eats 2/3 of a pie, how much pie will be left for Evangeline to share with her friends?
Evangeline is a pig.
Needless to say, I wasn’t much help to my son. For one thing, it seems they do math differently nowadays, and even though I could tell he was working with fractions, the presentation looked like alien bathroom art.
But I tried. He kept asking me if his answers were right, and I kept trying to avoid admitting I didn’t know.
Meanwhile, my first grader had a sheet of simple addition problems.
Chunky: Mommy, what’s nine plus nine?
Me: You figure it out.
Chunky: But I can’t.
Me: Then go get those jelly beans. Count out nine, then count out nine more. Then add them together.
While Chunky fetched the jelly beans, I turned back to Monkey’s Martian graffiti. After an irrelevant and somewhat desperate lecture against defacing property, I checked back with Chunky to see if he had made two groups of nine jelly beans.
Chunky: Look, Mom, I made an exclamation mark out of jelly beans.
Me: That’s great. Now count out two groups of nine.
Chunky: No! That’ll mess up my design.
Monkey claimed my attention again. I eventually had to send him to his dad for confirmation that his answers were, indeed, correct.
When I looked at Chunky’s paper again, he’d come up with an interesting way to show his work.
Here was the problem.
Clearly he was supposed to draw groups of dots or write out a word problem, but Chunky chose, instead, to illustrate his creative process.
It really is a picture of how he solved the problem--by sitting at the table, rubbing his antenna together, and eventually coming up with the answer. The fact that it in no way shows his mathematical method is arguably irrelevant.
No, he doesn’t have a future as a mathematician. I’m thinking we have an LAS major on our hands. English? Fine Art? Communications? Philosophy? Cringe. Let’s hope, like his mother, he marries well.
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