Monday, October 19, 2009

Does Not Compute

“Welcome to Seventh Grade Algebra,” Mrs. Houston began. I had been looking forward to Parent Night at the junior high ever since putting Ellie on the bus earlier this fall.

Ellie had been kind enough to let me not only walk her to the bus stop the first day of school, but take her picture at the corner while waiting for the bus as well. Unfortunately the bus showed up a little earlier than scheduled, and I had to leap behind a bush – camera in hand – to avoid being spotted by a busload of seventh graders.

(Ducking behind the bush in the early morning hours wearing my jammies and holding a camera was not nearly as embarrassing as jumping back out after the bus had passed, startling and confusing my poor neighbor who happened to be jogging by that very spot at that very moment.)

Junior High got a lot easier after that first morning, with the exception of one class.

Seventh Grade Algebra.

“Your child has been recommended for this class because he or she excels at math,” she continued.

This statement might have had some element of truth, but just the night before, Ellie and I had both cried over her algebra homework. Neither of us knew what the textbook wanted out of us, and I ended up Googling the instructions for her calculator.

Until then, I had considered myself to be quite bright.

“You should be proud of your child for falling into this category,” she said. “These are the students who will likely go on to be engineers or physicists.”

Physicist? Ellie? I thought. She told me she wants to be a fashion designer...

“Many of these students are smarter than I am,” she explained.

Oh, crap.

“… work for NASA someday… “ umm, Mrs. Houston? We have a problem “… go on to promising careers as adults.”


Mrs. Houston seemed oblivious to my dropped jaw and furled brows. “This class puts them on track to be finished with college statistics before they ever even enroll in college.”

She isn’t going to need college statistics to design the skinny jeans of the future. She only needs to be able to convert inches to yards…

“… a lot like Doogie Howser… “

Maybe figure square footage…

“… keep them challenged… “

Like Tim Gunn or Heidi Klum?

“We will cover exponential expression, convergent sequence, and harmonic mean,” she said, as if they were Christmas presents I should look forward to opening. I quickly scanned the room and realized I was the only parent who had lost all coloring in her face.

“… compete in national mathematic… “

… but she’s a real blonde…

“… really, really, really smart… “

… and cute…

“… motivated… “

… and likes makeup…

“… genius level… “


Fortunately Mrs. Houston could not read my thoughts nearly as well as she seemed to be able to integrate and differentiate (I have no clue what that means).

And, as it stands right now, my real genius is pulling a B in the class by sheer willpower and has had exactly one boy ask her over to watch “Star Wars” and play with Legos, confirming that my daughter is in way over her head.


LC in Hawktown said...

As Linus from the comic strip Peanuts once said,"There's not heavier burden than a great potential!" (Just ask President Obama!) My very bright nephew got into a junior-level calculus class his freshman year at our midwestern university, having breezed through AP math classes in a very affluent midwestern county high school. He just about flipped out with this class-even with from tutoring by a family member who is an astrophysicist.(Even the relative had to do some heavy-duty thinking!) To make things worse, the professor was rotten at teaching and his heavy accent was hard to understand! My nephew passed the class!

Be proud of Ellie,Jules-and spare yourself and Dave -and get her a tutor! Be proud of yourself for once again nailing it in your writing!!

Meandering Mel said...

Wow, that is so impressive. Good job to your daughter. And good luck to you two. :)

Google is the shit. I use it ALL the time. (And I'm in college and supposed to know this stuff... ugh)

LegalMist said...

Good luck to both of you!!

(And I'm glad I'm not the only parent who worries like this!!)

Chrissy said...

SO funny! Fashion designer, fizissist. They both start with F...

Leah Rubin said...

That's fantastic-- I love the whole picture! Great story...

JenJen said...

I love this. I too am a natural blonde and actually did major in Physics.
I use this degree to wipe the butts of my children. And feed the dog.

Go with fashion.

Knucklehead said...

Be honest. Her name is NOT Mrs. Houston, you only picked that name so you could say "Mrs. Houston, we have a problem."

Admit it, we've all done things like that.

Anonymous said...

You must be so proud of your daughter, well done! Thank-you for another fun read!

Scientific calculators are so darn confusing! Why didn't I think of referring it to Mr Google? See, you are a genius!

Trust me, younger brothers come in really handy for maths homework and younger sisters (even when they're 10,000 miles away) for science, history and art!

Jules said...

Thanks so much for your encouragement, the older I get the more I realize math really IS hard sometimes.

Chrissy - You are so phunny!!

JenJen - I am having Ellie call you with homework questions

DK - Very close to Houston, very, very close. I tried to protect her ID, and the joke wrote itself!

Cathy C. Hall said...

I did a long-term sub in a 7th grade Math class and nearly ended up in therapy. (Well, there was a breakdown of sorts, but that's another story). The point is, during a parent-(sorta) teacher conference, the mom said to me, "I'm a CPA, fer cryin' out loud, and I can't do this kid's HW!"

I didn't feel so bad then. I was the teacher, and couldn't do the HW :-)

Good luck to Daughter. I'm sure she'll be fine (as long as a Sub doesn't show up one day).

Diane J. said...

LOL, that is so funny. Kind of how I felt going over 3rd grade match, nothing exceptional, but they completely changed the way the kids are learning math in our school, they don't carry over numbers anymore. I can't figure out 3rd grade math, I have no clue how to help my children. Admittedly, I was never great with math once they started putting letters and shapes in with the numbers. Darn-it-all, that threw me for a loop. But 3rd grade math? How sad is that?
Thanks for the laugh, today.

KaLynn said...

You are a HOOT! Congratulations on your daughter! Must make you very proud!

I soo understand the calculator thing! I had to take 3 remedial Algebra classes before I could actually get credit for Algebra!

You have a great sense of humor!

Queen of the Road said...

I feel so old. When I had a similar class in HS, we were not allowed to use calculators. But then again, at that time, all a phone could do was make calls.