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NOT FOR NUTHIN’: The ABC’s of the new math

Sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of the mighty math, where parents and children struggle through the graph… In those halcyon days of pre-school, kindergarten, first and second grades, I could still be the hero and help my daughter with basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. I looked like a math wizard to her as I easily deciphered long and short division, adding and multiplying three and four columns of numbers. But this idol worship only lasted until third grade when the new, new math was introduced and I was left standing out in the polynomial cold. No longer was it simple addition, one plus one. Oh no, you needed to have a stem and leaf chart, pie charts, draggable’s and so on. It is here that my quest to find the right tutor began. In third grade we hired a lovely girl who was in her last year of college studying to be an elementary school teacher. They got along very well and she was able to help my daughter through the swirling, murky waters of her first citywide exam. My daughter did well and I heaved a sigh of relief. It was short-lived. Fourth grade blew in and although everyone said that it was just a review of third grade, it was far more than that. Tutor number two was hired. She was able to lead my daughter through the maze of polyhedrons, the swamp of polygons, the deserts of symmetry, and the high mountains of fraction/decimal conversions and pre-algebra equations. As fifth grade approached, the math curveball grew into an avalanching snowball with no sign of melting. The school year ended, the citywides were over and middle school smacked us in the face. On the first day of classes on that fateful September day, I didn’t even open the textbook, let alone try to understand it. I resignedly went directly to the closet, opened up the telephone book and let my tired fingers do the walking. Right there under Tutors, number four was waiting. This time she had the task of explaining stretching machines, shrinking machines, and order of operations. Whew! What a mouthful. Euclid would be confused. If A equals B and B equals C, then C equals two aspirin and a strong cup of coffee to control one beaut of a migraine. I needed to get help immediately. I think the powers that be need to revamp the questions to fit the minds of today’s kids. “If you have a five dollar bill and put it in a stretching machine, can you then afford that high-priced, trendy boutique to buy that shirt?” What do you do if you put that same five-dollar bill in a shrinking machine?” Well then, you need to go to K-Mart and buy that discount shirt because that’s all you can afford after all of your parent’s cash is converted into tutoring bills so that you can understand what a stretching/shrinking machine is in the first place. The three years of middle school are winding down and soon our daughter will graduate. As high school looms in the distance we are nervously awaiting the results of all those high school entrance exams as well as looking forward to finding that special someone who will be with her through the four years ahead -- Math A & B, trigonometry, physics and calculus. Now if only I could figure out a way of using the new, new math to help me win the lottery, then I would have enough cash to keep all these tutors happy for a long time to come. What’s your opinion? E-mail “Not for Nuthin’” at All letters become the property of Courier-Life Publications and are subject to publication unless otherwise specified; please include your name, address and daytime telephone number for verification.

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