No, I can't help with your math homework


I’m not saying we are bad at math in this house, but I do employ two tutors.

Things started off okay. I mean, there was that one time that my oldest was put into remedial math and I thanked her teacher for insuring that she grows up to be a failed celebrity stylist with a coke habit. But after that, one of the kids even qualified for the gifted program at school in math. And those Starbucks gift cards were still in my drawer, so I knew this was truly a merit-based placement.

But then came “new math.” Is it new math? New new math (but not old math)? I called it Singapore Math in front of one of the tutors the other day and she quickly said “Math in Focus,” in a way that made me feel like I made an ethnic slur or something. True story: one of the kids’ math teachers straight up went to Singapore to learn this stuff and began wearing those pajama outfits and triangle hats around town.

The point is, everything went pear shaped after that.* No one could understand what exactly was going on. I had reports from the kids that the teachers were convening mid-class with questions about how to teach lessons. I don’t blame them. I have on several occasions been completely undone by math homework. Just the thought of finding the greatest common factor or least common multiple (Is it the same??!?) gives me agita.

It would be one thing if I could just show them how I did it, but that’s all over now. There are venn diagrams, and buckets and SO. MANY. WORD. PROBLEMS.

It’s not just me, the other night as I was putting one kid to bed, I could clearly hear my husband shout whispering “negative and negative makes a positive. A POSITIVE. It doesn’t matter why!!!”

I would like to be more sanguine about things. Something about math just riles us all up. I am pretty sure that the lesson one kid is learning from math homework is to yell loudly and annoyingly in the manner of whale speak from “Finding Nemo” until someone tells you whether 31 is a prime number.

Math homework plus parents who are equal parts old and tired multiplied by hungry children equals our house around dinner time. Solve that for x!**

*In this instance, pear shaped is a term that means something has gone, perhaps, horribly wrong and was maybe originated in the Royal Air Force. This use is mostly limited to the UK and other areas where people have cool accents like Australia, but I first heard it in The Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (best of the movie franchise). Which proves I am better at vocabulary, googling, pop culture references and ranking stuff than helping with math homework.

** This is a made up math problem with no actual answer because: math.