February 01, 2006

Algebra

Anyone know how to write "six-x-squared" numerically using a computer keypad?...

Spencer called the other evening. "Can you help me with a math problem?"

"Sure," I said. After all, isn't that a part of every pastor's job description, to set aside sermon preparaion to assist an 8th grader with his algebra? Besides, I made it all the way through calculus when I was in high school, even passing the A.P. test, so I must be good for something. "What's the problem?"

He read it to me: 3x(2x-5). Then he said, "The directions are to multiply or factor using a generic rectangle."

"A what?" I grabbed a piece of paper and a pencil, and drew a rectangle. I stared at it for a moment, but it didn't do anything. Not understanding how this was supposed to help, I said, "Well, uh, 6x2-15 is the answer, but I don't know what a rectangle has to do with it...."

"Well, just show me in the morning, then." (Spencer and his brother come to our house every morning to wait for the school bus.)

"Um, yeah....Sure."

The next morning I opened Spencer's algebra book, and discovered that a generic rectangle is a diagram that looks a lot like a map of California's electrical power grid. I thought to myself, this isn't an easier way; it's nothing more than yet another attempt to make adults feel so out of it when it comes to understanding their kids.

It wasn't long until the bus arrived, so I said to Spencer, "I don't think I'm going to be very much help."

He said nothing, but by the look he gave me, I could read his mind. He was thinking to himself, this guy got straight A's in high school and college, and he can't even do 8th grade algebra? Yeah, right.

God help me when Spencer starts geometry.


2 comments:

Anita said...

Then comes the joy of having a different teacher each semester, both of whom teach a different 'easier' way than the book teaches and all 3 ways are different than how you teach it ... and the teen implodes.
Ain't it great?! AHHHHHHH!

G. said...

I've been trying to forget algebra since high school, thanks for bringing it up again! (shudder) ;)