Disclaimer: If you are a teacher/educator of any kind, this post is not meant to offend you. If you are an education Nazi who is somehow involved in the ridiculous crap I discuss in this post, then I’m actively seeking to offend you. And your mama.
Believe it or not, I wasn’t always the genius I am today.
Hard to believe, I know.
When I was in the third grade, my teacher called me up to her desk and told me that I was doing so poorly on the multiplication tests that we took each Friday that if I didn’t bring my grade up on the next test, I was going to fail math.
I was (and am) a nerd and immediately went home and made my mother take me to the store to buy flashcards so that I could memorize my times tables, as they were called then.
Today they probably call them “graphical illustrations of multiplicatory mathematics” or some other name that demonstrates that in the effort to make the children in our country smarter, we’ve really just added a bunch of smart-sounding but meaningless words and a butt-load of unnecessary steps that serve no purpose.
(I’m a little bitter right now. Bear with me. Or don’t.)
Anyway, I got my flashcards and sat in bible study with my family and memorized the hell out of some times tables. Even back then I knew I was memorizing the hell out of them and felt a little guilty for thinking hell-ish words in a bible study. Regardless, there was some multiplication ass-kicking going on and I was a freaking memorization ninja.
I went to school on Friday and scored a perfect 100 on my math test and never had a problem with multiplication for the rest of my school career. Told you I was a genius.
I struggled a bit more with Trig (can’t remember how to spell the whole word and too lazy to look it up) and once had a meltdown the morning of a test because my calculator kept getting all of my sine, cosine, and tangent calculations wrong. So I went to my teacher and told her that my calculator was messing up and she told me that I was just a stupid moron and wasn’t using the calculator properly.
Let me just say that since that class in the 11th grade, I have never needed to know the sine, cosine nor tangent of anything. I actually don’t even remember what sine, cosine and tangent are. And I honestly don’t even know what Trig is the study of.
So, really, who’s the moron? Me, a highly unsuccessful, unpaid blogger who is read by literally tens of people every day, or a woman who made her living teaching people antiquated skills they will never need again?
Let me get to my point now that I’ve gone off on this tangent. (Nope, not the same tangent. At least I don’t think it is.)
The Good One is now in the third grade, and they are working on multiplication of double digits, but I swear to you on The Pioneer Woman’s dog’s life, they have never worked on their single-digit multiplication. He has never brought home a single homework sheet or quiz that had anything to do with multiplication.
Yesterday The Good One brought home this “Multiplication Circuit” that they worked on in class.
Have a look-see.
What in the name of Mary Queen of Scots is this?
What the jack is going on with the lines and the dots? Are these the units and rods mentioned on the right? Does a simple question really require so much flipping artwork? And are our children really so stupid that multiplication questions have to be dumbed down to the addition of dots and lines?
After The Good One showed this to me I said, “This is the stupidest way of doing math that I’ve ever seen.”
He said, “I’m telling my teacher you said that.”
He’s such a narc.
The old-fashioned multiplication problem on the left is my handwriting. I wrote that on the paper and asked The Good One if he’s ever seen multiplication problems written like that, and he said, “Never.”
Now, if this ridiculously long-handed way of doing multiplication actually helped The Good One get an answer correct, then I’d be all for it. But watch what happens when he’s asked the same question in a different order.
He got the flipping thing wrong! Hella lot of good those stupid rods and units are now.
I realize that The Good One made the mistake, but is all of this really better than making the kids learn the single-digit multiplication factors and then teaching them to carry the one?
I said “carry the one” to The Good One and he looked at me like I was speaking Hebrew.
The Good One said that to solve math problems they have to use their “strategies.” I have no idea what a strategy is. I also have no idea why a simple math problem would require a strategy. It’s not like it’s war.
General: What’s 12 x 8, Soldier?
Soldier: Well, Sir, I’m going to employ my strategies and figure that out for you.
General: Be quick, Soldier.
Soldier: It’s going to take me a few minutes because I have some rods and units to draw and then I’m going to have to add them together because I never learned how to multiply. Then I’m probably going to have to double-check my addition because if I don’t draw the correct number of rods and units, I sometimes get the answer wrong.
I wonder if my frustration with the way kids are being taught today has to do with the fact that I waited longer to have kids and the gap between the learning styles has just gotten so wide that I can’t make up the difference.
How can I help The Good One with his homework if I don’t understand what’s expected?
I often wonder if my mom and dad felt the same way when they looked at my homework when I was a kid.
Mom: [To Dad] Would you look at this? She’s expected to memorize all of these “times tables.” What the hell is a “times table”?
Dad: What? She can’t use an abacus? How are we supposed to help her if she can’t use an abacus?
I guess I’m going to have to break down and teach The Good One his times tables myself. I should have put him in private school the minute I realized our school district’s literacy coaches were a bunch of illiterate Nimrods.
I certainly don’t blame The Good One’s teacher for my issues because I know she’s doing what she’s required to do. And if you’re a teacher, you may be able to tell me that there’s a perfectly logical reason that kids are taught to do multiplication this stupid stupid stupid way.
However, if you were in any way involved with the determination that it takes four steps and half a page of hieroglyphics to do a simple math problem, then you’d better hope I don’t ever meet you in a dark alley because you and I will throw down and I will take a “rod” and stab you in your “unit.”
You’ve been warned.