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Friday, November 14, 2008

I'm no longer smarter than my kids

My youngest children are 12, 11, and nine years old, and in the seventh, sixth and fourth grades. It was last year I realized I could no longer help the 12 year old with her math homework. All three of them are learning Geometry and Algebra on their grade levels. I think I’m a smart person, an intellectual even. I have to admit, this NEW math has lost me! I didn’t take Algebra I until the eighth grade, and Algebra II in the ninth. I did fairly well in both. At that time, I was 13 and 14 years old. That’s been what… a century ago. Not actually, but it has been a little more than quarter of a century.

Geometry and Trigonometry both came along in the 10th grade. I thought I was a math wiz after doing so well in Algebra. That first semester was a rude awakening! I realized math and I were not friends. Shoot, we weren’t even on speaking terms! I dropped out of both, and changed my mind about ever seeking a career with math requirements. It just wasn’t happening!

Now, my kids are asking questions, and needing help with math. For a while, I would look it over, and if it was past basic Algebra, pretended I knew what I was doing. I’d then flip a few pages, scratch my head, and scribble a little bit on their paper. Finally, I’d say, “This isn’t how we did it when I was in school. Things have changed. Ask your dad, or your sister.”

I’d pass the buck to my husband, or my oldest daughter. He’s much more literate with it comes to math, and she’s now a college sophomore, majoring in Biology. Now, I’m so past keeping up appearances. These days when they ask for help with math, and it’s past basic Algebra, and Geometrical shapes, in particular triangles, I immediately respond, “Call your sister.”

A couple of weeks ago, the 12 year old had a problem I couldn’t help her with, I directed her to her sister. They talked on the phone for about 15 minutes. The problem was solved, and I never broke a sweet, or popped a blood vessel. Seriously, as technology advances, and the process of math becomes NEW to the ninth power, it’s time parents take a refresher course, and catch up to our kids.

My nine year old said, a couple of months ago, “We’re smarter than you were at our age. We have computers and so much more technology.”

Of course I had a rebuttal. Although they have the latest advances in technology, and get the answers to anything at almost the speed of light, those advances make them lazy. Youth of today, (adults too), don’t have to think for themselves. Formulas and equations no longer have to be studied and learned. That’s what hi-tech calculators are for.

Phone numbers are no longer committed to memory. They’re all stored in cell phones that are more than just phones. AT&T has a list of Smart Phones to include the Black Jack, BlackBerry, I-Phone, and the Palm-Centro. They tell time in all parts of the world, function as personal computers, and act as MP3 players. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Now that’s technology for you.

I remember having to do a report in sixth grade on Africa. It took a few weeks to finish. There were certain things that needed to be included in the report. When our set of Encyclopedia Britannica didn’t have everything I needed, I had to find another family with a set of encyclopedias. Eventually my research led me to the public library to look through periodicals.

Recently, one of my daughters had a report due for Science. She went to the Internet, printed all the research she needed, including maps and pictures, all within 30 minutes. She was then ready to get started on a report. My sixth grade report couldn’t compare. Yes, at their age they have greater access to the latest information.

I’ve decided to reacquaint myself with math, and learn the latest methods. Part of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff’s Philosophy says, “The end of education is to know God, and all of his laws…”
In order to keep up with my kids in math and technology, I have to do one of two things. Stay one step ahead, or learn right along side them. I’d better hurry, or I’ll have some serious catching up to do!


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