When I was in high school, I was mistakenly placed in an AP math class. I was already taking a few other AP classes in English and History, but there was no indication that I excelled in mathematical concepts. In fact, the prior year I got a solid B in Algebra II. I do not know why this prompted the powers-that-be administrators to feel I needed advanced math classes. I should have been placed in the next basic class. Instead, I found myself drowning amongst concepts that I could not comprehend. Once it was discovered that I was struggling, the teacher and my parents discussed the option of moving me down into the lower level class. This would have been the best option, but for some reason, everyone decided to let me stay in the advanced class and try my hardest. Unfortunately, my hardest wasn’t good enough. My parents had to hire a tutor for me. And even then, I just couldn’t get it.
Fortunately for me and my GPA, the teacher took pity on me and was incredibly charitable with her grading. She knew I was being tutored and that I was trying my absolute hardest to do the best I could. Because of this, I managed to eke out a C-, when truthfully it should have been much lower, if not failing. It is the only class I have ever taken that I truly almost did not pass.
The next year, everyone smartened up, and I was placed in the most basic of basic math classes. And although I was finally in an appropriate setting, I never forgot the feeling of drowning in that one advanced class. The feeling that I just wasn’t smart enough or capable enough to handle what everyone else around me was easily comprehending. It was not a feeling I enjoyed or ever wanted to repeat in the future.
Yet somehow, despite my genes, my oldest son is a math genius. Merely in 2nd grade, he is already appropriately in an advanced math class. Math is apparently one of his skills. Where that innate ability with numbers came from is anybody’s guess, because as I’ve established above, it is definitely not from his mother.
The other night, my son was helping with dinner preparation. This is a task which he routinely enjoys and does without complaint. We were making stir fry, and one of his jobs was to cut up some of the veggies.
While he was cutting up a head of broccoli into little florets, he made this comment:
Cutting up broccoli is fun because it’s like math. Because when I cut them in pieces, it’s like doing fractions. For example, this piece is one-fourth of this broccoli.
I am 38 years old. Much like Dana Carvey, I have chopped quite a few heads of broccoli in my day. But not once did I ever think, “huh, this is just like math. What fun!”
So, while I am happy for my son and his newfound sense of adventure and learning through cooking, this episode also scared the crap out of me. I’m looking into the not so distant future, and seeing a time when my son needs help with his math homework. Oh, say . . . probably sometime next week. And I know for a fact that I will be absolutely useless in assisting him.
I mean, if he needs help with English or composition or grammar, I’m your mom! I am most definitely proficient in those topics. But with anything math related? No. If I don’t have a calculator handy or the answer is more than 10 (the number of fingers on which I have to count), then I will not be solving for X.
These are going to be some long school years. I mean, how sad is it when a 7-year-old boy is smarter than you at an elementary school subject? All of a sudden, I am starting to experience that drowning feeling again from many years in the past, when trying to tackle an untenable subject.
In related news, I am going back to the hospital to do some research about any babies born the same day as my son. If I find one that is really good at reading and writing with brown hair and brown eyes . . . there are going to be some hard-hitting questions, is all I’m saying.
Do your kids have any traits and/or skills that have you wondering where they came from?