Raise your hand if this is a familiar scene in your house:
Child arrives home from school. Child dutifully spends 30 minutes doing math homework. Child brings said homework to parent to check over. Parent has minor stroke realizing that their sixth grader’s arithmetic skills have now surpassed their own.
Dare I say that the dreaded homework is even more unpleasant for the parents than it is for the kids?
Okay, I may be exaggerating a little, but not by much. Is it just me, or has math gotten really, really hard? I remember the big four – addition, subtraction, multiplication and division – and I always thought that if you had a handle on those then you were in good shape. Apparently, in the years between elementary school and working full-time where math consists of an excel formula or a number that your calculator spits out, there have been a few developments.
I know. Shocking.
I’ve never claimed to have all the answers. I am the first person to raise my hand and ask a question; in fact, the words “I don’t understand, can you explain that again?” will most likely be carved on my tombstone. However, as a parent you want your kids to think that they can come to you for help and whether it is the correct spelling of “Tennessee” or “How do you do the Waltz?” (that was an actual Georgia question recently), you want to be able to help them as best you can.
I have found there to be five different kinds of Homework Parents. Which one are you?
- The Scholar – this Modern Day Einstein actually understands what Lattice Multiplication is. They might read up on new techniques, be a NASA engineer by trade or still brag about their perfect score on the Math SATs. Either way, they scare me. And I may hate them a little.
- The Involved Parent – this adult has taken the time to sit with the math teachers at school so that they are prepared for this exact situation. They are calm and thorough in their explanations and probably sleep with a sixth grade textbook under their pillow (they aren’t fooling anyone).
- The Delegator – this Mom and Dad throw money at the problem and hire a tutor for their mathematically challenged offspring. They say it’s because they want the best for their child and although this is most likely true, let’s face it…they don’t understand it either and can simply afford the hourly rate. To be honest, I dig this idea; I’m just far too cheap to pull the trigger.
- The Realist – this parent knows when they are beat. Whether math was never their strong suit or it’s just been too long, they’ll admit to the kid that he or she will have to find a different way to get to the mathematical Promised Land. Asking a teacher for extra help is usually the advice.
- The Googler – this pretty much describes Andy and me. As I’ve stated before, I’m far from perfect and know my shortcomings; however, I don’t admit failure easily so will do what I can to accomplish my goal. What the good folks at Google have provided is a way to save face, provided you’re not averse to a little extra research.
And so, fear not if you have found yourself scratching your head when asked for help in solving a word problem. You’re not alone, and it makes you neither a bad parent nor a math dunce; it just makes you busy and real and, well, slightly flawed . Like it or not, our kids already know that we aren’t perfect. They don’t need Google to figure that out.
The way I see it, as long as I can pull off a decent waltz, I’m in good shape.