Fourth quarter online-school is upon us and I am yet again getting reports of my 8th-grade son’s deficiency in math. Counting two rounds of kindergarten, this is the 10th year of hearing this refrain. Here’s the thing – I don’t even care.
Is it laziness? Being worn down as a parent? Sympathy because middle-school math was my worst subject? Probably all of the above.
But there is something else.
Some of you have brilliant children who will go into engineering and create bridges, art museums and other monolithic structures that amaze mankind. My kid, and about 90% of his peers, will not. He will never need to calculate the slope of a line, the volume of a cone, or create a 3-variable equation figure out, well, ANYTHING.
And yet, we will slog through high school math that teaches him nothing of what he needs to know while cratering his confidence and convincing him that he is dumb. What a system!
Here is a list the of math I wish kids would (but don’t) get taught in school:
- Elementary school: Adding and subtracting via memorization, not this stupid finger tapping method they use now, telling time on a clock with hands, a step-by-repeatable-step method of long multiplication and division problems.
- Middle school: Making change, converting fractions for recipes, interpreting charts and graphs.
- High school: Negotiating pay, household budgeting, how credit cards work, how not to get in over your head in student debt, how to use information in large data sets to solve problems.
For a great discussion on the history of the US math curriculum and ideas to fix it, check out the Freakonomics Radio podcast Episode 391, titled “America’s Math Curriculum Doesn’t Add Up.”
While you are doing that, I’ll be looking for a fake college sports team to bribe my children onto so we can just stop worrying about math grades altogether.