Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Wherein I learned about partial algorithms

Ava is currently in a challenge 1st grade math class. I'm not exactly sure if "challenge" is the new more politically correct term for gifted and talented or perhaps there are some more stringent parameters around the term gifted and talented; and all these kids sectioned off into this class might just be causing too much skefuffle in their regular classrooms. More about Ava's skefuffle in a few minutes. Regardless, it's called 2nd grade math or challenge math. Just the thought of that makes me rather squirmy since when she recently started spouting off about partial algorithms, I had to wikipedia the word algorithm. Sad, but true.

You see, I have a confession. I, shall we say, never quite hit my stride in the math department during my illustrious academic career. I managed to obtain a bachelor of arts from a well respected albeit state supported institution of higher learning while never once setting foot in a calculus class. I copped out with a statistics class for psych majors, of which I was not, and managed to get that to count towards my meager quantitative and formal reasoning requirement. While attending college, quantitative and formal reasoning was more about; if class lets out at 5 pm then proceed quickly to pizza and beer establishment of choice before 5:15pm. I was quickly able to discern that if .10 shots were being tossed out at Peter's Pub I would be able to afford ten $.10 shots for a dollar...and that my friends is all the math I need.

This week Ava explained the finer points of addition partial algorithms to me. Which, honestly sounded like a bunch of hogwash. Instead of just plain old adding each column of a multi-digited number and then carrying the one where necessary, the teacher has these kids rounding each number up to the nearest ten. Then they add those rounded numbers and write them down. Then they subtract the number from the rounded number and write that down. Whalaa! You have your answer. Ok, you do get the correct number but what the hell? Why not just add the stupid numbers up and save yourself the drama of the extra steps? If this is showing my admitted math incompetence, I apologize. At this rate with all that extra work for each and every addition problem the kid is going to be burnt by 3rd grade. And, let's be honest this is a little distressing because at this rate her math work load will have me completely perplexed and befuddled by third grade and the muffin man, who did just fine in the math department in school thank you very much will have to take over helping with math homework. Of course, at that time I will be at the other end of the table drawing circles with Liv. I'm still good at laundry by the way.

Back to Ava and her skefuffling at school. (I made up that word.) I wouldn't exactly call it misbehaving or incredibly heinous choices she is making at school...but um...let's just say I've gotten a few emails from the teacher. Mostly they are about Ava's socializing and fluttering about the room while she is supposed to be working, or immediately after they have finished an activity. This is not going to land her in Sing Sing any time soon, but I'm sure there have been days when the teacher wanted to tar and feather the little kid for her boisterous and precocious attitude. The wishing for a good old fashioned tar and feather thing? It is something I am not completely unfamiliar with. It has at times been a tiny bit difficult to wrangle her into submission, I mean, foster her emotional needs while making sure no one loses an eye.

Perhaps she's a tiny bit bored when things get a little slow, it is a class of 24 kids with one teacher after all. Perhaps she's adapting to the confines of traditional learning. Perhaps she's merely 7 years old and emotionally, is after all 7 years old. This is what 7 year olds do, it is their job to test authority and establishment.

In the mean time I am bracing myself for an eventual lesson in calculus. The very one I never got in high school or university. Oh that will be sweet if it ends up coming from my 10 year old.


erin said...

Yeah, sounds like you're being initiated into "Everyday Math." Well, it might not be EDM, but some scary first cousin of it. I HATE (can you hear me screaming?) the math curriculum at our school. It's so ridiculous--why can't they just add the stupid numbers and carry where necessary. My son got estimates wrong on a test and I can't see how that can happen. Isn't an estimate just a guess anyway? We're now going to pay a tutor at a hefty price to help him learn the basics of multiplying and dividing (6th grade) because the ridiculous system doesn't focus on it. You touched a nerve--so frustrating!

AmericanFamily said...

I was always good at math, but that algorithm crap makes no sense to me. Why would they do it that way?

Elaine said...

Ok, you've scared me silly here. I made it through to a Ph.D without ever taking math and now I have this to look forward to? She's already way past me in spelling and, sadly, simple addition. I'm going to have to look up algorithms (tricky spelling that) too???
(goes off to weep and rock silently)

Spacemom said...

To be honest, it's much easier to me to round to a 5 or 10 and then add, remove the extras and viola! You have the answer. We're teaching S this way too, but then again, it might have something to do with rocket science.

(her theme for her summer birthday party? Science...yes, her choice)

Alyson and Ford said...

I loved math in school but this sounds too weird! Can't wait to see what my little one will teach me!

Alyzabeth's Mommy for FIVE Months!

3cmum said...

My 2nd grader is doing it and it is ridiculous as far as I'm concerned. And confusing.

Unfortunately we've taught her separately the way we all did it so she cheats and does it that way...

But hey I learn't something - I didn't know it was called partial algorithims. I just thought it was a silly math technique.