## Monday, December 06, 2010

### Goofy Math

I am constantly urging the little Goofs to work hard in math. “Be like mommy, and be good at math. You’ll be able to get good jobs. Don’t be like daddy, the world already has enough writers.”

Believe it or not, I think they listen. I guess don't be like daddy is pretty good inspiration. Unfortunately beyond inspiration, I'm not much help.

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One morning when I went into GoofGirl’s room to wake her up for school. She was lying under the covers talking. I bent close to hear. She was quietly saying, “703, 704…”

I asked her what she was doing and she explained, “I want to see how high I can count.”

“OK, but get up and get dressed soon.”

A few minutes later I was in my room getting dressed. She came in and asked, “Daddy what is after 808?”

“809.”

“What's after 809?”

“810.”

“What's after 810?”

“811. Are you starting to get the idea?”

“No, this makes no sense. I quit!” she answered.

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My son and I were discussing negative numbers. I explained how multiplying two negatives makes a positive but adding two negatives is still negative.

“If you multiply and negative and a positive you get what?” he asked.

“You get a negative.”

“OK, so if you add a negative and a positive you get a negative?” he asked hopefully.

“Well that depends on the specific numbers…”

I tried to have him visualize hot air balloons changing their altitude by adding and dumping sandbags (it helped me get it when I was his age.) But it didn’t help him. I tried to help him imagine adding a negative is really a subtraction so subtracting a negative is really an addition. This failed to clarify matters.

“Dad, you are making it worse. This doesn’t make sense. I’m going to have a freak out!”

“Buddy, it’s ok, negative numbers are the bizarro world of math. Up is down, right is wrong, and they eat Brussels sprouts for dessert.”

“Yeah, that helps alot. Is mommy home yet?”

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My son has started doing word problems for his math homework. My daughter wasn’t getting any homework in kindergarten. She was jealous, so she has started making up her own word problems.

“Daddy, pretend you have seven coupons,” she said.

“Coupons for what?”

“It doesn’t matter, it’s a math problem.”

“It matters to me,” I said, “What if they are for something I don’t want?”

“OK, they are for coffee, you like coffee,” she said, exasperated.

I do like coffee. Oh boy, seven coffees! Yea! YEA!” I yelled and started jumping around the room.

“They are decaf. Sit down,” she said firmly.

I sat down.

“So we have seven coupons and we take away two…”

“Why are you taking away my coupons?” I cried, “I sat down when you told me to.”

“Daddy. It is a math problem. We are just pretending to have coupons.”

“There are no coupons. How do you take them away if they aren’t there?” I asked, my voice quavering.

“Use your imagination! Forget it, I’ll ask mommy. She can do word problems without so much crying.”