Mathematical Genius (Not!)

a-to-z-letters-mThe thought of quadratic equations, cosines, square roots, exponents, proofs and all that other numeric nonsense makes me queasy.  So does fifth grade math homework. I can’t remember how to find the common denominator let alone the median or the mean. If it weren’t for Google and a sister who does have a mathematical mind (she majored in accounting – the very thought of which gives me chills) my daughter would flounder with her math homework alone. Luckily her teacher also has a policy that if my daughter tries to do the homework and her parents aren’t able to help out (and my sister isn’t home!) all I have to do is sign next to the problem and all is good. I have to admit I’ve had to sign off a few times.

To be fair, I don’t think it’s all my fault. I mean the directions on those worksheets are pretty vague and I really think they’re changing the math rules on me somehow as I don’t remember solving problems the same way when I was a kid and definitely not in fifth grade. I shudder at the thought of high school math homework! If I had my way they’d ban math from schools along with physical education (but that’s another blog post).

OK, banning math may be going a little too far. After all certain mathematical knowledge is quite useful. So I propose that schools stop teaching all that high brow math (unless the kid wants to be a mathematician someday) that I have NEVER used since I learned it in high school and college and then promptly forgot as soon as I took the final exam and instead focus on real-life math. 

Here’s an English major’s idea of a good, real-life math curriculum.

  • Basic Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, and Division – These are the foundations of math and I concede that we must know them inside and out.
  • Percents – We also need to know how to figure out how much money you need if the cute shoes you want to buy are regularly $79.00 and are on sale for 20% off. To make it more complex, throw in figuring sales tax at 7.5%. Another good one is how to figure out the tip when you go out to eat or get your nails done. I use this math all the time!
  • Basic Measurements – Accurate measurements are important so that when you order new carpet for the bedroom, there’s enough to cover the entire floor! It’s also important if you want to rearrange your furniture. You want to know the couch is going to fit on the opposite wall without blocking the door before you move it there!
  • Time, Distance and Estimates –  When my alarm clock rings, I need to know that  if my office is 30 miles away from home and I drive an average of 60 miles per hour will I make it for an 8:00 AM meeting if I leave  at 7:40 AM? Not when two trains going opposite directions are going to meet! Come on, that extra ten minutes of sleep is essential.
  • Fractions and Decimals – While not my favorite mathematical concepts, I’ve found knowing about fractions to be very helpful especially when my recipe calls for 3/4 of a cup of flour and I can only find my 1/4 measuring cup.
  • Money Matters – I wish I’d learned more about interest rates on loans and credit cards, how to budget and how to save and invest when I was in school instead of how to balance an equation. You could even include how to balance your check book for extra credit! My financial status today would be much better if I had.

I’m sure other math concepts are important and essential to our everyday life as well, but my word-based mind is starting to get weary thinking about all this numeric junk. If you can think of anymore, please share them in the comments below!