You know something? I actually like math. I’m one of those weirdos who actually likes solving math problems. They’re just so black and white. No hidden meanings, no areas of gray; everything you need to find the answer is right there in front of you.
Always confident in my abilities to help my kids solve any math problems that came their way, I blazed merrily along, until my joy was brought to an abrupt halt. And the cause? New Math!
I’ll tell you, it took a lot for me to dread helping my child with math homework. But it finally happened. They initiated this New Math when my daughter was in fifth grade and my son was in kindergarten. Never mind that the Old Math was working perfectly fine.
The mere question, “Can you help me with this problem, mom?” now brought with it, feelings of anxiety and trepidation. What new torturous method had they devised now to teach simple addition and subtraction?
After several months of this, I was talking with my mother when she’d stopped by for a visit. A retired elementary school teacher, she listened patiently, sipping the cup of tea I’d poured, while I whined and complained about how ridiculous this New Math was. I began to describe a particularly confusing method my daughter was currently learning to solve three-digit long division problems.
“I don’t know, mom, they make some big crossword-puzzle-looking thing, and then get a messed-up maze of numbers; then somehow from that they get the answer. It’s called the lettuce method or something. I can’t figure it out—it’s totally weird!” I said.
“Oh! You mean the lattice method! We used to teach that to our students years ago. You know, that’s the way George Washington learned to multiply.” she added with a significant nod.
Suddenly I had a brainstorm. Just like fashion, math goes in and out of style. It’s the same stuff being constantly regurgitated every few decades with a new name. Like pedal pushers and capris, like bell bottoms and flares, like Old Math and New Math.
So here’s what I propose: instead of we parents struggling to help our children sort through all this ridiculous New Math, why don’t we just have the grandparents do it. It’s the same stuff they learned anyway—so it’s not “new” to them.
Then when our children grow up, and have children of their own, we can help our grandchildren with their math. Our children will be moaning and groaning over the “new” ridiculously confusing ways of doing basic long division problems. Or maybe they won’t understand why their children are learning to simply add columns of numbers straight up and down; then we grandparents will stroll in and save the day. Explaining the New (OLD!) Math techniques with ease.
Less stress for everyone. Yup, that’s the ticket—let’s have the grandparents do it.