I stared into my 8-year-old’s eyes. He stared back. On the table in between us rested the latest “Home Links”, a math sheet that’s part of the University of Chicago’s Everyday Mathematics curriculum. Most days our intrepid 3rd grader must complete a Home Links for homework.
“Will,” I said. “You’re supposed to show your work.”
“Nnnnnnnhhhh,” he whined.
“Well, I don’t understand how you got ’3930′ when the problem is 3543 – 387.”
“I think you added it? Look, it’s supposed to be subtraction and you’re supposed to show your work.”
“Nnnh.” He erased 3930, looked at it a moment and wrote 3166. Close, but he was off by 10.
“You’re supposed to show your work,” I reminded him. “You’re off by 10. Okay, what’s 3 minus 7? You can’t do that, so you borrow the one…” I launched into how I knew how to subtract and drew little lines and 1′s on the page.
He got agitated. His eyes darted around the room. Then his eyes glazed over. I suddenly remembered, They don’t borrow the 1.
Yikes, back in 70s we borrowed the 1. And then some economists decided that’s why China now owns our American butts. Enter Everyday Mathematics, which teaches methods like “trade first”, “trade up,” and some other crap I once Googled and soon forgot.
All this means is that a generation of American children are growing up in homes where there’s no help with their math homework. And parents are having to relearn elementary school math, even if we aced it the first time around. It’s not like I’m a mathematical dummy. At work last week I checked the Log Odds Ratio (95% CI) of a regression analysis, along with the Wald-value test statistic and level of significance. See?
So what did I do? I sent a note to school asking the teacher to help. To paraphrase, the note said “please help him borrow the 1, but not really borrow the 1 because I know you don’t borrow the 1 anymore.”
And China? Watch out. My son’s coming. Once he gets past ME and aces this Everyday Mathematics stuff, he’ll be your worst economic nightmare! At least, that’s what I keep telling myself every night when another Home Links comes home.