Math is not one of my strong suits. When I was in grade school, I always preferred English, literature and science – namely because chemistry meant I had the opportunity to blow something up or at the least, start a fire.
In college, I changed majors twice because of the math requirement. Heck, I actually ended up commuting to Mercer when I lived 20 minutes from Athens simply because I could avoid a statistics class at U.G.A. Mama reminds me of this every time she pays her portion of my student loans.
My bank even knows I am numerically challenged. I thought I had balanced my check book once and was delightfully surprised to discover I had a considerable bit of money left in my account that I had not expected. I did what any smart 30-something with a bit of padding in her bank account would do – I went shoe shopping.
Two days later, one of the women from the bank called and let me know I was horribly overdrawn.
“I had money two days ago,” was my defense.
“Sudie, your car payment and your insurance had not posted. You are now overdrawn. Did you really spend $659 at Mansour’s?”
Mansour’s was this gorgeous specialty store that had the best shoe department ever. People would fly in from all over for their shoe sales. I lived three miles away – how could I not go?
“Yes,” I whimpered.
“You are going to need to take the shoes back,” was the banker’s reply. “I am guessing it was shoes. It was shoes, wasn’t it?”
“Yes,” I affirmed.
I didn’t take the shoes back but I did learn an important lesson. The people at the bank were better at balancing my check book than I was. Knowing I was mathematically challenged, they actually didn’t mind doing it for me. It was less painful for everyone involved.
Beyond balancing my checkbook, I haven’t really had to use a whole lot of math. Geometry seriously made a synaptic gap in my brain misfire and no, I have not used algebra since I had to take it in college. With the convenience of calculators even in our phones, I haven’t even had to use my fingers in a while.
Until Cole hit second grade.
Given my child’s quick wit and fast take on things, I knew my little grasshopper would surpass this wise teacher of a mother quickly.
All it took was one assignment of homework to show me, I am officially not smart enough to be his mother.
Regrouping – we called it ‘borrowing’ -made another synaptic gap in my brain misfire. Subtracting three digit numbers? I don’t remember doing this stuff (and I use that term very loosely; I have another term I prefer) until about fourth grade. Maybe fifth.
“Cole, I don’t know if I am doing this right,” I told him, looking at the page full of numbers. Was it OK for an adult to cry over second-grade math?
“Mama – what are you doing?” he exclaimed, watching me do the problem the way I was taught 30 years ago.
“I am doing it the way I know how,” I answered.
He shook his head. “No, that is not right.”
“Then how do you do it?” I cried.
“I can’t remember but it is not the way you are doing it!”
The examples on the page confused me even more.
“Cole, I hate to say it, but you’re on your own,” I said, probably renouncing any future Mother of the Year awards.
He sighed and furrowed his brow, studying the page furiously as he figured out how to do it – on his own, no help from Mama.
“I can’t do second-grade math,” I admitted to Mama the next day.
I doubt she was surprised at this; I probably couldn’t do it when I was in second grade.
“Can Cole?” she asked.
“I guess he can. He did it.”
“What was it exactly?” Mama asked.
“I don’t know, Mama,” I began. “It was subtraction.”
Mama was oddly quiet. “It was … subtraction?” she questioned.
“Yes,” I answered.
“Oh. Oh my,” she said. “So it was just subtracting?”
“Yes, Mama,” I said.
She didn’t understand that it involved regrouping and three digits.
“Well, that new fangled math will get you every time. They changed it on me when you were in school. But look on the bright side, this is just subtraction, it’s not like it’s algebra. When are they are gonna learn algebra?”
I wasn’t sure – but with my luck, it will be any day now. And putting x, y and z into this newfangled math will surely be the end of me.