Friday, September 12, 2008


Today I was looking over Mimi's school work and at the bottom of a math page was this question: What digit is in the ten thousands place in the number six hundred three thousand, twenty-one. Explain how you found your answer. Her explanation: "I looked at the numbers and thought." Her answer was marked wrong by the teacher. But of course, I found it especially funny.

I'm wondering myself what is the correct answer. I know it's zero, but how do you explain it without sounding like an idiot. "Because it's in the ten thousands place?" Then you would be repeating the question. Wouldn't that be silly? Now I'm thinking Mimi's answer wasn't so bad. "I used my brain and I'm just a little smarter than the average bear." "Why do you need an explanation?" "Because in the number 603,021 a zero is in the ten thousands place." I think next time she should write, "It was a lucky guess."

I just don't understand how to explain. My answer would be "Math is my best subject and I just get it." I have a bit of an issue with third grade curriculum anyway. Here's a test: What is a predicate? Do you know the answer? I'm sure most of you do because most of my friends are geniuses, so go and ask a neighbor. Chances are they don't know the answer. You know why? Because who cares what a predicate is unless you are an English major?! And also, why do they waste their time on "mean, median and mode" and the "stem and leaf" method? No one uses that unless you're a statistician. Most of us are familiar with finding "averages" (mean) and have to do that occasionally. But I haven't ever needed to know the mode or median of anything, except to pass a test. Same with the quadratic formula - but that was my choice taking advanced algebra in high school. I got an A in the course but haven't used it since then.

So, why would we be throwing this into the third grade curriculum when our kids are having a hard enough time learning times tables and cursive writing? The predicates, means, modes and medians are all out the door by fourth grade. I've never had to identify a predicate in my adult life. Though I'm sure I've unconsciously used them often, almost every sentence to be exact!

I had to call my BFF to share Mimi's funny answer and her comment was, "She's definitely your daughter, isn't she?"

So, my issue is: when our children are lagging behind other states in education, why are we feeding them useless information? Does anyone agree?


Anonymous said...

I agree - its all a load of crap!!! Jared

Gil said...

The basic reason for all math is the establishment of measurements. Whether the things being measured are money, time, distance, volume,etc. is irrelevant - as are classes that fail to teach children useful and practical information. Save advanced calculus and quantum physics for college or technical fields that require them.
Teach kids how to establish a budget, calculate how much the carpet they want is going to cost, and how to balance a checkbook. Most children need survival math skills, not "rocket science" math. Kids have not been getting decent, useful math instruction for 50 years ... yesterday would have been a good time to begin.

Nicole said...

I totally agree! So does my mom and mother-in-law who both work with 4th graders. My mom comes home everyday saying "no wonder the kids just sit there giving me blank stares. I don't get half this stuff!" Plus she mentions how they really only get 1 or 2 days on a topic and then have to move onto the next before they've even had time for the first topic to sink in. They are going at break-neck speed to get kids ready for the "tests" and in the process they're just not getting any of it!

Karen said...

Ok, me, the former "other geniuses I know and Karen" had to remind the RS what a predicate was. Though he was quick to argue that he uses mean, medium and mode, daily. Please note, he is a Rocket Scientist not a 3rd grader. :)

Nancy said...

I just found you off of Karen's blog. I had to laugh at this post because one day in college I had a professor who was sorely ignored by his pupils in Math and seemed so bored himself with the subject. At one point he was writing the quadratic formula and he said in the most dull voice possible, "And here is the quadratic formula . . . it's the wave of the future." No one even heard it but me, and I thought it was the greatest thing I'd ever heard. I was so disappointed that everyone else in the class was too brain dead to share my in my mirth. I mean what the .. .?? What on earth does that even mean?? All I know is, if it is indeed the wave of the future, then our third graders are learning it just in time!!