Beyond Algebra

I love algebra. I remember how to do it. I can help with homework. But as my middle school sons get a taste of math beyond algebra, my skills start to fall off, my memory fades.

One of the perks of having a child four and five years younger than his brothers is that as their skills grow past mine, I can still be a math homework hero… because I rock at subtraction!

I didn’t know that I had any emotion tied this little perk until two days ago. My second grader just transitioned from addition homework to subtraction with numbers up to 100. He completed it without asking me any questions, then asked if I would look at it to make sure he got it all right. I checked the first page. 100 percent.

I turned the page over. Two word problems. Uh-oh. Word problems are tough. Word problems are big kid stuff.

100 percent.

Why did that make me weep?

Middle School is “Fine”

“How was your day?”

“Fine.”

“Learn anything new?”

“Not really.”

“Who’d you hang out with?”

“My friends.”

“Was it fun?”

“It was fine.”

As a mother of two middle school boys, I have learned that “fine” means “I’ve got it.”

….unless, of course, his slumped body signals utter defeat as he walks down the carpool line. Or “fine” is followed by tears.

That was yesterday. My sixth grader was dragging himself to the car, head bowed, bangs hiding his face.

“Things are not fine,” I said to his brothers.

He slammed the car door and burst into tears after launching his first-ever f-bomb. “All five f-ing teachers gave me homework!”

He’s mildly hypo-glycemic. I gave him chocolate milk while putting together a very large nutritious snack. That’s what moms do, right?

Unfortunately, he saved his toughest assignment for last. His first algebra homework. The teacher had written that if they understood the day’s lesson, it should only take 10-15 minutes. Thirty minutes later, he was sobbing and exhausted.

But boys rebound quickly.

By 7:00, after a quick entire-family review of algebra with dad and the snack by mom in his system, all returned to “fine.” He was playing soccer in the living room.

And later when I said goodnight, he hugged me. “Mom, remember at the beach when we went on that walk and I told you I was nervous about middle school?”

“Yes.”

“I think I’m going to remember that walk my whole life, because you were right. Middle school is fine. I think I’ve got it.”