Mom’s Overreactions

“Once again,” our fourteen year old announced as he climbed into the car after school, “you totally overreacted.”

Apparently, the math quiz I made him study for that morning was only two problems. “You always panic about nothing.”

We are in a funny cycle into which lots of middle school boys and their moms fall. I let up on nagging, his grades go down. I nag, he “remembers” to do his homework, his grades stabilize, and he thinks the “crazy overreacting” – and more importantly, the fact that he actually studied – is completely unrelated to the newly acquired A.

So, every time he does well on a test, he celebrates with a big smile and… “See! Everything was fine, Mom!”

Like I’m a crazy, stressed-out wacko instead of his way-cool, full-of-wisdom mom, who just can’t understand why he doesn’t get the game.

If you do the homework, you get the A. You win.


Third Grade Homework

Last night, my nine year old was struggling with long division again. I knew he was tired, so I stayed close in case he got frustrated. Plus, there was the spelling test to study for, and although he was getting “bruise” consistently, he kept messing up “cruise”. And we weren’t getting anywhere with “reduce”.

The expected “UGH!” came.

He was able to translate the word problem into an equation, but couldn’t remember the process he needed to go through to find the answer.

He slid the paper over to me, and I could tell he was on the verge of exploding with rage. But as I started to talk him through the steps, he took a long, deep breath, then placed his hand on my arm ever so gently.

“Mom, I don’t want to hurt your feelings,” his voice was quiet and his big brown eyes filled with pity. “I know you’re trying to help, but you’re making it harder, and it’s driving me crazy.”

So, I slid the paper back and watched with a big smile on my face while he finished his math.

The Scariest Thing He Could Think Of

Last November 1, my now seventh grader decided that he wanted to be something scary for Halloween this year. So that day, he tried to think of all the things that scared him, and decided that the scariest thing he could think of was a failed math test.

So for Halloween 2016, he was a failed math test.

It is my favorite costume in our family’s history of Star Wars characters, Ninjas, clowns, ducks, lions and dragons. Cheap. Easy to make. Witty. And just putting his personality out there. So courageously nerdy that it’s cool.



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?

Why My Son Failed His Math Test

My fourth grade son recently bombed his math test. He does well on homework, so I have been trying to figure out what happened. I emailed the teacher. She was equally surprised by his results. I emailed the Math Coordinator at the school, trying to figure out if I was missing something. Nope.

I think I’ve got it though. Today, when I corrected his Math packet for next week, I discovered a clue…

On the Put on Your Thinking Cap page of the Math packet, the teacher asked the kids to write whether they would use a line, bar or picture graph to show the following, and why. My son’s initial answers were:

1) The number of people at an amusement park who chose different rides?

“I would do a line graph because it makes me feel like I’m in an amusement park.”

2) The number of dogs visiting the veterinary hospital every hour?

“I would do a bar graph because it looks like streets that you and your dog can run on.”

I guess we need to work on, “What kind of test are you taking — math or creative writing?”

A Very Busy Day

My four year old and I were playing a game yesterday after school. We were both Skylanders. Good guys named Dinosaur and T-Rex. Dinosaur was sitting at his Dad’s desk with his head in his hands.

“What’s wrong?” asked T-Rex.

“”I’m too busy to play this day,” responded Dinosaur.


“Because I had to kill bad guys, do math, and chase ghosts!”

Math puts me over the edge too.

Fantasy Football and Math

When my 7-year-old son was three, he became obsessed with Rockies baseball, and like generations of boys before him, he decided that knowing baseball stats made his father proud. So he learned his numbers by memorizing the players’ numbers. Soon he could tell you the number of every player on the team. He could tell you who had the highest number, even if that player had only been called up from the Minors for one game. He could count past 10 or 20 without a thought, because there are Rockies baseball players with numbers higher than that.

Now, he has adopted fantasy football. He wakes up thinking about who to trade to ensure a win over the weekend. He gets in the car at the end of a long school day and immediately asks what I think of yet another trade. He knows most players, their numbers, their positions and their teams.

How is it that he is already in a fantasy football league? Well, my husband promised the boys that if they picked a winning team for him this year, he would use the jackpot to buy them a Lego Super Star Destroyer – a ridiculously large Lego set.

Our seven-year-old researched player stats to participate in his first draft. He compares numbers and works with estimates on a weekly, if not daily basis. He does the math to figure out how many more points he needs to overtake his opponent. He adds, subtracts, and uses decimals to put together the best possible team for the upcoming weekend.

And he doesn’t realize that he is practicing his math facts, honing his skills, getting better than the competition effortlessly. Because he is having so much fun. And he wins!

Maybe that’s why, in general, many boys are stronger in math than many of their girl peers (though, of course, not all). The boys don’t only do it when at their school desks. They don’t only practice when they have math homework. They do it in their sleep dreaming about the next best trade in their fantasy football league. They do it at the same time they are potty trained by memorizing their Dad’s favorite baseball team by the numbers. They impress their friends at recess by knowing more stats than the next kid. They watch the clock wind down at the end of a close game, breathless, fingers crossed that their team gets that Hail Mary shot they need to win. For my seven-year-old, numbers are everywhere and all-important.

He does it for fun. He doesn’t even realize it’s math.