A slow death by numbers

Eight grade Pre-Algebra was not kind to me.  In fact I remember roughly three things from that class:

1.) You can never have too much blue eye shadow as was evidenced by Pam Whats-her-Face who sat across from me.

2.) Kissing boys was apparently an amazing experience that I needed to start trying out.

3.) Somehow, some way the alphabet was supposed to be divided, subracted, added and compressed, which would then magically turn the letters into numbers and if organized just so could ultimately bring about World Peace.

I did not receive a passing grade in Pre-Algebra, but I did get a rather unfortunate sex education from Pam Whats-her-Face.  So I had that going for me.

Listen, I’ve seen the statistics about how girls tend to do poorly in Math and Science simply because they’re female and are expected to be bad with numbers.  I want you to know that that is not what happened to me.  I just suck at Math.  Plain and simple and heartbreakingly true.  I still don’t understand algebraic equations.  I have long since forgotten how to do long division and most days I cannot do basic addition without using my fingers.

Feel sorry for me.

I can, however, sit and daydream for hours and I’m not too shabby at finding shapes in the clouds.

So it was with no small amount of fear and trepidation that I embarked upon the business of homeschooling my children because I knew that in so doing I would, indeed, need to conquer the evil numbers.  I mean, granted Sloan is only in second grade and Tia is in Kindergarten so really, how hard could it be?

Turns out it can be flat out torterous, folks.  It’s Chinese water torture by SUBTRACTION!


We started the year out fine.  Basic addition facts were covered.  Ordinal numbers, Odds and Evens, Counting by 5’s, 10’s and so on…Cake, ladies and gentleman.  I began to see addition facts in the clouds.

Somewhere around our fifth week in, however, things took a turn for the worse.  Just for Sloan.  Tia has taken off in Math.  In fact, I’m pretty sure we’re going to be buzzing into a first grade Math book before year end because she not only enjoys Math, but she asks to do several lessons at a time.

So TAKE THAT statistics!  My daughter rocks the numbers.  BOOM!  In yo face!


Early last month, I decided to take a different approach to the cruelty of Math.  Instead of tackling it every day, I declared Tuesday and Thursday to be Math days and every other day would remain number free.  I figured this to be a happy compromise and a fair way to hopefully give Math more of an appeal.

It took us two hours to finish one short lesson today.

*hangs head*

So here’s how this Math thing goes down.  ( I don’t know why I’m capitilizing Math.  I think it’s because I’m scared of it and maybe if I show a little respect, the numbers won’t infiltrate my brain, thus turning me into some kind of mad woman who lives alone with a hundred and fifty cats and wanders around mumbling equations nonsensically.)  I say, “It’s Tuesday guys.  Math day!  Yay!”

Tia: “Can I do three lessons today?  Please?”

Sloan: “What?!  No, it can’t be Tuesday.  It’s only Monday!  I know it.  I’m only doing half of a lesson today.  And no adding.  Or subtracting.”  This is usually said after he’s collapsed his head dramatically into his arms.

Landon: “Wait, what?!  We have to do school AGAIN today?!”  School is a surprise every day.

I understand my son’s anguish, I really do.  I lived his anguish every day until I finally managed to choose a major with the least amount of Math required (English Professional Writing, baby!  Boom! Pick out shapes in the clouds all day if you want.  It makes for more creative writing…)

But alas, I must pretend to be horrified at his disdain for numbers and tell him what fun it is to know and learn Math.  “Math is lots of fun!” I exclaim as I open up the dreaded book.

Did you hear that?  Math makes me lie to my children.  Eeeeeeeevvvviiiiiiilllllllll.

And we then spend the next two hours trying to simply tackle one short lesson.  And here’s the kicker – he’s actually really good at the Math.  As in, when he switches off the tyrant in his brain raging against the injustice of learning, he generally whizzes through the equations and he doesn’t even need to use his fingers!

Clearly he possesses a bit of his father’s genes.

And thus the story goes.  I pull out the Math books.  He thinks he’s going to die.  I think that trying to teach him the basics is going to kill me.  And around and around we go.


Ask the kid to write you a poem.  I dare you.  Because he will sit for as long as it takes to craft the perfect poem with nary a complaint.

And today I caught him staring at the clouds.  “That one is shaped like a blue whale,” he said, pointing.

I am so proud…

Fear not, good people.  We are surviving the Maths and I do think he is learning a bit.  There’s a good chance, though, that should we continue down this homeschooling path, I will be hiring a Math tutor to manage the crazy.

The End.


  1. I feel ya.

    Don’t ask us unschoolers for maths advice. We’ll tell you that most adults never need to use the ridonkulous things forced upon them as children. 😉

  2. Oh dear! Poor Sloan! Poor Mom!

    I have one that loves math and the other that doesn’t (and yet she tutors statistics students at the university). You will make it. I don’t know what math curriculum you’re using but I hear Math-U-See is a good choice for students/teachers in this situation. We didn’t use it so I don’t have any first-hand input.

  3. I promote bribery….both for him and you! 🙂

    • Who knew that two Hershey’s kisses would turn a normal 45 minute escapade of crying and complaining into a 9 minute lesson of fevered accomplishment?!

      Bribery is my favorite. 🙂

  4. I second mathusee. Plus, I can make you a deal on a bunch of it! I didn’t understand math until mathusee (as an adult). I had a private tutor in freshman math and I passed with a C. Pathetic. I know.

    Anywho… Best’a luck to ya!

  5. I also suck at math. Royally. It just doesn’t click in my brain. Can I be vulnerable here? Um, I suck at cards for this exact reason and generally refuse to play them. It’s that bad. I mean who wants to see a grown woman counting on her fingers.


    Communications Theory and Rhetoric all the way baby!

  6. Kelli,
    “Math is the logical study of shape, arrangement and quantity.” “Math is a science, an art, a tool and a language.” “Math is the mental act of quantifying quality and qualifying quantity.” These are summaries of the different ways I’ve had the pleasure of viewing mathematics during my life.

    In one sense, when your son was staring at the clouds and saw the shape of a whale, he was using his mathematical thinking. Mathematics is an important “way of thinking,” just like scientific thinking, business thinking, logic of language, etc. These are all disciplined ways of thinking. In fact, many of the different “ways of thinking” in school are referred to as disciplines.

    To view mathematics from an arithmetic point of view is like viewing language arts from a “diagraming of sentences” point of view. Personally, I disliked both arithmetic and diagramming of sentences. I found them both to be challenging. Having stated that, I became a math teacher and now love the language arts.

    I would challenge your children and yourself to look for mathematics and use it with the other disciplines. For example: What mathematical shape did the “whale-cloud” approximate and why? Assignment: Write a poem that uses the whale-cloud and mathematical language. Or, draw whale-clouds to illustrate a subtraction problem and then write a short story which “animates” the subtraction problem. Have some fun! 🙂 Generally, basics are consider boring by children. This is where the old “drill for kill” statement came from. You must turn it into a “drill for skill” adventure.

    Good luck and good skill!

  7. My husband discovered this site and it is AMAZING and free. This man has done an unbelievable job of systematically teaching math using Youtube videos. He has even created a system of rewards for completing levels. Several schools systems have even adopted it because it is so successful. If we were still homeschooling this would be our curriculum…regardless of grade. (scroll down on the page to find the more basic arithmetic)



  1. […] contemplated the value of a man when Albert Pujols left the Cardinals for the Angels, I admitted my aversion to Math (maybe I’m allergic to numbers…) and I died my hair […]

  2. […] still not reading fluently, but she gets a little better every day. As I mentioned earlier, though, she’s a bit of a whiz with the evil numbers and is well on her way to needing first grade math […]

  3. […] sky dotted with a milliion stars and gasp at the wonder of it all? Did you marvel at a sunset or watch the clouds float by in an array of […]