With

## Dawn Damalas Meehan

Connect with Dawn

Dawn Damalas Meehan is a single mom living in Orlando with her six children, ages 17 to 6. She's the author of Because I Said So and You'll Lose the Baby Weight (and Other Lies About Pregnancy and Childbirth). When she's not blogging, she can be found playing chauffeur, getting buried under a mountain of laundry, or explaining to her kids why they can't have an indoor Slip 'N Slide or a pet squirrel.

Brought to you by

By Dawn Damalas Meehan |

image: morguefile

Those of you who have read my blog for any amount of time know that I don’t do math. I never really understood math back when I was in school. Math people say it’s easy, precise; there’s only one correct answer for each problem. It’s neat and ordered. It makes sense. But for non-math people . . . well, it makes our eyes bleed. At my job, I work with 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. Most of my sixth graders need help with math. A LOT of help with math. In a weird way, I actually like working with them on math because I remember what it was like to sit there, completely lost, back when I was in school. And the thing about math, is that one skill builds on another. If you don’t understand chapter 3, you’re not going to be able to do chapter 4, and so on. In that way, once a kid is lost, the work snowballs out of control and they simply can’t catch up.

Today, I had the kids turn improper fractions into mixed numbers, convert mixed numbers into improper fractions, and multiply fractions. Despite the fact that we’d done half a dozen problems already, the kids kept forgetting how to go from improper fractions to mixed numbers and back. At one point, a student asked me, “Should I use addamatation to do this?”

Now, I’m not completely stupid when it comes to math, but they teach things differently today than they did when I was a kid. I had a student draw out this grid while multiplying the other day. I had no clue what on earth she was doing. I thought she was just making up stuff, but then she explained this “lattice method” of multiplying. I’d never heard of using “lattice” to multiply! So, although I was pretty certain there was no such thing as addamatation, I thought for a minute that perhaps it was some new-fangled way of doing addition and multiplication at the same time or something goofy like that.

Instead of admitting that I had no clue how things were taught these days, I said confidently, “Addamatation? Oh, you did NOT just say that! Now you’re just making up words! Am I going to have to help you with language arts as well?”

The student laughed.  I reiterated, “No, really, can I help you with language arts now.  Can we just skip this math stuff?  Please?”

She just laughed some more. Silly girl thought I was kidding.

Buy Because I Said So! because it doesn’t have any math problems in it. Pinky swear!

### Dawn Damalas Meehan

Dawn Damalas Meehan is a single mom living in Orlando with her six children, ages 17 to 6. She's the author of Because I Said So and You'll Lose the Baby Weight (and Other Lies About Pregnancy and Childbirth). Read bio and latest posts → Read Dawn's latest posts →

« Go back to Babble Voices

1. Abby says:

Oh! Helpful trick for dividing fractions… “Stay the same, change my name, flip me over.” (keep the first fraction, change to mult., and flip the 2nd upside down) I’ve been teaching middle school math for 3 years and the rhyme works for helping about 90% of the kids to remember!

2. Kristin says:

So…is addamation a word? It’s underlined in red as I’m typing, so I’m assuming not but I know exactly what you mean. My 2nd grader brought home a worksheet last year and I stared at several of the problems and wondered why the heck they couldn’t just add and subtract with their fingers and toes like regular people did. And ugh…10th grade geometry with my daughter….she’d bring me her book to ask a question and I’d laugh and say things like “see that corner of the triangle there? That’s the answer…” And she’d stare at me and go “uh, it’s not a CORNER, mom….it’s an angle.” Whatever.

3. Kris says:

Oh honey I understand. I’m a substitute teacher for elementary. Been doing this for 8 years now. When I first started I had to relearn how to do fractions. (people don’t use this much once they leave school—shhhh!)

Language Arts isn’t much better if you want to stay away from words you don’t know. I had to teach a lesson one day and I had no idea what they meant by Schema and Metacognition! Whatever new learning series they are using now uses these words in ALL the elementary grades. Even kindergarten. Why do they have to throw all these new fancy words in there? Can’t we just teach kids to read and write anymore?

4. Kylie says:

Metacognition I know. It’s a big huge buzzword in Michigan education right now. It means thinking about your thinking. Talk to the text (writing what you are thinking about right on the page as you read) all that stuff. Teachers are all being trained in that kind of thing now.

5. The Mommy says:

Frustrating, isn’t it? I AM a math person (in my former life I was an analytical chemist…) and still I have trouble figuring out how they teach things nowadays. There’s no more “carry the one” now it’s called…something else. I forget what. Durn progress. Get off my lawn!

6. Bonnie says:

I am fortune to be married to a man who understands math. My 8th grade daughter came home yesterday and said, “I have math homework but since algebra and story problems make you cry, I’ll just wait for Dad.” I’ve got her trained!

7. renee says:

Here’s a tip for multiplying fractions: instead of saying “times,” say “of”. Then it makes sense. I learned that one from my mom, who taught elementary school in the 50s, and you know what? It still works.

8. Lisa says:

I wonder if the students don’t just “Mess” with you since you are a Yankee LOL.

9. Frau_Mahlzahn says:

Well, it’s not that they teach things differently now than they used to… they made up completely new things, that didn’t even exist when I went to school!!!

No really.

I’m serious!

Well.

Good try anyway.
So long,
Corinna

10. Anon says:

My daughter came home with a math page about “tesselations.” First time I had ever heard that word in my life.

11. Missi says:

In a conference with my son’s math teacher (7th grade) he went into this long descriptionn of a math problem (I think). I seriously could’ve sworn he was talking a foreign language. I didn’t understand half of what he said, but sat there with a stupid look on my face I’m sure nodding yes. The good thing is my son was the only one in the class that raised his hand to answer & got it right.

12. nikki says:

Carrying is now called regrouping. That refers to borrowing too. (I only know this because me son is in 4th grade and he looks at me like I’m nuts when I suggest he carry or borrow. I am a math person and the new stuff, while often cool and helpful, makes me feel really dumb sometimes.

13. Joann says:

Lattice multiplication – try figuring it out when you have a blank lattice, a forgetful child and have never seen it before. (I googled multiplication and triangles, stumbled across Napier’s Rods upon which Lattice multiplication is based.) We solved it and he forgot it. The next child in our family uses it all the time, but fortunately, he actually understands it! You have my sympathy!

14. Torry says:

I’m also a teacher and I will tell you that, years ago, before I was a teacher, I was helping a “struggling” student. I did what we call “pull-out” (pulling a student out of class to give them one on one help) and had pulled a girl out into the hall to work with her. It was fractions and she wasn’t getting the “renaming.” I looked at her and said, “When a woman gets married, what happens usually to her last name?” She said that it gets changed. I asked if the woman had changed and she said no, that only the name had changed. Then I told her that this was the same thing. She said, “Okay.” And went on to do everyone of them correctly! The (male) teacher overheard me, and later he told me that he would never have thought to say that! So everyone brings their own take to it and you never know what will spark a child’s brain!

PS My husband is very good with math and because of that, no help what-so-ever with teaching our two children. I had more difficulty learning math (hit by a car at age 12 and had traumatic brain injury and had to relearn math) and I’m a better teacher because it wasn’t so “obvious” to me. Stick with it, your love of these students shows through!

15. Misty says:

You might want to recommend your kids check out a great free math resource we use with our five homeschooled kids – Khan Academy.

It’s online with a fun way to work at your own pace, get points and awards for every success, with videos by the founder to go along with each subject.

The kids can even add another user (mom, teacher, etc.) as a coach, and then you can login and see what problems they’ve been doing, which ones they’ve had problems with, and even how long it took them to do each program.

The founder wants to eventually provide a free university level education to the world.

As the mom, I started working my way through the levels and found it great to help me understand what I was trying to help teach my kids.

You’re doing a great job and I’ve loved reading your blog over the years!

Misty

16. Kate says:

OOOh I know what tesselations are – they are shapes that fit together in a pattern – a bit like tiling.