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?”
Did she just say addamatation? Addamatation??? I blinked. I blinked again. Oh crap! Addamatation? Is there such a thing? How did I get stuck in this position? I don’t know math! I have no business helping these kids. I don’t remember how to do addamatation! Addamatation, addamatation, addamatation, nope, it’s still not ringing any bells. This can’t be a real thing, can it? Man, I’m going to have to google addamatation and refresh my memory.
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.