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Dawn Damalas Meehan

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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.

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Six of One, Half Dozen of the Other

By Dawn Damalas Meehan |

The principal of my school had a speaker come in today to talk to the math teachers.  I’m not a math teacher, but I do help students with math regularly so I was invited to attend as well.  The principal insisted I would enjoy it.  She used words like “fun” and “awesome” to describe the event.  In my world, the words “fun” and “awesome” do not belong in the same sentence with the word “math”.  Sitting through seven hours of math talk sounds almost as delightful as peeling off my skin and rolling in a pool of salt.  Still, I trust my principal and and if she said this would help me to help my students, I was onboard with it.

So, the speaker gave us these problems and told us to solve them without using algorithms.  Since I had no clue what an algorithm was anyway, I figured I could give it a shot.  She asked us, “What’s 5/8 divided by 1/4?  Draw a picture to solve this problem.”  While all these math teachers could answer the question immediately by using ‘keep, change, flip’, they puzzled a bit over the idea of drawing a picture.  I, on the other hand, being a visual learner who has to regularly draw pictures in my mind to solve problems, found this to be pretty easy.

The speaker was amazing and really got us to think about using different methods to teach kids math so that they truly understand what they’re doing and, more importantly, why they’re doing it,  instead of just memorizing different formulas to come up with solutions.  However, as the day wore on and the math teachers continued to call out complicated solutions to problems, my eyes glazed over and my brain started to bleed.  I didn’t understand their reasoning.  I couldn’t keep up with their thinking.  At this point, realizing I was in a completely different (and slightly stupid)  league from these guys, I gave up.  I spent the rest of the session in my little right-brained world doing this . . .


and this . . .

and, well, you get the idea.  I may have a math deficiency, but I’ve got an abundance of creativity.  It’s the way I work.  And perhaps, my math ineptitude will give me an edge on understanding my students’ frustration, and the ability to help them comprehend concepts.  Either that, or we’ll all just build houses and sculptures with the base ten cubes.  Six of one, half dozen of the other . . . (That’s an idiom, not a math problem so I can use it here.)

Want to read more from Dawn? Get her books Because I Said So (and other tales from a less-than-perfect parent) and You’ll Lose the Baby Weight (and other lies about pregnancy and childbirth) here!

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About Dawn Damalas Meehan


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 →

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4 thoughts on “Six of One, Half Dozen of the Other

  1. Lori says:

    5/8 divided by 1/4
    keep change flip

    I’ve never heard of keep, change, flip either, but I have to assume it means: Keep the 5/8 as it is, change divided by to multiply, flip 1/4 to 4/1.

  2. Pam says:

    I must be right brained like you, because math is definitely NOT my thing either. My soon to be 8th grade son is in advanced math and already is above my math level and his older sisters. It’s going to be a long year for homework.

  3. The Mommy says:

    I AM a math person (many, many semesters in college and a former career as an analytical chemist) and I think that the lecture you attended should be provided to all “older” parents – because they don’t teach math like they used to but you’re STILL supposed to be able to explain it to your kids. What we have here is a failure to communicate…

  4. Lisa Carl says:

    As a middle school math teacher, I love to hear things like this! I am still learning the “why” of math and it makes me enjoy math even more. As a child, I HATED math and really struggled. I now enjoy teaching math because I like to see the light bulb go off!

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