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Sure, Kid, We Can Talk About Anything. Except Math.

3398883456_92ed10aba9_mWhen my daughter informed she would be not be homeschooling after all, one of the many little sighs of relief I exhaled was that I wouldn’t have to teach her algebra, or even addition.

As a bright kid, I was always “gifted” at math, but that didn’t mean I liked it. By the time I hit high school, I’d gotten the message that being good with numbers wasn’t cool for a girl, so I shirked it. When it came time to go to college, I chose a school that did not require any math classes.

Now my stepson is 15, and I can’t even read his math homework, let alone help him solve it.

Happily, I saved my kids from a lifetime of math cluelessness by marrying a professional nerd who teaches math and physics at a university. In our house, he is the math department.

When Lisa Belkin broached this topic over on Motherlode, commenters pointed out the gender disparity between men and women around math. Lisa’s family, like mine, is headed by a math averse mom and a math friendly dad.

I’m trying to do more math for the girls’ sake. I want my girls to grow up knowing women can do just as much math as men. But let’s be real: I can pull this off now because the oldest one is 5. She is hard at work learning to count to 100. When she starts bringing home differential equations, she is going straight to Daddy.

Two recent studies show that most American parents are a lot like me when it comes to math homework: clueless and uncomfortable. One commissioned by Intel shows that parents feel more equipped to talk about sex and drugs with their kids than math and science. Another, by Sylvan Learning, found that more than 6 out of 10 parents are not confident that they can solve their kids’ math homework in middle and high school.

Those jitters about math homework translate to kids, who start to feel nervous about the subject themselves. Math is increasingly important for higher education and professional fields, but most adults rate it as the most challenging subject taught in school.

For good reason. Less than 40% of eight and fourth graders are “proficient” or better at grade-level math skills. Clearly our kids could use some help with their math homework.

Do you help your kids with their homework? Does the thought of having to go through high school algebra again give you the shivers? If we can’t help our kids learn math, who can?

Photo: tracy_the_astonishing

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