Most people that know me know that math is not my thing. I can add, subtract, and balance a checkbook (sometimes), but helping my children with their math problems is something I usually try to avoid. Truthfully, I still don't know how I managed to pass algebra. I always thought that "x" stood for a certain specific number and that, if I could just figure out what that number is, I'd have to key to figuring out algebra. Serves me right for treating it like some sort of mystery story. My kids found this hilarious. And then we started joking about the fact that x = 5. That's been my math answer ever since.
When a math problem would come up, I always pointed out that there was a reason I taught English!
How life changes. I still struggle with math. But I work in an auditing office. Go figure. I have helped my children with their algebra, but only under duress. I was homeschooling when Matt hit algebra. He only needed my help occasionally. I would haul out the score key and see how "they" did it. Then I would attempt to explain it to Matt. Turns out he not only understood the procedure, but he also understood the why of the procedure. He drove me nuts.
Stephanie was in Christian school when she went through algebra. I was relieved that she had an actual teacher to help her. Like Matt, she made mostly A's. I don't know where they're getting this from!
Now Luke is taking algebra. He asked for my help the other day. I took his worksheet. There were a bunch of problems with plenty of white space between each of them. My mind blanked to match the page. Finally I hauled out the score key to see what on earth they wanted him to do. Then I got a piece of paper and he and I worked through the problems together. When we finished, I was still confused, but he had a better grasp. Thank goodness.
I've helped Luke twice since then. Each time I feel like I'm getting a little better grasp of things myself, although I'm resisting it. After all, why do I need to understand algebra now, after all this time?
The worst has actually come true. Yesterday he brought me a problem that wasn't coming out right. He didn't know what he was doing wrong. I studied the problem while he went to get the score key for me. But by the time he got back to the table, I had spotted the problem. Without help. I then worked a few other problems with him. Without help.
I am not confident enough in myself to trust this newfound ability. If I suddenly understand numbers, someone will expect me to actually put it to use. And the whole "we take algebra in order to teach our brains to think through things logically"? Well, seriously, who wants that ability!?
I want to go back to a world where I can conjugate verbs. A simpler world. An easier world.
A world where x still equals 5.