Friday, March 21, 2008

Mr. Whine

Ms. Math Teacher was sitting in the teacher's cafe yesterday, as usual, doing school work. It seems a math teacher's job is never done. Ms. Math Teacher usually has her I-pod in her ears so she can work without distraction, but had forgotten to put them in on this day.

Sitting at the next table was Mr. Whine who was enjoying his lunch of cheese and crackers. Mr. Whine is a brilliant liberal arts teacher and a fantastic educator and he never has to work during his lunch period. His is usually pontificating on some topic or another, and while Ms. Math enjoys listening in, she needs the I-pod so she can turn him off and concentrate on getting her work done.

Mr. Whine was talking about his child today. He is a parent totally enamored by his child. Ms. Math Teacher has met the child and totally agrees with his assessment. This period, Mr. Whine was whining about the child's math. He went on and on about trapezoids and triangles and other shapes he has no use for. At that point, Ms. Math Teacher lost it.
"Mr. Whine, it is parents like you that make it hard for math teachers and the children they are teaching. Every year, parents come to school and when I tell them their child is struggling in the class, they respond with 'I always had trouble in math too.'"
In other words, it is fine for the kid to struggle in math. It is no big deal to get a low grade or fail math because the parent failed math too.

Mr. Whine is a learned man. He is probably much brighter than Ms. Math Teacher. I am sure he would not accept his child not being able to read or write, yet he feels as long as his child is competent enough in the four basic operations, plus fractions, decimals and percents, she knows all the math she will ever need. I'm not saying that a parent's attitude will make everyone love math, but a more positive approach to the subject sure might help. Besides, at the moment, this child loves math and is doing quite well. An attitude like Mr. Whine's may turn the child off to math.


Anonymous said...

"Algebra, I never could do that either"

but have you heard this one:

"Reading? Yeah, I never got the hang of that either"

jose said...

Exactly JD. No one's ever heard of that because ppl have these negative attitudes towards math. Bothers me really. Of course I cast my vote in for the math teacher in this argument.

sandi said...

Actually, i have heard- "I never liked to read either...." (this was when I taught 5th grade)

Now, as a middle school math teacher, I hear the "I was never good in math either." or "I always struggled in math as well" like it's giving their kid an excuse to not try.

(By the way, I love your blog. I came upon it looking for math cartoons and saw your picture and slogan- Never underestimate the power of an extremely pissed off woman- and knew immediately that this was the kind of blog I needed to subscribe to)

Anonymous said...

I have to tell you that since I was forced to teach both EveryDay Math and Trailblazers before that,
I had a hard time teaching math. And I loved teaching math before this. Many times I would scrap the lessons from those programs to the ones I used in the past. But if you have ever seen these programs, the homework pages do not make sense to the parents.

I went back to using a math notebook so the children would have something that explains the lessons and procedures rather than just use the workbooks provided for these lessons. I never let them take the Everyday Math homework book home without their classnotes. And, I was lucky enough to be able to use an old text to supplement.

The problem with teaching elementary school math in NYC, and I have said this for years, is we need to have more time to teach a few concepts rather than have no time to teach over 50 concepts. Many of these lessons no more than a day or 2 long, but we must get through a whole unit of related concepts without delving into the major concept.